Football

Ten Things from Texas Tech’s 59-45 Win Over Sam Houston State

We’ve got ten things from Texas Tech’s 59-45 win over Sam Houston State, including an unsatisfied Kliff Kingsbury.

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Ten Things

1. He Should Have Had 500 Yards. I mentioned it after the game and it doesn’t take a genius to know that Patrick Mahomes is pretty good at football. Passing for 425 yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. Mahomes completed 62% of his passes for 8 yards a pass, while running for 48 yards to keep things interesting. The kid should have had 500 yards passing as Justin Stockton and Reginald Davis each dropped a sure-fire touchdowns and there were other dropped that would have given him 500 yards passing (these two drops happened in the same drive, I’m almost sure, so it wouldn’t have been two touchdowns, but you get the idea). That’s a pretty good statline and Mahomes didn’t just do it with his arm, but his legs created a handful of options that really wouldn’t have been available to Davis Webb. The offense did sputter, but it wasn’t because of Mahomes, it was a guys not conentrating and Webb had problems finding guys for first downs. This team will go as far as Mahomes will take it. That is both incredibly encouraging and scary all at the same time.

2. Killer Instinct. After the game, head coach Kliff Kingsbury immediately went to the idea that this team lacked any killer instinct:

Yeah, just uneven play, a bunch of three-and-outs. The one turnover giving them the ball down on our end of the field wasn’t good, and just guys not making plays, lots of drops, lots of big drops, lots of penalties that stalled drives. Not very good I didn’t think. I thought Pat moved around, made some plays, protected the ball fairly well, but a lot of those young receivers, just no killer instinct. When we had a chance to put them away, didn’t do it.

Two questions later, Kingsbury expanded on what causes the lack of killer instinct:

I guess lack of success. I’m not sure. We’ve got to find it, though. I think Pat has some of it in him. I think some of those receivers, when that ball is there and it’s in your hands, those running backs, we’ve got to catch it and we’ve got to finish the game.

If I had to guess, it’s those two drops mentioned in item #1 above and the lack of focus by the team to finish this thing off. Later in the presser, he’s asked if he took anything good away from the day and didn’t mention anything good, but lacked talking about the killer instinct. Mahomes had set this team and players up to make this score 70-something to 30-something and that didn’t happen. At a certain point, when the game is pretty much over and done, then Kingsbury is going to be criticized for leaving his starters in the game, in fact, Don Williams did just that with 13 minutes left in the game.

Kingsbury specifically left out Mahomes as lacking that instinct, again, he set up the players and the plays to makes this a 70-something affair and that’s what Kingsbury wants. Do not let up off the gas.

3. SHSU’s Offense is Pretty Good, But C’Mon. David Gibbs did exactly what he promised, whihc are more turnovers and maybe giving up a lot yards, but he would get turnovers. The last time this team gained 4 turnovers was 2013 against Kansas. That’s 20 games. That’s a long time in football years and David Gibbs and his defense did it in one game. This is, by no means, a pass for the defense. The defense was a sieve for the better part of the first half. It was terrible. But things changed in the second half. A turnover here and a turnover there and capitalizing on said turnovers. This thing was far from perfect. The defensive line looked absolutely gassed at times. SHSU didn’t substitute for long stretches, so the linemen looked like they barely had the energy to get down in three-point stretch. It probably won’t be as hot the next time Texas Tech hits the field and that should be better for the defensive line. Still, there was a situation where the defensive line looked like me pushing against a brick wall (this is an exercise in futility in case you were wondering).

4. Down and Out. Well, Josh Outlaw is gone. The words of David Gibbs from the spring, that Outlaw would need to mature, was actually incredibly true and foreboding. It was really odd finding out that a player has been cut from the team in pre-game warm-ups.

And then, there appeared to be a handful of players, “held-out”: Pete Robertson, Nigel Bethel II, Andre Ross, and Gary Moore. Oh, and D.J. Polite-Bray is out for the year, so when you wrap your head around all of that, just let me know. So, not only was the defense a bit short-handed, it was short-handed from a pass-rush perspective.

Oh, and Dylan Cantrell didn’t play, while Reginald Davis was suspended for the first half for his possession arrest from earlier in the year.

That’s a lot of players missing.

That’s a lot of players missing on defense.

I’m not sure how to unpack the Outlaw stuff, other than Gibbs really seemed to indicate that Outlaw needed to mature during the spring and now, he’s just gone. Of course, it’s a position of need, not this year, but eventually.

With Robertson, it is apparently an injury, although originally Kingsbury said it was an internal team matter as well (I think). Day by day.

With Ross and Moore out, that meant there was no back-up for Branden Jackson other than former walk-on Talor Nunez, who was fine, but that was the extent of your depth. I think Gibbs mixed around some guys towards the end of the game, but maybe this is why Nunez was listed as the back-up, because Moore and Ross weren’t going to play.

5. That’s Why Jah’Shawn Johnson Starts. When the two-deep was released, there were folks questioning whether or not a light-weight safety like Jah’Shawn Johnson would really be starting and think this is maybe more about mentality than size. Of course Texas Tech would prefer to have safeties that are 6-3/210 and can hit, but what happens if that’s not on the roster? You play the guys that are willing to hit and sacrifice in order to make a play and that’s what Johnson did to that big running back from Sam Houston State. Johnson was probably out-weighed by 20 pounds, but he stuck his nose where the football was and made a huge play.

