1. Don’t Knee Jerk. One of the best things about football is that we as fans tend to knee jerk one way or another after insufficient evidence. Lamar isn’t very good. They beat a Kentucky Christian team by a lot and they were NAIA. Last year, Lamar beat Texas Permian Basin and Houston Baptist for their only two wins of the year so the thought for me was that they just weren’t very good and they weren’t going to prove to be a good test for Texas Tech.
With that being said, Texas Tech did exceed my expectations. I was going to pick Texas Tech by 35 for sure and I didn’t have any question about that. This was still a Big 12 team against a FCS team that wasn’t very good last year. Give credit to Texas Tech for scoring 77 points. Not an easy task when you have a team actually trying to stop you. And credit the defense for not giving up a single score. A donut, the first time that’s happened since 2006. the offense was methodical and the defense gave up a total of 182 yards of offense and 2.5 yards per play. That’s pretty salty. This doesn’t excuse what happened last week, but like a lot of things, Texas Tech isn’t as bad as they were against Ole Miss and they aren’t as good as they were yesterday in beating Lamar.
2. Improved Quarterback Play. I thought Alan Bowman looked a bit sharper than he did last week. At the beginning of the game, he seemed pretty limited to short passes, which is something that he’s really good at and he’s got really nice touch in and around the line of scrimmage. I think that Bowman still struggles with some of the more difficult throws and he finally figured out that he can throw the danged ball up to T.J. Vasher and he’ll just go get the ball. The long touchdown to Antoine Wesley that was really a called screen play probably would have been intercepted in most situations. In fact on that play, Lamar was bringing 6 pass rushers and there was absolutely no one deep, but I think Lamar knew that was a called sideline screen and they were going after it.
But back to the quarterbacks, Bowman was 22 of 25 for 282 yards, 2 touchdowns and no picks. That’s good for 11.28 yards per catch and that’s much better than last week. Again, consider the competition.
Jett Duffey though is the guy that you let loose with and I’m interested as all get out. I know that he had an interception that was a terrible throw, right to a defender (was it any worse or better than Bowman’s throw from a technical standpoint?). But man, he’s electric and he’s got a stronger arm and he’s got wheels that will burn opposing defenses. Duffey was 7 of 9 for 93 yards (10 yards per pass) along with leading the team with 81 rushing yards on just 6 carries, including a 37 yard run that was awfully pretty.
Jett Duffey is Icarus in a sense.
He’s got so much potential in that body and the ability to do things that most can’t do, but he’s also probably got a bit of hubris in him in that he thinks he can fly as close to the sun as he wants. And maybe Duffey is the perfect relief quarterback from the standpoint that if Bowman can’t get the offense going, you’ll probably be almost all but guaranteed that Duffey will get it going, or . . .
3. Let’s Just Run (and Pass). That was seemingly the idea for the entire game, especially the start of the game. Demarcus Felton was received a steady diet of rushes to start the game and looked awfully good. Felton also was a one-man one-play touchdown drive, taking the ball into the end zone with I think what was the second touchdown of the game. Felton ran for 69 yards on 17 carries for 4.1 yards per carry.
The freshmen running backs looked really electric as Tre King and Da’Leon Ward sat out due to injuries. Ta’Zhawn Henry had 11 carries for 57 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Sarodorick Thompson had 6 carries for 40 yards and 2 touchdowns as well. That’s a pretty nice day when your running backs get 5 touchdowns. And truthfully, both Henry and Thompson had touchdowns called back (right?) in the second half, so they left a little meat on the bone (which was not their fault as penalties pulled back those runs).
I’m not going to have room to fully address the receivers, but there were 12 different receivers that caught a pass. There is not “a guy” that’s going to dominate, but if there was, then it would be T.J. Vasher. The word before the game was that Vasher was suspended for the first quarter. Vasher has all of the talent in the world and he can be as great as he wants to be, but I think this is a problem for him and it’s one that he needs to fix. I have not seen a situation where Kingsbury is haphazardly suspending guys, he’s trying to send a message and I hope that Vasher is listening.
