1. Reverting to Bad Habits. This game stunk for a variety of reasons, but one of those things was that this team reverted to some bad habits. Texas Tech had 17 penalties for 142 yards and that’s probably what happens when you have a team that might be a bit down and not as focused once the team couldn’t respond to Baylor’s potent offense. As much as we like to think that the Texas Tech offense is one that simply can’t be stopped, it’s not there yet. Too many dropped passes and penalties inhibited that aspect of the offense and without a lead receiver other than Jakeem Grant, who had his issues dropping the ball too, then this is what you get. An inconsistent offense that shot itself in the foot a handful of times as a result of not being able to capitalize on receivers making catches and penalties putting this team back behind the eight-ball. Jared Kaster has hardly had a penalty or poor play all year, but having to match-up against one of the best in the conference, Andrew Billings, will change that. I’d expect the offensive line and some of these things to revert to what’s happened the first four games of the season.
2. 680. This was almost two games in a row where Texas Tech gave up over 700 yards of offense, but thankfully, the Baylor offense stalled as well in the second half. When previewing this game, I really felt that Baylor had a much superior offense, despite the fact that Texas Tech was in and around the top five of most total offense categories. They’re just more explosive and have the ability to run the ball more than most teams. Baylor is the outlier and frankly thus far, I think it will be a dramatic change in how the defense plays certain things against the next two opponents. I guess what I’m thinking here is that despite the fact that Texas Tech has given up gobs of yards and points to TCU and Baylor, I don’t think the defense is as bad as the last two weeks have been. Do I think it’s a good defense? Gosh no, we’re not even close to talking about good, but I don’t think they’re as bad as you’ve seen the last two weeks. More than anything, I think it’s important to give some credit to just how good the two opposing offenses really are.
3. The Emergency of Freshmen Receivers and the Fading of One Veteran. I have never been so disappointed in how a receiver performs on the field than I have been of Reginald Davis. With Devin Lauderdale going out with an injury relatively easy, Texas Tech needed a veteran receiver to step up and be “the guy” on the other side. That didn’t happen with Davis, who caught 1 pass for 5 yards. Davis has faded into the shrubs and I’m ready to make the change here. It just doesn’t feel like it’s going to happen. This isn’t about Davis as a person or anything else like that, but Davis has flashes of greatness and then he’ll have games where he needs to be a presence and he just fades into the background. That’s simply not going to do it and Texas Tech is essentially running a receiver out there that is not even an option. Consider this, Texas Tech has had multiple injuries at receiver, Ian Sadler, Dylan Cantrell, and now Devin Lauderdale, and there have been freshmen that have stepped up their play and been actual threats.
It seems like when I watch Patrick Mahomes, he doesn’t even look to the right side of the field (he does, but it does not seem like it is all that often). Right now, Davis is taking up a spot on that side of the field that the quarterback really isn’t even considering and is finding true freshmen receivers who can and do get open. I don’t think that Mahomes or Davis Webb are biased, they’ll throw to whoever is open, evidenced by the fact that there were 10 receivers who caught a pass yesterday, but that’s the problem. Davis caught 1 pass for 5 yards, while freshmen and sophomores had career days.
This is, I think, the biggest weakness of the offense, the fact that z-receiver spot is an afterthought.
4. Not Filling Gaps. Baylor is a tough play because if the defense doesn’t properly fill gaps, then they’ll burn you the day is long. And the other key concept here is that they’ve got good enough offensive linemen who can go out and pull and trap to make things difficult. Most of the teams in the Big 12 simply won’t be as good as Baylor is at doing stuff like this. So you have a team like Texas Tech that still lacks the needed personnel to be dominant up front and linebackers that still get lost in space and this is what you get. Not only that, but apparently, there were maybe two healthy safeties against Baylor as Payton Hendrix was out because he was sick, so Texas Tech essentially just had Keenon Ward and Jah’Shawn Johnson and that’s it. The defensive line was largely ineffective at getting to Russell for pretty much the entire game, again, give credit to Baylor’s offensive line here as I think Texas Tech faced the Big 12’s best offensive lines in two straight weeks.
5. Mahomes Isn’t Perfect. It’s taken 6 or so games, but what we did learn is that Patrick Mahomes isn’t perfect, forcing one terrible interception in the first half that was relatively critical and at times making poor decisions trying to scramble from pressure. Much like the offensive line struggling, which we’ll get to in a second, Mahomes struggled a bit as well. Although, his stats would have been significantly better had the receivers actually caught the touchdown passes he threw (there were at least two of them). So, despite having an off day, Mahomes still threw for 415 yards, 8.3 yards per attempt, with 3 touchdowns and that really should have been at least 5. Unfortunately, Texas Tech and Mahomes don’t get to count shoulda-been’s. Although Mahomes wasn’t perfect, he was still really good and a few shoulda-been’s and we’re talking about a game that is quite good. Still, Mahomes has to clean up those mistakes and after the interception I thought he did a better job of throwing the ball away (that one at the feet of the defender wasn’t good) when the play wasn’t there.