6. Lots of Missed Tackles. If will be interesting to hear what David Gibbs says on Monday about the defense. I thought that the defense played better in the second half and actually wrapped up better . . . when the running backs weren’t running untouched through the defensive line. See above. I can’t or won’t accept the idea that they were trying to strip the ball, hence missing tackles and from the preseason video that we saw, that’s not what Gibbs is about. You make the tackle and then try to punch it out, not the other way around. Overall, I think Gibbs learned a lot about the guys that are going to play and I’d guess that it will be significantly different by the time the game rolls around next Saturday. Anyone want to bet that J.J. Gaines gets a starting nod over Justis Nelson? Anyone else think that Tevin Madison, who wrapped up a tackler and then poked the ball out for a Gaines recovery, won’t get some more playing time. This was probably as much about evaluation than anything else.

And even though the game was clearly out of control, how about Gibbs being completely deflated that the back-ups allowed a late touchdown? Bent over, and utterly depressed.

7. All Hail Grant, Lauderdale and Sadler. With Cantrell out with back spasms and Reg Davis sitting out the first half, it was left to the three veterans to make the big plays and Devin Lauderdale and Ian Sadler did not disappoint. Just in case you were wondering, Devin Lauderdale is the real deal. He will beat you, so you might want to start bracketing his tail because he will beat you. That is, if you can get that safety over the top. Lauderdale finished with 8 catches for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns. He did have a huge drop and it was one that he was completely ticked off about. Considering everything else, I’ll take it. Lauderdale was part of a big-play and offensive explosion and if you want to see teams no longer giving receivers press coverage, do more of this.

With Sadler, he caught 5 passes for 73 yards and 2 touchdowns. The recognition was terrific with his first touchdown, where he was rolling right, along with the play, recognizes that Mahomes is in trouble and runs with Mahomes across the field, where no defensive back can really keep up that sort of coverage and makes a diving catch for a touchdown. His second touchdown was a thing of beauty, SHSU decides to bring the house on 3rd and 7 and if Mahomes can find anyone open, the Bearkats rushed 6 players or something ridiculous, then it was going to go for a first down. Well, Mahomes did find Sadler for 53 yards and a walk-in touchdown.

And last, but not least, Grant’s first touchdown came off of a sweep toss where he walked 3 yards for a touchdown and his second touchdown came off of special teams, where he ran 94 yards for a kickoff return. Add to that, 6 catches for 71 yards and you’ve got a really solid day, a number of those catches coming on critical third downs. I still want to see what a fully healthy Dylan Cantrell can do on the other side, but how do you all feel with these three being the stars of the show moving foward? At least in terms of receivers? I hope like heck that Cantrell can be a true weapon and I’m not totally discounting Davis at this point, but his problem is focus and making every play a great play.

8. Penalties. Son of a gun, through three-fourths of this game, I thought that this team had done a really good job with penalties. There weren’t many that stalled, at least according to my notes.

First Quarter: An intentional delay of game in the first quarter, where Symmank ended up punting, and a false start from Baylen Brown, but Lauderdale caught a that 64 yard touchdown.

Second Quarter: An illegal block by Thierry Nguema on a kickoff return to pin Texas Tech on their own 6 and a J.J. Gaines personal foul, which I totally missed and ended up advancing SHSU for a first down, but also into Texas Tech territory.

Third Quarter: The first offensive drive in the second half, Alfredo Morales held on one play as did Tony Brown two players later on what would have been a DeAndre Washington touchdown screen (a really terrific call by the way). That drive ended up with a field goal. I think this is the start of the lack of killer instinct mentioned above. A couple of drives later, Kaster had a false start and then Texas Tech and SHSU had off-setting penalties.

Fourth Quarter: Another Brown false start. A Le’Raven Clark False start. A personal foul (not sure who it was) that was declined because it was already 4th down and 21. An illegal formation during the punt of 4th and 21.

To recap, that’s 4 penalties in the first half, one of which the team meant to take and that’s 4 penalties each in the third and fourth quarters. That’s the lack of killer instinct.

9. Calling Out the Team. I don’t really recall Kingsbury being as critical as he was yesterday. That maybe means that Kingsbury has much higher expectations. Branden Jackson mentioned that it was not a joyous lockerroom and nothing to be excited about. That it was the same 4-8 defense that allowed way too many yards. Kingsbury was clear that he too was not happy with how things transpired and this team has to be better.

We’ll just coach them hard. Somebody has got to step up and get it done, so we will coach them very hard this week and get them ready for UTEP.

10. Mahomes vs. Webb. For those of you who were curious how or when the timing of naming Mahomes the starter over Webb, here’s Mahomes after the game:

I think he kind of hinted it to me somewhere in the camp sometime. I can’t really remember exactly when. It really didn’t change anything. I went out there like I did every single day and competed. I knew at any point, Davis is a great quarterback, so either way I was just going to compete every single day.

There was never going to be a huge announcement, but Kingsbury let Mahomes know that he was the guy, but that didn’t change anything and I never really had a problem with how it all sorta played out. It happened the way that I thought it happened, which is that Mahomes is just the better player and it’s pretty evident to most folks, but Kingsbury has been criticized for handing out the starting job without much competition (see Webb at the beginning of the season last year) and also criticized for not handing out the starting gig when it looked all but clear as to who should be the starter. Kingsbury all but gave Mahomes the nod and he knew, but he never quit working or changed the way he prepared.

Oh, and we haven’t even talked about the offensive line or the running game. Good thing we’ve got all week to get to that.

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