1. Lets Talk About the Defense. This is the opposite of fun. There are spots where the defense looks okay and gets some turnovers, but it’s terrible. When a game is happening, I do my best not to get distracted with what’s being said on Twitter or anywhere else. I want my thoughts to be as pure as the drive snow in the sense that I’m not at all affected by negative and/or positive comments.
With that being said, I could certainly see how you are upset at David Gibbs, or think that he’s a failure or anything like that. The hardest thing to do is change from what was to what is to come and the only way to make a change is to be consistent.
My kid has one of the hardest heads that I know. He is incredibly persistent and he hates change. This comes with the territory of being an adopted kid. Change is one of the worst things that you can do. However, when we do have to implement change, whether it be a new school, or new rules or anything else, you, as a parent with a kid as strong-willed as mine, have to be consistent. It’s not going to work every time, but you have to be consistent.
This defense has lacked anything but consistency for the past seven years and bad habits die hard. The players are generally the same, but the front line is really tough and without a good front line, the rest just sorta falls apart. Whatever happens, without consistency moving forward, the same coaches trying to teach the correct technique, it’s going to be incredibly tough.
Of all things, I was reading Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings, the nine things she’s learned since starting her site and ran across this:
“Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.” This is borrowed from the wise and wonderful Debbie Millman, for it’s hard to better capture something so fundamental yet so impatiently overlooked in our culture of immediacy. The myth of the overnight success is just that — a myth — as well as a reminder that our present definition of success needs serious retuning. As I’ve reflected elsewhere, the flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst and yet, as a culture, we’re disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming. But that’s where all the real magic unfolds in the making of one’s character and destiny.
The process can sometimes be incredibly painful to sit and watch. It, quite frankly, can be boring. And maybe my attitude is one sprung from the idea that I’ve seen short-term solutions to long-term problems before and they almost never work.
2. Mahomes Really Had a Rough Day. Yeah, that was bad. No two ways about it. Thus far, Patrick Mahomes hasn’t shrunk and he shrunk a bit in the moment this game. I don’t think it’s a pattern, but Mahomes is mortal. I don’t watch the NFL with the same passion, but when folks would talk about Tony Romo, it was one of he’s not good enough and there were holes in his game, but quarterbacks get way too much credit and way too much blame. A patch-work offensive line and receivers that aren’t dominating is problematic for Texas Tech. It was not what we’ve come to expect and it shouldn’t surprise you that there’s not an “S” underneath his shirt. Mahomes can only do so much. I’m still bullish on Mahomes, more than I’ve ever been. With half of an offensive line, he was able to keep this game somewhat close in the first half, when the rest of the line went down, so did he. It’s somewhat related.
More than anything else, Mahomes has to figure out how to find the stuff underneath and how to use his legs. I’m also seeing quite a bit of play-action in his future as the offensive line (which we’ll talk about shortly) has plenty of work to do and something has to be done to give Mahomes a bit more time. Not only that, Mahomes has to do a better job of recognizing who’s in front of him. Probably going to have to watch out for those freakishly athletic defensive ends who can jump up and intercept a pass. Those are rare situations.
3. Fixing that Offensive Line. I’m not sure that I have a lot of things to fix, but I know it needs to be done. I also understand that there are not a lot of options at this point. It’s not because there aren’t freshmen that might be able to step up, but because the coaching staff doesn’t want to take off the redshirt off of that lineman.
Right now, it’s up to Emeka Okafor having to keep pace at right tackle and Tony Morales trying to figure things out at right guard. They are both struggling mightily to stay in front of their man, much less block their man. Oklahoma moving Striker to the right wide was a terrific move and it was one that worked terribly for Texas Tech. Okafor was over-matched and Tony Morales is struggling to be a positive on the line.
