1. /deep breath, figure out where to start, exhale/ It was a kick to the gut and I’m not sure what to tell you. There are two different camps on these sorts of games. There are those of us who see the utility in the being close to the #3 team in the nation and think that Texas Tech is making progress and then there are those of us who think that a loss is a loss and not executing during the stretch is what separates good teams from bad teams. That’s simplistic and you all know me well enough to know that I err on the side of the former and I see the good parts of being in a game with the #3 team in the nation with a quarterback on a bad knee. Between you and me, if Patrick Mahomes is healthy, Texas Tech wins that game going away.
That doesn’t mean that I’m not completely depressed because I am completely depressed. That game was there for the taking and it was one that slipped away and I hate to even have to relive, but that’s what I’m about to do, but this machine doesn’t stop. Not for my depressed afternoon / evening.
2. Mahomes Wants to be Kingsbury. After Patrick Mahomes was injured, he looked like a shell of his former self. He looked like he could hardly walk and as I was watching the game with my brother-in-law, he wondered if David Webb would see some time with Mahomes being barely able to walk.
Without a doubt, I knew that there was no question Mahomes was only coming out of the game if his leg had to be amputated. We all remember the stories about how Kingsbury simply refused to come out of games. His toughness would know no bounds and despite after being hit play after play, he would get up and continue.
That’s who Mahomes wants to be I think. He wants his legend to be that of what Kingsbury achieved and that means playing when he probably shouldn’t, but I don’t think Texas Tech is in that game without Mahomes leading the way. Despite his knee, Texas Tech was in that game until the absolute bitter end. So yes, Mahomes wasn’t as good as he usually is, but playing on a knee that would barely hold his weight for most of the first half, he was 25 of 45 for 392 yards, 2 touchdowns and 8.7 yards per attempt. And despite running on just one leg, he was the second leading rusher with 36 yards on 8 carries and a touchdown. He will inspire you to do great things, but we just need a bit more time.
3. The Defense is Close. You look at the final stats and the defensive stats look terrible. Texas Tech gave up 247 yards on the ground and Boykin-to-Doctson was darn near unstoppable. TCU had 750 yards of offense yesterday and yet, there were opportunities where Texas Tech needed just one more stop, and they were a tipped pass away from making that happen. Despite the ugly score, there were opportunities for the Texas Tech defense and the times that they did stop TCU, there were times that Texas Tech capitalized. But there weren’t enough of those opportunities.
Make no mistake though, TCU is one of the best offenses in the nation and for them to put up points like that isn’t a surprise. I know that in watching the game in the first quarter, that I thought there was no way that Texas Tech was going to stop TCU at any point during the game, but Texas Tech actually did stop TCU on 7 of their 14 drives to a field goal or less. And maybe this won’t make you feel better, but TCU’s field goal kicker missed two field goals that he normally makes and this game could have had a wider margin and we wouldn’t all feel like we got punched in the gut.
4. No Answer for Doctson. When I highlighted Justis Nelson on Friday we all knew that Doctson plays the left cornerback, which is the same side that Doctson plays and Texas Tech and Nelson just had no answer for what Doctson did on Saturday. Not being able to slow him down at all, at least for me, was the biggest problem. David Gibbs likes to run a zone and most of the time, when you have a veteran receiver like Doctson and veteran quarterback like Boykin, they’ll find holes in the defense and go over the top of you and so you might as well and copy and paste what I wrote last week to this week as Corey Coleman next on the list of dangerous receivers to be concerned about. Nelson lacks the ability to be physical with a receiver and I think he struggles in open space sometimes too. I’m not sure how to crack this nut as Paul Banks III is obviously very green, but that position is a problem. I saw where it was reported that Nigel Bethel III was suited up yesterday, but I didn’t see him in the game. I don’t know how quickly Bethel can assimilate, but Texas Tech will need all hands on deck next Saturday as well. Maybe move J.J. Gaines over to that spot. I’m not sure, but something has to give with the cornerback spot. It hasn’t really been a glaring problem except for the first game, because UTEP is generally a passing team and Arkansas didn’t throw to the sidelines.
And I think the problem here is that Nelson is somewhat of a tweener in that he’s not physical enough to play safety, especially in the running game and he lacks quickness to play cornerback. He can’t play most slot guys because they’re even just a bit quicker. Figuring out what to do with Nelson, who has utility, is tough. Every player has utility and playing him outside is probably the right spot, but when you have a player like Doctson, you may have to re-think how to play that.
