Texas Tech won their 6th game, becoming bowl eligible after the disappointing 4-8 season a year ago, on the back of senior running back DeAndre Washington, two key turnovers by Jahshawn Johnson, and despite shaky special teams play.
Michael_LSRR – Yikes. I can live with some field goal troubles, this is college football after all, but there have been two special teams TD’s returned on Tech the past few weeks. Then, last week’s back-to-back kickoffs out-of-bounds in the fourth quarter of a close game? That hurt. Texas Tech is 119th and 110th in the country in punt and kickoff defense, respectively. This team has really missed Symmank, and so have I. I had grown accustomed to an almost guaranteed touchback on every kickoff. I think he’s been the key to a lot of the woes. I would say that things have improved overall since last year, but these last three games have been rough.
Brian DonCarlos – After watching that opening kickoff return, this is pretty much how I felt about the 2015 Tech team. I keep coming back to how important Taylor Symmank is to that unit. His ability to boot the ball out of the endzone (and keep it in bounds) is very underrated, and has been sorely missed in the games late in this season. On top of that, actual coverage has been shaky as well, which just leads to a bad time. Part of that is due to the overall tackling woes, which will hopefully improve over the offseason. The missed field goals will happen, because, you know, college kickers, but it’s the basic stuff that just has to get better.
Meestah Rogers – Watching Kansas State execute three onside kicks, nearly to perfection each time, was stressful. Kicking the ball out of bounds after a touchdown is frustrating. Giving up kick returns for touchdowns is maddening. This isn’t a punt team problem, a kickoff team problem, it’s the entire unit. Texas Tech has made progress from the days where we would be nervous whenever the opposing team would punt because we never knew if we were going to catch the punt, or muff it and turn it over. I think much like the offensive line missing Justin Murphy, the special teams are missing Taylor Symmank. I think the kicking issues might have something to do with Barden not having as powerful a leg as Symmank (Which is impossible to ask because Symmank’s kicks are cannon shots) and him trying too hard to force it. I don’t know. I do know that Barden has nothing to do with the onside kick recovery team, and that was tough to watch. And I have no idea what the Tech punt return team is doing. They don’t ever rush the punter, and they no longer drop back to block for the returner. With the bye week and some added practice time after the UT game, I would expect expect some time devoted to special teams on the practice field.
Michael_LSRR – Ending up in the right place at the right time this often isn’t luck. I heard a tidbit on Level’s show a few week ago about how Johnson studies plays and watches how they develop. It certainly shows with his play. I really enjoyed the fact that the final big plays in this game came from Washington and Johnson. With so many seniors introduced for the last time to Jones stadium, it’s great to have young guys like Johnson who just keep getting better.
I understand calling the targeting penalty, but if the ejection can be reviewed, why can’t the penalty be reversed? There has to be a better way to handle this. The team, and the player, should not be punished for something that is already partially reviewable. Johnson led with his shoulder, which was obvious-enough to me in real time. Could this have been some sort of “well, #7 was (WRONGFULLY) ejected a few weeks ago, so we should keep an eye on him” kind of situation?
Brian DonCarlos – For as maligned as the defense has been this season, there certainly have been young players to get very excited about. Fehoko, Hinton, Allen, & Bethel have all shown more than flashes, and, of course, there’s Jah’Shawn Johnson. He’s always near the ball (and takes it away his fair share as well) and loves contact. Just loves it. Gibbs wants turnovers, and Johnson is your guys, adding a fumble recovery & interception to his stats this year (2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 INT, 4.5 TFL). And he’s just a freshman! We get this for another 3 years! As long as he doesn’t get anymore phantom targeting calls we’ll be good.
Meestah Rogers – This coaching staff has praised Johnson’s ability to always be around the ball, which I always thought was just a platitude. But you don’t force the number of fumbles, or recover them, or catch the interceptions he has without being in the right position and around the ball. There have been numerous times this season where I’ve been frustrated with Johnson’s play, but I had to remind myself that he was a freshman. Young guys make mistakes, but Johnson is also making key plays. He is a player this defense can build around and I look forward to seeing how he progresses next season and beyond.
Michael_LSRR – Watching Washington run is a thing of beauty. He is always fighting for every yard available to him, and that was even more apparent to me this last game. It seemed like every chance he got, he was spinning, juking, and churning for extra ground. You could sense it in the crowd, as tacklers missed, that he was determined to finish out his last game at home in style. He did that, and so much more, gaining 248 yards on a team that, until Saturday, had only allowed 142 yards on the ground per game. Texas Tech has a Top 10 Rusher. I am excited to see what he will do in his last two games.
Brian DonCarlos – I’ll go ahead and say it: DeAndre Washington is one of the best backs to put on the scarlet and the black, and I don’t think we’ve all realized yet exactly how lucky we’ve been to watch him. I don’t care if that sounds overblown, because we just saw him have two 1,000 yard seasons in a row (the 4th Red Raider to accomplish this), and have a career day rushing on his last day in the Jones. He also did all of this after recovering from an ACL injury. So yes, he may not have the total numbers of a Byron Hanspard or Bam Morris, but he did all of this in a pass heavy system not meant to feature running backs.
On Saturday, he wasn’t going to be stopped. He was savage. Every single time he touched the ball, he was making yards after contact. He was knocking over linebackers. He was just annihilating the Wildcat defense, and it was a pleasure to watch. He deserved that game so much, and I’m glad Kliff finally gave him the play calls a lot of us wanted us to see him get all season. Also, how great is it to have a player like that get to set an example for Corey Dauphine & DeMarcus Felton?
Meestah Rogers – On Senior Day, his last time to play in the Jones, Washington ran the ball 27 times for nearly 250 yards and 3 touchdowns. The man would just not be stopped. He averaged more than 9 yards per carry. This is the type of dominant rushing performance Tech fans are used to seeing happen versus their own defense (and how about the Tech run D!? Only gave up 123 total rushing yards! Joe Hubener, the guy I was most worried about, ran the ball 14 times for 9 yards). He has been consistent in finding a way to gain a few yards from nothing. I’m sure you’d be hard pressed to find many negative yardage plays from him, or even 1 yard runs. He just finds a way to move the ball forward. I said it earlier in the season and I was told by some of our older readers to pump the brakes, but I do believe that Washington truly is one of the best running backs Tech has had, certainly in this modern Air Raid era. He’s currently sitting just under 1,300 yards on the season and I’m confident he’ll find a way to break his pre-season goal of 1,500 yards. Also, after only rushing for 2 touchdowns last season, he currently has 12.