1. This Photo.
— Michael Strong (@stillstrongttu) September 23, 2017
This is pretty great. A picture is worth 1,000 words is pretty accurate here. That smile on Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s face is pretty terrific. We don’t get to see him smile really. So many guys on knees and they’re all focused on him. How about DeMarcus Fields along the back wall with his mouth open and excited. How about Kyle Heffron in the lower left part of the screen. How about the fist raised by Luke Reichel. Or Kolin Hill and Bailey Smith just plain excited. Those are the moments you savor. This is a photo you hang on the wall because that’s a pretty special moment. And we can be honest here, this isn’t for a national championship or anything like that, but Houston is a good team and Houston is a tough place to play. Many power five teams have walked into Houston and left with a loss and that didn’t happen today.
“It was big. We know that nobody has won here in 16 games. Some big time Big Ten programs have come here and haven’t been successful. It’s a tough place to play. It’s hot and they have a great stadium. I coached here for four years and not a lot of people beat us here. I understand the level of pride that the team has, especially when I Power 5 team comes in. I didn’t think we played great, but you have to give them credit for fighting and making it closer than it should’ve been.”
2. Defense. Defense. Defense. Man, this felt like one of those games where there were 20 big plays and when I write “big play” I’m considering open field tackles, sacks, runs for a short gain, interceptions, tackles for a loss, you name it. The best part about the whole thing as that it wasn’t just *one* guy. It was all kinds of guys making plays and stopping the Cougars. Consider that 60% of all tackles were solo tackles, which means that this team was pretty much making one-on-one plays for more than half the time. This isn’t a stat I normally track, but that’s pretty significant. I can’t tell you how many times I wrote that some defensive back or linebacker made a tackle in open space.
Texas Tech forced 3 fumbles and recovered all 3. That’s not likely to happen again, but the fat that this team is actually forcing fumbles is signficant. In all of last year, the defense forced 9. This year alone, the defense has 4 forced fumbles for the year. Last year, the defense had 5 interceptions all year, with 2 of those coming against SFA. As of today, Texas Tech has 4 interceptions, 2 today and 2 against Eastern Washington. Last year, Texas Tech had 14 sacks for the entire year and 26 quarterback hurries all year. This year, Texas Tech has 6 sacks.
3. Sweet Spot. I think the sweet spot for how this team runs the ball isn’t all that complicated. Last year, the team ran the ball 37% of the time in over 1,000+ snaps. IN 2015, the team ran the ball 43% of the time, again, with over 1,000+ snaps. That’s about 6 extra carries a game. That probably doesn’t seem like all that much, but I think that running success that Kingsbury craves is right around that 44% range on a per game basis. That’s probably not absolutely perfect and Kingsbury tends to really only run the ball when running the ball is successful, but he’s really sticking with it this year. Without Justin Stockon and Tre King’s long runs, Texas Tech only averaged 2.5 yards a carry. That’s not exactly how this works because those 84 and 73 yard gains absolutely get counted.
In this game in particular, it’s not that Stockton, King or anyone else was really great, but the great part was that Kingsbury stuck with it until something great happened.
4. Defensive Accolades. It’s difficult to know where to start, but I think the player of the game, at least for me, was Dakota Allen, who finished with 12 tackles, 1 interception, 2 quarterback hurries and 0.5 tackles for a loss. Allen was all over the place from the beginning of the game, he was active, and making plays and he was a huge part of limiting the offensive production of the Cougars. Jordyn Brooks, until he was injured (I think it’s a knee and his status won’t be known until game-time next week, so just get used to that) finished with t tackles, an interception, a pass break-up and a quarterback hurry. Eli Howard, who split time with Lonzell Gilmore, Tony Jones, Kolin Hill and Zach Barnes at defensive end, finished with 4 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for a loss and a forced fumble. That’s a productive day. The aforementioned Gilmore had one of his best days and saw a ton of snaps, finished with 3 tackles. Tony Jones is opportunistic as hell and finished with at tackle, a tackle for a loss and scooped up a fumble recovery. Hill had a tackle and a pass break-up. Barnes ended up with 2 tackles and a quarterback hurry, but all four of these guys were seemingly in the lap of Kyle Allen for the game.
The defensive tackles were tree stumps and immovable objects. Mych Thomas was absolutely dynamic and should have had an interception to go along with his his 4 tackles. Thomas is the poster-child for working your ass off and making your self a better player. Broderick Washington was a similar rock and I don’t know if there were really any other defensive tackles that saw significant time. Either way, these guys played ridiculously well. We’ll save the defensive backs for a bit later.
5. Shimonek’s Day. Hey, this is weird. Nic Shimonek is human. He threw an interception and it was one where it came in the middle of the field where a ton of spread quarterbacks have thrown interceptions trying to make plays in that second level. But guess what, Shimonek was still 29 of 45, which is 64% and Shimonek threw for 7.1 yards per pass to go along with 2 touchdowns and an interception. truthfully, Shimonek should have had about more yards and another touchdown from Derrick Willies that just had a sure-fire touchdown fall through his hands.