5. Couldn’t Figure Out the Carries to Stockton. Justin Stockton is a crazy fast player, and when he gets free, he can go for 50 yards in a blink of an eye, but there was a drive near the goal line where Texas Tech was feeding him the ball near the goal line and between the tackles and it’s frustrating to watch. The drive in question was first drive for Texas Tech in the third quarter and with Texas Tech at 2nd and 4, he got the ball for no gain and then there was a pass to Giles gets the first down. Then the ball goes to Stockton twice, starting at the 9 where he gets 4 yards, and then again where he gained 2 yards. I don’t think that Stockton’s talents are not between the tackles and I suppose my frustration is with the play-call to give him the ball in those pressure situations when Washington is right there. And I understand the concept, the concept being that Stockton can break a tackle and completely flip the game, but with Texas Tech up 52-48 and 4:44 left in the game, the point is to churn out yards and clock and despite Stockton’s talents, I didn’t understand the idea behind giving him the ball on 2nd and 6 when Washington had been turning nothing into 10 yard gains all game long. The point was to get first downs.
In the grand scheme of things, this was a minor thing, but it was one that bothered me as I thought Washington had earned that right to get the ball with the game on the line. That’s what I wanted to see.
6. DeAndre Saved This Game. Speaking of DeAndre Washington, he was unbelievable. Actually, that’s incorrect. He was totally believable because what you saw was peak DeAndre Washington. It’s always tough to think about these things in the middle of a season, but I do think we are watching one of the best running backs to ever wear the scarlet and black. He won’t end his career as having huge numbers like a lot of guys before him, but the way that Washington is able to turn positive yards on each and every carry is a gift. You are watching one of the best. Washington finished the game with 22 carries and 188 yards with 4 touchdowns. Texas Tech doesn’t even come close to being in this game without Washington’s efforts.
You’re watching greatness with DeAndre.
7. Putting Away Opponents.
Q. When you have four minutes and 44 seconds left, you have the ball and the lead, what was your thought process at that point?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, go win it. I mean, we ran it twice and threw it on 3rd down just like we’d been doing the whole second half, running the ball very well, and they stood up and made a play.
I mentioned that the game was there for the taking and had it not been for a tipped ball on 4th down in the endzone where the opponent makes an absolutely unbelievable catch then we’re talking about a completely different set of circumstances. The times and opportunities to put TCU away didn’t come down to just that one play, there were a handful of other opportunities, but that moment won’t escape me for a long time. This team will learn from this and they will learn how to put away opponents.
8. Defensive Standouts. I’m so torn about the defense. There are moments when I’m pulling my hair out, especially in the second half as Green is running roughshod over the defense (Green’s ability to break free in the second half was huge for TCU) and I’m sitting here thinking that there were some defensive players that stood out yet again. This defense is far from perfect, but you can see some building blocks here that should make you think that this thing is headed in the right direction. Micah Awe finished with 13 tackles, and although he’s a senior, his back-up, freshman D’Vonta Hinton saw plenty of time. Dakota Allen finished with 9 tackles and had that key tackle on 3rd down with the game on the line. S Keenon Ward finished with 9 tackles and S Jah’Shawn Johnson had 8 tackles and will probably be one of the more disliked players in the Big 12 by opposing teams when his career is finished. LB Malik Jenkins is coming on as a serviceable linebacker. There are some good parts here and with these guys, sans Awe, all getting another year, in addition to Breiden Fehoko. It’s really tough to see through the fog of 750 yards (as it should be).
9. Defensive Rotation. Defensive coordinator David Gibbs did exactly what he said he would do, which is rotate players all game long. I can’t begin to give you all of the defensive line rotations that he had, but he did exactly what he said he would do and he gave the second units plenty of time on the field. There are times when it looks really rough, but Gibbs did his best to mix in players and not make wholesale substitutions so that there were a handful of first-teamers on the field at any given time. There’s pros and cons to that, the cons being that these groups of different players may not have a ton of chemistry so there will be times when the players aren’t communicating as well as they could be if it was all first team players. But we’ve all seen what happens when you leave players on the field for way too long (see the entire 2014 4-8 season). I prefer Gibbs method of freely substituting players because the game is long and if it weren’t for a tipped pass, again, we’d be having a totally different conversation.
Not Too High, Not Too Low.
Q. How do you make sure you don’t get too down after a loss like this?
DeANDRE WASHINGTON: I think we can take a lot away from this game, honestly. I think we played a good game. Unfortunately it didn’t go our way, but I definitely think we can take a lot from this game and build on it going into next week. We’ve got another big game in Jerry’s World. The stage is big, another top five team, and it’s a conference game, so I think we’ll be amped up enough for that.
Q. What’s the next step for this team going forward?
DeANDRE WASHINGTON: I think just being consistent. Never being too high, never being too low. We’ll let this one go tonight, and come tomorrow we’ll focus on Baylor. So just keep the consistency. It’s a long season; it’s only the fourth game of the year. We still have a lot of football left, so just staying consistent.
It will be interesting to see how quickly this team can compartmentalize that game. I started these thoughts on Saturday night and it’s now five in the morning on Sunday and I’m on to Baylor because the schedule and time don’t wait around for you to feel sorry for yourself. Good teams sometimes lose games and good teams sometimes lose games on a fluke tipped pass. Great teams regroup and recover.