I don’t know what to think about Robert Castaneda and when he does get in, he looks as raw as the next, but at the very least there is the opportunity to improve, thinking ahead to next year. I think the only real option is Paul Stawarz at this point and maybe that’s going to be necessary to take off his redshirt. I know that the coaches wanted to leave on that redshirt so that he would have all four years, but if Brown is out for an extended period of time, then it may be time. Mahomes is consistently under pressure and any defensive coordinator is going to do everything possible to attach that right side of the line. The other option, and it would be a true stop-gap, would be to move Poet Thomas back to the offensive line for this year and then move him back to the defensive line. This is a line that is desperately in need of some help, and I’m not sure where it will come from.
4. Let’s Go Back to 2014. There are few things that make me upset about the current state of the team, but the one at the top of my list is probably the 2014 defensive line recruiting class. The one where Matt Wallerstedt decided that it would be beneficial to take four defensive line players, all from the junior college ranks. Of course, I’m blaming it on Wallerstedt and without knowing the inner-workings of how things roll, I’d guess that Kingsbury signed off on all of them, thinking that Wallerstedt knew what he was doing. The obvious problems are that recruiting so many JUCO guys is that it is incredibly short-sighted. If this ever happens again, you should make sure and notify the authorities because more than likely, this means that the coach recruiting all of those players is a short-timer, looking only to benefit themselves temporarily and not better the program.
With the 2014 defensive line class, there really isn’t one of them that has made an impact. Not a single one of them. And you never expect truly great things with JUCO players, because most of the time, they are at a JUCO for a reason, perhaps it is because they didn’t make the grades or just weren’t mature enough or just needed to get better. Either way, high expectations for a pretty standard JUCO player is probably misplaced.
The 2014 JUCO defensive line class netted zero tackles against Oklahoma. That’s where this thing is at, it’s being patch-worked with a true freshman who is learning on the run. Dismissals and players who can’t even get on the field when the game is close, sans Rika Levi, who despite losing weight, hasn’t proven to be effective.
With the 2016 class, there is a distinct difference in how the coaching staff is looking not to just better themselves, but to better the program long-term. For all we know, it may not benefit them at all by the time it’s all said and done, but you can’t expect to have success looking at things short-term. And that’s not to say that there aren’t stop-gaps that are there to assist, like Michigan transfer Ondre Pipkins and Notre Dame transfer Kolin Hill or JUCO defensive tackle Mychelean Thomas (assuming he signs with the good guys). Mixed in all of that are four freshmen defensive tackles, who most likely won’t have an impact in 2016, but will be the foundation for this program for a long time. In all of my years, I can’t recall a class as deep on the defensive line as deep as this one.
5. Deferring. I think Brian is maybe going to go into this topic later in the week, but I wonder what Kingsbury’s thought process is going into each game and never deferring until the second half. I would guess that he feels more comfortable with the idea of trying to get a leg up on the opponent, but sometimes, having the ball first in the second half can mean the difference in staying in a game or allowing your opponent to put the game away to the point where it’s almost impossible to come back. I felt like this yesterday. The interception at the end of the half was reminiscent of something that Webb did last year, something to just sort of shoot yourself in the foot with the chance of making it 3 or 4 point game going into halftime. That would have been great. Mahomes went for it, but it wasn’t there and he hasn’t done that all that much this year. But then, this meant that the pressure was going to be on the defense to make a stop right out of the gate in the second half. When that didn’t happen, I promptly got out my laptop and started to write my five post game thoughts because I didn’t think this team was coming back from that sort of deficit, especially with a less than great offensive line. Had Texas Tech deferred, the pressure would have been on the offense and at the very least, would have kept the ball out of Oklahoma’s hands for a bit. I’d imagine that this will be something that Kingsbury probably won’t change, but am thinking he might want to call his old coach in New England for a different opinion.
6. Improved Secondary Play. It’s difficult to take these things in separate parts, but I do think we should give some credit to the secondary, who I thought played well. Of course, Oklahoma really didn’t need to throw the ball when the running backs averaged over 7 yards a carry, but the guys in the secondary did create two turnovers, Tevin Madison popped the ball out and Justis Nelson made a play on a pass that sailed a bit. Those are positives. I also thought that Nigel Bethel played well given the situation. I am guessing that he had cramps and not an actual hamstring issue, but Bethel looked good out there and it seemed like he actually broke up passes that normally would have connected.
