1. No Longer Just One Man. This is sort big picture, but I think head coach Kliff Kingsbury has decided that the way to be consistently good is to not just make it about one guy. Patrick Mahomes was ridiculously great last year and he literally carried the team on his back for the entire year. But he also carried the team on his back for the entire season. It was all Mahomes, all of the time. As Mahomes went, so went the entire team, bot the ups and downs.
But here we are and I thought for sure that when Desmond Nisby, he’d just latch onto Nisby and let him run roughshod over the Eastern Washington defense, but that’s not what happened at all. Kingsbury mixed it up for pretty much the entire first three quarters, with Nisby, Justin Stockton and Tre King of all players, plus DeMarcus Felton was in and although he really didn’t get the ball, he was instrumental in blocking a few nice blocks.
But the point here is that this was a collective win. This really wasn’t on just one guy. Nic Shimonek was good, but he wasn’t overshadowed by Derrick Willies or Keke Coutee or Desmond Nisby on offense. It also Jordyn Brooks, Jah’Shawn Johnson, Tony Jones, Dakota Allen and Vaughnte Dorsey on the defense. Or how about that stout defensive line.
There were a lot of good things and it wasn’t just one guy that made it happen. I think that was by design and not by accident.
2. Shimonek Proved to Be Just Fine. Nic Shimonek received his first start as a Texas Tech quarterback and he proved to be very good, damn near perfect. Shimonek finished 26 of 30 for 384 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. That’s good for 12.8 yards per attempt and other than a terrible decision on a screen pass to Dylan Cantrell that was nearly picked off for a touchdown, Shimonek was spectacular. The best thing about Shimonek is that he foudn wide open players and he also let players make plays and that might be the best thing about what Shimonek does.
3. Dat Run Defense Looks Good. Finally. Finally, we saw the defensive line do their job. The gaps were fitted. The linebackers did their thing. It was a thing of beauty. The defensive line didn’t have many big stats. In fact, I don’t think that most of them registered a tackle, but sure enough, the line was effective and they were good. There were times, yes, that the defensive line didn’t muster much of a pass rush, but by the end of the game, the group had had 4.5 tackles for a loss and a sack, plus some incredibly solid play. For the game, Eastern Washington rushed for 81 yards on 36 carries for 2.3 yards per rush. This is a situation where I still want these guys to get stats. Lots of stats. I’m not satisfied. I want to see guys like Broderick Washington, Mych Thomas, Lonzell Gilmore, Zach Barnes and Tony Jones to rack up those sacks and tackles for loss.
4. Prematurely Worried About the Secondary. I really shouldn’t be. Texas Tech held last year’s passing leader to 207 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 34 attempts. That’s pitiful. Still though, I think the cornerbacks are going to need to grow up in a hurry. Octavious Morgan. He can play. Desmon Smith and D.J. Polite Bray need to continue to get better. Jaylon Lane was okay, but he could use some work as well. There was a period in the second half where the secondary was allowing pass after pass and it was frustrating to say the least. It seemed like Polite-Bray was the biggest problem, but there’s a lot of factors that go into these sorts of things. And hey, an interception returned for a touchdown. Heck yes, Willie Sykes.
5. Running Backs Are Back. Let’s get this straight. Total yards from scrimmage was 198 from the six running backs. That 200 yard mark for your running backs can be a pretty magical sweet spot for your running backs and wins. That’s more like it. We’ve already talked about how Kingsbury didn’t just pile drive Nisby into Eastern Washington, but you get the feeling that maybe Kingsbury is saving Nisby to hammer on someone else later in the year. Stockton looked like his old self (some good, some bad). Trey King looked really good and I thought Felton ran hard when given the opportunity. These guys are all fighting for the opportunity and I think that’s a good thing.
In fact, that’s probably a pretty good little theme for this entire team.
6. Receivers Were Pretty Spectacular. The receivers made it pretty easy on Shimonek. I wish there was a “yards after catch” category for me to refer to, but there’s not. It would be over 200 yards for sure. Derrick Willies finished with just 4 catches for 126 yards and a touchdown, while Keke Coutee had 5 for 99 and 2 touchdowns. The Quan Shorts touchdown catch was a thing of beauty and when Willies graduates, Shorts is going to be pretty danged good. I liked Donta Thompson catch also showed me a little something. I’ve always thinking long term and some fo these younger guys showed me that they want to get their catches too.