Antoine Wesley, Erik Ezukanma, and Ja’Deon High all had touchdowns. No player had more than 6 receptions and that guy was freshman KeSean Carter who’s definitely got something. He can play. I have no idea how this all shakes out once this team gets in the Big 12 schedule. I haven’t quite figured out, other than Vasher, who is a weapon.
4. Run Stopping Defense. The starting defensive line was Preston Gordon, Broderick Washington, and Quentin Yontz and if I had to guess, I think that David Gibbs wanted his absolute best run stoppers to start the game. Lamar was not a passing team and for me, there was no doubt that stopping Lamar meant stopping the run and if you did that, then you’d probably absolutely whip them. That’s exactly what happened. The defense as a whole had 12 tackles for a loss for 32 negative yards. That’s a pretty solid afternoon. The line played significantly better in my opinion and they should have. They were just physically more imposing than Lamar, they were just stronger and that’s the way that you should be at the point of attack.
5. Linebackers Gobbled Up Tackles. The defensive line did their job and the linebackers did theirs. Riko Jeffers had 9 tackles and 2 of those TFL’s. Tony Jones had 7 tackles and 2 TFL. Dakota Allen had 6 tackles and a TFL. Jordyn Brooks had 5 tackles and 1 TFL. That’s your 4 leading tacklers right there. That’s what the defense is designed to do and that’s what you want.
6. Special Teams Improved. Hey, this is good news, real good news. Again, it’s a grain of salt sort of thing, but the special teams looked much better. Dominic Panazzolo averaged 46.5 yards a punt and had a 50 yard punt with 3 of his 4 inside the opposing 20 yard line. That’s great. Panazzolo also just punted the ball rather than try to do the Aussie rules style. Yeah, just punt the hell out of the ball. DeQuan Bowman nearly had a touchdown on a punt return, going 49 yards and putting the ball inside the 10 yard line (that was the Felton one-man one-play drive.) There were no field goals and that’s a bonus, while Clayton Hatfield was perfect as far as extra points. The coverage could use some work, 1 return for 51 yards, but I don’t want to be careful here and not criticize too much. It was a good effort for sure.
7. Not a Game to Judge the Pass Defense. I won’t write too much about this, but don’t hang your hat on the fact that Texas Tech only gave up 80 passing yards. Lamar isn’t a passing team, not in any way, so this is not a game where you can puff out your chest and say that you stopped some sort of high powered passing offense. The Lamar quarterback was usually running for his life and Lamar is really a team that doesn’t want to pass the ball all that much. If anything, the defensive backs minimized penalties, didn’t interfere (which was smart), and got their hands on 7 pass deflections to go along with 3 interceptions, one for a touchdown. The stats are really nice, but the Cardinals were a much more effective running team than passing team and I would suggest that to put any stock into being able to stop the Cardinals from throwing the ball isn’t something to write home about. It was fine, but they were terrible too.
8. Game Iconography.
Tortilla Tossin’ Player of the Game: This is going to seem really cheap, but I don’t care. I’m going to give this to Demarcus Felton. Felton likely won’t win a “Tortilla Tossin’ Player of the Game” the rest of the season and they absolutely needed him with Ward and King out with injury. He shouldered the load in the first half, had a shoulder stinger maybe (it was initially reported as a concussion, but apparently it was shoulder related), came back in the second half, ran for some more yards and called it a day.
Guns Up Offensive MVP: How about this goes to the freshmen, emphasis on it being multiple freshmen who were terrific. Bowman, 282 yards, 2 touchdowns and no picks, Henry, 57 yards on 11 carries, 20 yards on 2 catches and 2 touchdowns, Thompson with 40 yards and 2 touchdowns, KeSean Carter with 76 yards, Erik Ezukanma with a touchdown on 44 yards. We normally don’t get to see that sort of production with the old redshirt rule (remember, these freshmen get to play 4 games without risk of losing their redshirt).
Sheriff Star Defensive MVP: They all played so well, it’s hard to pick just one, but Adrian Frye had just 1 tackle, but he had 2 interceptions, 1 of them returned for a touchdown. We don’t get a ton of defensive touchdowns and the game was already wide open, but Lamar was still playing their starting quarterback, so why the heck not.
