1. He’s Back.
I’ve said it before: Kliff has led this program the right way and he continues to do that. We’re excited tonight to get to six wins and to get bowl eligible, it’s good. But at the same time, we’re not where we want to be or where we expect to be as a program. Kliff’s gonna continue to lead this program into the future. At the same time, he and I at the right time will have a chance to sit down and talk about what we’ve got to continue to invest in, what we’ve got to continue to change for this program to get to the level that we expect to be at. And we’re not far. But we’re not there yet either.
I went to sleep before Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt could be quoted about Kliff Kingsbury returning for 2018. I woke up at 4:00 a.m. to these words and I’m honestly shocked because I truly thought that a win wasn’t going to be enough, no matter the circumstances and although this is probably blasphemy and makes me sound like a horrible Red Raider, there’s part of me that disagrees with this move. In light of the totality of the season, I simply don’t know if is the right thing to do here. And I think the world of Kingsbury, but I can fully admit that I have my doubts about this. I’m up and I’m nervous as heck about this and if anything, it reminds me that no matter the rumors, and believe me there are plenty of rumors, situations are also very fluid and apparently that’s the case here.
There’s part of my brain that still needs to process what’s happening here. Make no mistake, I’ve always rooted for Kingsbury, but there is part of me that is surprised at Hocutt’s decision.
2. Kingsbury Loves Texas Tech.
On whether he thought at all about other coaches around the country losing their jobs after disappointing season: You know, I think at times, it slips in just because you think about missing your players and that’s the hardest part is just thinking about not being around those guys. But you try to compartmentalize it and just focus on what you’ve got to do and focus on what you can control, and that’s getting your team ready to play and making sure they are excited and fresh and ready to go.
On whether his job security is in his control after beating Texas: I’m not sure. That’s obviously not a decision for me to make. I want to be here. I love Texas Tech. Always have. Always will. Leave it at that.
Make no mistake, Kingsbury absolutely loves Texas Tech, I think we all do. I had written earlier in the year that Kingsbury is one of us, and those comments by Kingsbury absolutely reflect his love for the program and his love those players and the love for the University. It’s about missing those players more than anything else.
3. Spectacular Linebacker Play. Man, that defense was something, something. I’ve almost got no words for what they did. I wrote after the game that I don’t think the Texas offense is anything to write home about. They still play a freshman quarterback who is going to make bad decisions and they don’t have “a guy” at running back that’s just running over people.
But make no mistake, the defense absolutely stood up on Friday night. The play of Dakota Allen was legendary and Jordyn Brooks wasn’t far behind. Allen finished with 13 tackles, 1 sack, 1.5 tackles for a loss and he was literally all over the field. Brooks finished with 9 tackles, a fumble recover, a pass break-up and a quarterback hurry. Without Allen, I don’t know where this defense would be this year, most likely playing freshmen Riko Jeffers and it would be significantly worse. Allen may end up being one of the best that has played linebacker for Texas Tech (not the best, but man, he’s good), he’s at least in the conversation for the season he’s had.
4. Quarterback Controversy. Kingsbury said after the game that the conversation he had with Nik Shimonek was one of the toughest he’s had as a coach, to tell him that they wanted the mobility of McLane Carter over Shimonek. Carter started out lights out, driving down for a touchdown and he was really stretching the field, but by halftime, Cater had 2 picks, 2 back interceptions to be honest and the offense started to look stagnant. Kingsbury then went to the bench and inserted Shimonek, who ended up only completing 4 passes (it seems like it was more than that) for 96 yards and 2 touchdowns. Pretty impressive stuff from Shimonek, the pass to T.J. Vasher was really on point and the winner to Cameron Batson was where only he could probably get it, even if the Texas defensive back had stayed on his feet.
5. Hits to the Head that Wasn’t. The most disappointing thing about the way the refs called the game, and they’ll miss things, they absolutely do, but the two hits ot the head, the first against Justin Stockton did not seem appropriate, and the hit to the head on Shimonek at the 16 yard line on the last drive was downright criminal. Kingsbury even took a timeout to make sure the refs saw it, the last one he had to make sure that the refs could call it and nopeity-nope, that didn’t happen. And to call that final timeout was really pretty risky in the grand scheme of things. That timeout could have been incredibly important had Texas Tech needed to stop the clock.