7. Running Game Continues. Despite being down for the game, Texas Tech still ran the ball to the point where I’m pretty happy with those results. Texas Tech ran 40 times, 15 of those were from Mahomes, for 183 yards and 4.6 yards a carry. If there is anything that makes me think that the offense is going to be okay, it’s that Mahomes looks fully functional while running and the one way to beat a team that is going to just turn upfield and rush is for a healthy Mahomes being able to scramble for first downs. I’m pretty happy with how this is progressing, except for giving the ball to Justin Stockton when the yards are tight. This just isn’t his deal and I don’t get this line of thinking.
8. Field Goals Still Suck, Although Clayton Hatfield is Doing a Good Job. This is week #2 where Texas Tech failed to convert in the redzone, resulting in two field goals when the team sure as could have used a touchdown. The first score out of the game, very well should have been a touchdown had it not been for a pick or a block or something (I thought the call was a little iffy, but I typically don’t complain about refs). Luckily, the defense turned the ball over twice helping the offense get back in the game for the first half. In the second half, the first score was a field goal and this is where I had one of those frustrating Justin Stockton runs. The ball is at the Oklahoma 13 yard line and it’s 3rd and 7 and Texas Tech hands the ball off to Stockton between the tackles where he promptly gets 1 yard, if that. I think when Kingsbury is asked about this, after the game, he said that had the offense been able to get anything, they were going to go for it on 4th down, but 4th and 6 from the Oklahoma 10, there wasn’t enough room for error.
9. Redzone Defense is Epic. Oklahoma was 9 of 10 on redzone touchdowns. No typo there. 9 of 10. It’s normal to give up touchdowns, but the biggest problem for the defense, aside from the thought that they can’t stop anyone running the ball, is the idea that once the ball gets inside the 20, there seem to be fewer answers. With a shorter field and less room to operate, it’s not at all hurting opposing offenses, especially Oklahoma’s.
10. I’ll Continue to Be An Idealist. In November of this year, I will have been writing for nine years. I feel like I’ve seen it all and it is really tough for me to be “the guy” that resorts to yelling and screaming or calling for firings or anything like that. I can say with some certainty after nine years years that the best way to be a good to great team, especially for a team like Texas Tech (i.e. a team without a ton of history like some of the elite programs) is to stick with it and be consistent. It’s the same way that I write and it’s the same way that I feel about the state of the program. One of the reasons I enjoy writing about Texas Tech as much as I do, is that I still enjoy the process of assessing the problem and hoping that the coaches are on their way to repairing that problem. I don’t think that acting in a manner that’s juvinille in nature, yelling or screaming or otherwise being unpleasant helps the situation. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been there before, the last 3 or so games with Tuberville in charge I was there, but ultimately, I’m going to be an idealist. One more quote from the BrainPickings link:
The commercial enterprise is conditioning us to believe that the road to success is paved with catering to existing demands — give the people cat GIFs, the narrative goes, because cat GIFs are what the people want. But E.B. White, one of our last great idealists, was eternally right when he asserted half a century ago that the role of the writer is “to lift people up, not lower them down” — a role each of us is called to with increasing urgency, whatever cog we may be in the machinery of society. Supply creates its own demand. Only by consistently supplying it can we hope to increase the demand for the substantive over the superficial — in our individual lives and in the collective dream called culture.
I’m not solving any of the world’s problems. My idealism is really only related to a very specific group of people and we happen to love the same college football team. I do my best to reasonably assess the problems of the team and leave the emotion out of it (unless it’s a big win, in which case I’m posting Big Phil ringing that bell cause I don’t even care).
I do think that the team is still on the right track and the games that this team has lost to are the ones that I think I expected them to lose. The rest of the schedule is, at least for me, up for grabs. There are four games left and I think Texas Tech has a shot in every one of them. Yes, Oklahoma State is undefeated and I appear foolish in thinking that this is a winnable game for Texas Tech, but this is where I’m at.