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Texas-Texas Tech: Longhorns Defense Post-Mortem

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A quick rundown of the game in Lubbock.

John Weast

Got a little sidetracked.  I'll cover this in a quick hit format:

1.  Vance Bedford and Charlie Strong have established that this defense is stubbornly opposed to giving passing offenses single man opportunities over the top anywhere between the hashes, will endure the opponent's running game against the 3-3-5 (and will seal it off when needed running our 4-2-5 thus putting Hall and Haines in more peril) and will allow an offense to throw and catch in front of the zone all day if they want to.  That's a formula for a good, but not dominant defense.

2.  Within that construct, our biggest week to week performance deviation is in how well the opponent can exploit the running game out of the spread - both traditional and with dual threat QB, how well we tackle - mostly at linebacker, unforced mental errors and whether Bedford gets too predictable on 3rd down.  I'm confident in this defense against conventional offenses when we go with a 4 man DL and attack gaps.  Too bad we're not in the Big 10.

3.  We started Bryson Echols in our nickel instead of the Haines/Thompson/Hall safety trio to get more coverage, match quickness and give us more options if Tech went four or five vertical.  The result was a Tech passing offense that never got downfield and averaged a feeble 4.8 yards per attempt.  Even with Webb, I'm doubtful they would have much success downfield and he has a tendency to force it anyway (9 interceptions in 5 Big 12 games).  I think we win this game no matter who was taking snaps from center.  Tech is as screwed up as we are and we have a defense.

4.  Kliff Kingsbury isn't patient enough with the running game.  Tech averaged more yard per attempt running than throwing and DeAndre Washington never had a carry for negative yardage.  When your best RB is averaging 6 a pop and it's not because he broke one 60 yard run and got stuffed on everything else, keep running it.  It's a passing game coordinator's mentality and if he can't expand from that box, Lubbock's favorite son will be modeling handbags at a mall in Edmonton.

5.  We were much better in pure coverage than we were in open field tackling.  I'm sure West Virginia noticed and when it's not Kevin White - the Big 12's best receiver and #2 ain't close - over the top and bodying up on our corners, it'll be a bunch of WVU slots and running backs facing up on our linebackers in space.

6.  Tech was 8 of 20 on 3rd down.  40% conversion on 3rd down - even when it's clear we weren't worried about them maintaining a drive - isn't acceptable.  The Horns were better on 3rd and long, but still surrendered a 3rd and 14 conversion.  We were 33% on 3rd and 5+ overall - certainly an improvement over the KSU debacle.

7.  Duke Thomas had 4 pass break ups and Quandre Diggs knocked out Mahomes.  Echols had 7 tackles.  Busy day for the corners.

8.  Hassan Ridgeway had a lot more game impact than 2 tackles and one tackle for loss suggest.  His senior year will be massive.

9.  We still struggle with pace.  Tech's only real TD drive before the half came from the defense getting rattled and then forgetting to tackle for a series.  Once the D calmed down, Tech either went 3 and out or played around between the 30s.

10.  Knocking the QB out of the game on a huge hit is good defense - not freakish luck.  While it's not PC to mention in the world of CTE and brain trauma concerns, I have never participated on a defense at any level where knocking the opposing QB out of the game cleanly wasn't an implicit goal.  Clint Trickett weighs 185 pounds...

11.  Tech RB DeAndre Washington is a good player, but our tackling was, at times, execrable.  Tech's offense is built around jitterbugs who catch a short pass and embarrass you, but West Virginia and Oklahoma State will both test us on this material again.

Overall, it's tough to come down on a defense that gave up a total of 6 offensive points and, if anything, the performance just cemented a realistic appraisal of where and what we are and why we have a 2015 recruiting model on defense built around hybrid athletes who like to mix it up, are more quick and reactive than straight line fast with frames more likely to peak at 21 than 17.  There's a plan in place.