7. Terrific Back Half Play. I thought the linebackers were darn near perfect in what they were supposed to do and the safeties were a bit of a revelation. Jah’Shawn Johnson looked really good filling some gaps as did Vaughnte Dorsey, while the linebackers of Jordyn Brooks and Dakota Allen both played extremely well with Brayden Stringer and Christian Taylor both making plays along with Riko Jeffers getting in there too. I’ve written a handful of times since David Gibbs has been hired “this is how it’s supposed to look” and we’re able to write it again today in that these guys made plays.
8. I’m Very Interested in that Offensive Playcalling: Look, I’m no offensive wizard, but I thought that was some really interesting stuff that Kingsbury was pulling off on the offensive side of the ball. There was some pretty terrific movement, lots of guys moving around and motion, perhaps to give Shimonek some tells about coverage, but Kingsbury had guys lined up in the slot that didn’t seem typical. I didn’t have time to really get into all of the specifics, but I felt that after those first few drives, the creativity quotient was really terrific.
9. Solid Offensive Line Play. Thank You. I was pretty worried. It seemed that the left guard, Jacob Hines, didn’t pick up a couple of stunts that seemed like his responsibility and I thought his tail was going to get yanked. But things calmed down a bit and the offensive line got it together. Some of the seal blocks on some of the bigger runs were really terrific and they obviously opened some pretty big holes for the running backs. And this was without Travis Bruffy, who was out sick and with a filling in Madison Akamnonu. There were a few penalties that need to get cleaned up, the Stawarz chop block doesn’t need to happen again and the four man false start was not ideal.
One other note. Texas Tech ran the ball 40 times and passed the ball 35 times. Let that sink in for a bit.
10. Some Good Quotes. Travis Bruffy was sick and just lost a lot of weight and with the bye week, he’ll add that back. Clayton Hatfield has a slight leg injury.
Oh, and Joe Wallace, he’s “redshirting” this year, but considering that Wallace may have been involved in a situation where he may have been involved in a fight, well, here’s Kingsbury:
Q. And Joe you said you’ll redshirt because of —
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Just it’s probably the right thing to do. We had to play him last year, and he just needs some time to mature and develop, so we’ll do that.
Read between the lines.
Kingsbury was also asked about the play of Desmond Nisby:
Q. The last three weeks or so, what kind of progress has Nisby made on basically all aspects of the game?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, he’s working on it. I mean, we have a pretty complex offense when it comes to the running back and the way we use him as a receiver and in the blocking scheme and in the run game, in the screen game. So it’s not just going to happen overnight, but he’s been very conscientious, been up here a lot, working at it, and he’s appreciative of the opportunity, so he’s working hard.
Jah’Shawn Johnson said that the team played well, but there are still things to clean up:
Q. With the defense in particular, you played so many players who came from so many different places. How well did you feel like y’all were on the same page today and how well did you feel like you communicated, particularly with it being the first game?
JAH’SHAWN JOHNSON: I think we done a great job. There’s definitely some errors we can clean up in, but we had a long fall camp, so we played with each other a lot, and they did a great job when they got in there and they knew what they were doing and got the calls to everyone and just kept rolling.
And Nic Shimonek was happy to see the defense do their thing.
Q. When you don’t get off to exactly the fastest start that you wanted in the first couple possessions, mentally what does it do for you that your defense is flying around and playing —
NIC SHIMONEK: Oh, man, obviously, like I said, I want to score a touchdown on every drive. That’s not going to happen. But that’s the goal going into the game. Every time the offense has the ball, score a touchdown. So whenever that doesn’t happen and then they’ve got our back, you know, that’s one of our team commandments is have your brother’s back, and they showed that today. And I kept going up to Jah’Shawn, Dakota, some of those leaders on the defense, Broderick, just be patient, we’ve got to work out a few things, we’ve been off for nine, ten months. Y’all just keep doing y’all’s things, I’m going to get these guys right, and ultimately that’s what we did, and things started rolling from there.
Things Noted, But Not Discussed: Winning the turnover battle and starting with turnovers; too many penalties, 11 for 120 yards; Coutee is really electric; was impressed with the debut of Tre King; an interception for a touchdown return, huh; Tony Jones is the first player to record a sack and an interception in a game and received the game ball; really liked what I saw from McLane Carter and Jett Duffey.