6. Terrific Secondary Play. Again, consider this with a grain of salt. The secondary has been beat up all year and this game, they limited the Longhorns to 272 yards passing, one of which was a trick play that went for 27 yards, but they also accomplished two turnovers, two huge interceptions that gave the Texas Tech offense the chance to go ahead and then the final interception put the game to bed. Justus Parker said that the defense had been playing a ton of zone, but went man on that play and just fooled Ehlinger. Kingsbury mentioned that Parker tends to not give it his all in practice, but he prefers to play when the lights are on.
Yeah, that’s huge. He always talks about when the lights come on is when he’s at his best. We’ll get mad at him in practice sometimes because you don’t see it all the time, but he has a nose for that football and his story is incredible, how hard he’s worked and where he came from to get where he’s at. So it’s just awesome to see.
I think the defense finally had the guys in there that probably play the best. Jah’Shawn Johnson is very solid, as is Vaughnte Dorsey, combined with Parker at the safety spots with Octavious Morgan and DaMarcus Fields at the two cornerback spots, with Desmon Smith and Douglas Coleman filling in the gaps.
7. It Was and Was Not the Turnovers.
Yeah, I think they just decided, hey, we’re not going to lose it game. There was some great conversations listening to those guys at halftime, challenging each other on both side of the football. They came out and played great on both sides of the ball and those turnovers were huge. I think every game this year we won the turnover battle, we won the game. That’s the key to our success.
The turnovers certainly had a huge part in winning this game. I don’t know what happens if Parker doesn’t get that interception, but truthfully, it’s the defense overall that makes things happen. You can’t get there if the rush defense doesn’t give up 3.5 yards a carry and limited the long plays both running the ball and otherwise. We talked about the stellar game that Allen had, but those guys up front, Mychealon Thomas, Broderick Washington and Eli Howard had pretty terrific games as well, Thomas was downright nasty at times.
8. Offensive Standouts. I was surprised to see a total of 114 yards rushing on 34 carries. That works out to 1.8 yards per run and there were parts of it that just wasn’t pretty. Justin Stockton ran really well and had 45 yards on the day, but something seemed off about Tre King this game, only having 3 carries for 13 yards, while Demarcus Felton received some carries that were a bit unexpected and Desmond Nisby had a handful of carries as well . . . I don’t know where this offense is without Keke Coutee. He finished with 168 yards on 9 catches and he is as good as they come . . . T.J. Vasher dropped at least one big catch off the top of my head and he’ll need to work on that, but Vasher had 5 for 127 and a touchdown and from a match-up perspective, he’s a tough one to play against. That one-handed grab was spectacular . . .
9. Defensive Standouts. We’ve already talked about Allen and Brooks . . . Jah’Shawn Johnson had 7 tackles, and a tackle for a loss . . . Big Mych Thomas had 5 tackles including a tackle for a loss . . . Tony Jones had 4 tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss . . . Fields looked much quicker to the ball, and he finished with 6 tackles. Morgan also finished with 6 tackles with a tackle for a loss . . .
I think 19 of those guys have started are underclassmen, ten out of eleven on defense. I like where we’re at, obviously. To see how they fought all year, I think in the last five years after that win, we had the exact same record over that span as this university does. It’s a tough league to break through the top tier. Those guys have been doing it a long time, and that’s what we’ve been chomping at. We were more competitive this season than we’ve been. We were in every game. We just have to get over the hump.
We’re technically not done with the 2017 season, but 2018 is already looming in my ind. There is going to be a handful of guys that return, especially on defense. There are guys there that can play and should be better on defense. The biggest question is what happens on offense because quite simply, it just has to get better and I have no doubt that Kingsbury will work towards that goal.
Kingsbury said after the game that he’s just glad to be around these guys a bit longer, especially the seniors:
Yeah, I think more than anything, I just have a great appreciation for those seniors. I want to be around them one more month. It’s a group that signed on with our staff, a lot of them with blind faith. They didn’t know what they were getting into but they decided to come with a new coach at Texas Tech. It meant a lot to us. To have them win in this way and get bowl eligible means a lot.