6. Lack of Rushing Attack. I mentioned after the game that the worst part about the game was that the rushing attack never got going. DeAndre Washington was bottled up pretty much the entire game and the offensive line didn’t get their hands on Baylor’s defensive line to the point that they were moving them around and creating opportunities. When I wrote that Baylor and TCU have the two best offensive lines in the Big 12 and I do believe that, with Texas Tech sitting somewhere 3rd or 4th in the Big 12. They simply have to be better. Kaster mentioned after the game that 8 of the penalties were against the offensive line and they have to make sure that Washington gets his yards because this offense needs for him to get his yards. Kingsbury mentioned after the game that once Texas Tech got down, the rushing opportunities just weren’t there and I’d agree with that. You’re not going to come back against an offense like Baylor just running the ball, especially if it is ineffective. Much like the team, I’m not at all writing that the offensive line is terrible, but I am writing that I have higher expectations and I think they do too.
7. Third Downs and Redzones Are Huge Problems. The biggest two problems with the Texas Tech defense is that they’re allowing way too many third down conversions and they’re also beginning to just be a sieve when the opponent gets into the redzone. Yesterday, Baylor converted 11 of 16 third downs and was 6 for 6 in the redzone. The third downs is probably especially problematic, and as I’ve echoed through this piece, most teams aren’t going to be as efficient as Baylor and TCU, but it’s a definite problem. Texas Tech did see the return of Nigel Bethel II, but to have an expectation that he’d be a huge improvement over the cornerbacks that have rolled out there isn’t fair. Defensive coordinator David Gibbs said it last week, he doesn’t have a #1 cornerback and he doesn’t have a #1 safety. That’s true. This is a group that’s struggling to cover much of anything right now. Admittedly, there’s probably not a tougher position to play in college football than defensive back. There’s just so much space to cover, both vertically and horizontally. I guess I’ve always thought that the difference between NFL cornerbacks and college cornerbacks is that NFL cornerbacks can make the field smaller because of their speed and that’s the one equalizer that most college programs don’t have. It’s the same thing with the linebackers too, and Texas Tech isn’t there yet. I think Texas Tech is on the right track with Dakota Allen and D’Vonta Hinton at the linebacker spot, but the secondary is still going to be a work in progress. I like Tevin Madison and Bethel and J.J. Gaines at times and then there are times that it looks terrible. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s the toughest job in college football (for me personally).
8. Kept Fighting. After the game, head coach Kliff Kingsbury mentioned twice that he thought that the team, despite being down, kept fighting:
Yeah, we just kept playing hard. We just never got over the hump. And they’re very good. They controlled the ball in the second half when they wanted to and so never really got over that hump where we could have really made a good run at it. You got to give them credit. They did a good job defensively of creating turnovers and putting us in a hole.
The one thing I saw tonight was they kept fighting. That’s a very good Baylor team. And they just kept going toe to toe with them at the end, and so I was proud of that. But we reverted back to some bad habits as far as penalties and turnovers in this game. And against a top 5 team in the country, you can’t have that happen. So I don’t think we really gave ourselves an opportunity to win the game like we have the previous first four.
The point here is that despite the bad showing, Kingsbury isn’t ready to throw this team down and although the compliments are probably tough to find in a game like this, Kingsbury didn’t tear into his team. There’s no reason to and I hope we don’t tear into this team either. A bad game like this isn’t totally out of the realm of expectations.
9. Sophomore and Freshman Receivers Step Up. Zach Austin caught 8 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown yesterday. Tony Brown caught 5 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown, while Jonathan Giles also caught his first touchdown pass as well as 3 for 38. Cameron Batson also had his first touchdown of his career while catching 3 for 71 yards and the aforementioned Austin caught 8 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown yesterday. These guys better get ready because it’s about to be completely on them to be ready to carry the load.
10. Where Are We Now. Before the season started, I thought that this team would be lucky to be 1-3 against Arkansas, TCU and Baylor. In fact, for me, I had them losing all three games, so for me, I’ve had to readjust my total game prediction because of the Arkansas win. That was a win I wasn’t expecting. It looks terrible now and the bad taste in your mouth does taste terrible, but if things fall right, Texas Tech will be 5-2 after the next two weeks (I do think Iowa State is going to be tough, but I expect two wins here), the only losses being to two top 10 teams in the nation and then, I think the rest of the schedule is up for grabs. I feel like most of the games from that point forward, Texas Tech will have as good of a chance as any other game. So for me, this team is a game better than my expectations and a tipped pass that fell the wrong way for the good guys that this team is wildly better than expected. I know that you all sometimes hate to hear these sorts of things after a drubbing, but I really do feel this way. Texas Tech will follow up the toughest stretch of the schedule with the easiest part of the schedule. Make it happen.