I think what we’re seeing with Shimonek is that is just doesn’t have that option that Mahomes had because Mahomes could always check into the *I’m gonna go ahead and make up a play because they got 5 guys in the box but I don’t trust my running backs*. Shimonek simply doesn’t have that option as a quarterback and so there’s this idea that because of Shimonek’s physical limitations, he is somewhat reserved to running what is called and maybe, just maybe, this is the real Kingsbury offense that we’re sorta seeing.
6. What Can’t Coutee Do. Keke Coutee is quickly becoming one of the best at what he does and that’s make plays. Coutee routinely turns short or little gains into big gains and he did an unbelievable job of breaking that 77 yard touchdown grab and absolutely breaking the game open. For the day, Coutee had 11 spectacular catches for 161 yards and for an inside receiver to average 14 yards per catch is somewhat ridiculous. If you want to be a terrific quarterback, throw it to Coutee. He’ll make you a superstar.
7. 13 Points Left on the Table. We’ve already talked about the touchdown that should have been with Derrick Willies, a perfect pass by Shimonek should have resulted in a touchdown.
And then, there were two missed field goals, both by freshman Michael Ewton, a 33 and a 31 yard field goal and rather than a 27 point outburst, we should be talking about a 40 point offensive game and we wouldn’t be talking about a close game at all. Joe Robinson will need to figure out if Ewton will continue to be the field goal kicker because 30+/- yard field goals should be automatic and rather than leaving those points on the field, Texas Tech really can’t be in a position to leave those sorts of points on the table.
And since we’re talking about special teams things, I think credit needs to go to Dominic Panazzolo, who averaged 40 yards a punt this week with a long punt of 53 yards. I think I’ll take that sort of production.
8. Penalty Issue. This was strange in that I didn’t perceive the penalties to be a detrimental thing. You’d think that with 15 penalties for 117 yards, I’d feel differently, but that didn’t really bother me all that much. Or maybe the better way to put this is that I certainly didn’t notice them all that much. I’m usually pretty in-tune with these sorts of things. If anything sorta sticks out it’s the loss of a drive as a result of a penalty and I think that happened a few times. In fact, Texas Tech was just 1 of 6 on third and longs (that’s +9 yards), while Texas Tech was 3 of 5 on third and shorts (0-4 yards).
9. Defensive Backs Rebound. After a very rough game against Arizona State, I thought the defensive backs were absolutely obscene. I was happy for a guy like Demarcus Fields, who hasn’t played very much at all in two years because of injury and here he walks into the game making some serious plays at cornerback and special teams.
And how about the emergence of a guy like Jaylon Lane, who was seemingly locked out of a starting spot for the first few games may have earned that second spot alongside Octavious Morgan who had 3 tackles himself. Lane finished with 6 tackles (5 of them solo) and a pass break-up. Desmon Smith may have something to say about it too, Smith finished with 5 tackles, 4 of them solo, and a tackle for a loss and then you add in some of these other guys like Kisean Allen, Douglas Coleman, Justus Parker, Christian Taylor.
This really was a collective effort and it was fun to watch after last week.
10. Coached to Win. Kingsbury said that he needs to do his job better. He said that after the game, that he didn’t call a good game and I think some of you would agree with that. I tend to look at the whole picture and the entirety of this game is what I digest. the offense shouldn’t have to be the one that puts up 50 each game and the defense doesn’t have to pitch a shut-out. All that needs to happen is for there to be more points than the other team. We tend to get caught up in style points, and maybe that’s something that happens against an FCS team. But here, Kingsbury coached like he had a two score lead the last half of the fourth quarter. We could probably criticize some of the play calling and if DeMarcus Fields doesn’t get that strip on the punt return coverage, this thing looks significantly different possibly because Houston was moving the ball.
Miscellaneous . . . Texas Tech was great on first down, averaging nearly 8 yards for every first down play . . . Texas Tech passed the ball 45 times and ran the ball 29 . . . Vaughnte Dorsey is a human missile and I wish he wouldn’t use his head like that, but that son of a gun is fearless and I get why he starts. The secondary could use some fearlessness and he’s got it in spades . . . I thought the back-up cornerbacks, Desmon Smith and DeMarcus Fields were just terrific, especially Fields, who seemingly hasn’t played in two years and then he goes out and plays as well as he played is pretty cool . . . Octavious Morgan had another completion on him on the sideline, but he was right there with coverage. I tend to think that there are few quarterbacks that will do to him what Arizona State’s quarterback did . . . the other receivers had relatively quiet days, Cameron Batson was the only receiver who had more than 50+ yards receiving (he had 52). Once Willies missed that touchdown, he got into a funk and he can’t afford to do that, he’s too talented . . . T.J. Vasher is really being worked into this offense an I like that, a near touchdown, just needed to work on his footwork a bit . . . Desmond Nisby really must be banged up and that sorta stinks, just 4 carries yesterday, but he did get the lone rushing touchdown on 2 yards out and just powered through the Houston defensive line. After that, we really didn’t see him at all . . . Travis Bruffy got the start at left tackle and Madison Akamnonu moved over to left guard, pushing Jacob Hinds out of the starting lineup . . . technically, Demarcus Fields and Jaylon Lane were your starters at cornerback with Willie Sykes your starting nickelback and Douglas Coleman the starter at one safety with Jah’Shawn Johnson the starter at the other. The defensive backfield is fun to watch because there does appear to be some depth . . .