9. Quotes. You can find the all of the quotes right here, which includes Kliff Kingsbury, Riko Jeffers and Demarcus Felton. After the game, Kingsbury was really complimentary of the defense, but was not happy about the offensive penalties (there were 14 penalties for 139 yards):
Q. Coach, is that the performance you were looking for from your team today, what you saw?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: You know, defensively I thought it was good to get a shutout. It wasn’t the cleanest game. Offense there were way too many penalties. That’s something we talked about, doing the little things and not hurting ourselves. We didn’t get that accomplished. I thought we did some decent things, but that was disappointing offensively.
Q. Three touchdowns called back by penalty. How do you address that in practice this week?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, we tried to address it last week, and got to continue to address it. We can’t do that, put ourselves in negative positions, 3rd and long, 2nd and long. Last week against Ole Miss we were in 3rd and long a ton, and that’s not how we want to play offense this year. We’ll keep harping on it. We’ll keep finding the right guys that can go on and execute plays without committing penalties.
Kingsbury also talked about that Bowman to Wesley touchdown and how Bowman has to learn from it:
Q. On the 66-yard touchdown pass to Wesley, that looked like a ball that could have been intercepted. Was that a mistake that worked out or is there something good that Bowman did on that play?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, they play cover zero, so he knows if they’re in that pressure look, that DB is going to expect the ball out quick, so he didn’t back up one-on-one, which he had, but he needed to know that guy wasn’t going to back up much. The ball placement was good or else it would have been picked. So it’s something he’ll learn from and move forward, but we’ll take the result of it. I think if you can learn from it and still have a positive play, that’s a win-win.
And also on Jett Duffey’s performance, who also has to learn from his mistakes:
Q. How do you think Jett handled himself?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: You know, he’s explosive. He can do different things. He’s got a great arm, very talented. The one interception, we can’t throw that. That was an easy read, but he made some great plays there that not many people can make, so he’s just got to keep coming.
Kingsbury on the defense shutting out an opponent:
Q. Is it impressive that the defense held them to a shutout today?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Any time you get a shutout at this level, you’re doing something right. We know that team was definitely overmatched, but you’ve got to tip your hat. Any time you keep them off the scoreboard at all, you’re doing something right.
Q. How satisfying is it to shut out a team that scored 70 points the week before?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, I mean, like I said, it was a mismatch. You know, Coach Schultz is trying to build that deal, and they had an opponent last week that they overmatched. I don’t know how much we can actually take from it, but like I mentioned, we kept them off the scoreboard, so you’ve got to tip your hat to our defense.
10. Final Thoughts & La Yapa.
- There was a point in the second half where the camera caught Kingsbury absolutely laying into the offense. Maybe it was after the drive that had so many penalties and was stalled (but they eventually scored). He just laid into them. I was talking with DanSwany after the Ole Miss game and he said that was something that he thought Kliff lacked, that passion on the sideline to let these guys know that something was unacceptable. I loved seeing it.
- I haven’t even mentioned the offensive line here. Dawson Deaton got the start at left tackle as Travis Bruffy was injured and didn’t play. Kingsbury said that the injury was day-to-day and would be back sooner than later. I thought the line did a really nice job of keeping the quarterbacks clean and lanes open for the running backs. There were a couple of times where the backs were stuffed without room, but averaging over 5 yards a carry is pretty good and tough to complain about.
- Texas Tech actually punted on two of their first three drives, which is pretty amazing when you consider that Texas Tech scored 77 flipping points. And I don’t feel bad for Lamar, they hung 70 on Kentucky Christian, so whatever. Bowman and the offense did end up scoring on five straight drives from after the second punt, and then after the punt and the interception in the second half, the offense scored on four straight drives (there were actually five touchdowns, but one of them was Frye’s interception return).
- The offense averaged nearly 8 yards a play, which is pretty good all things considered.
- the offense went 7 for 7 in the red zone, while the defense didn’t allow a red zone opportunity.
- Keeping track of freshmen playing: Ta’Zhawn Henry, Sarodorick Thompson, Erik Ezukanma, and KeSean Carter. No defensive freshmen played.