I appreciate your general acceptance of my awards last week in what was obviously a difficult game to find positives. This week there are a ton of positives to talk about in a dominant performance. Beating FCS Lamar 77-0 at home doesn’t cure the woes of this team, but it dang sure helps ease the pain of the fan base and maybe even restore some hope. I know we’re all taking this win with a grain of salt because of the opponent, but there are certainly a lot of improvements to be happy about. The box score for this game is a textbook example of shutdown defense and balanced offense. I think the team and coaching staff deserve credit for going to work this week and finding ways to get better. Kliff’s biggest lesson learned may be to just accept that it’s not always bad to open the season with an FCS opponent rather than an SEC team at a neutral site.
Slow Clap Award
RBs DeMarcus Felton, Ta’Zhawn Henry, SaRodorick Thompson
Da’Leon Ward and Tre King were out with injuries this week which opened up opportunities for DeMarcus Felton, Ta’Zhawn Henry, and SaRodorick Thompson to share the load. The trio of backs combined for 32 of Tech’s 51 carries, 163 of the 264 yards gained on the ground, and 6 of 7 rushing touchdowns. Henry also had a 63-yard touchdown run in the third quarter but it was brought back on a holding call. A receiving touchdown from Colt Garrett to Henry was also called back on a block in the back in the fourth quarter.
What was most striking about their success against Lamar was the work being done by the offensive line and the scheme. Kevin Johns has brought true run blocking to Texas Tech. There are lanes being opened and people being pushed around as opposed to the past when Texas Tech relied on the pass to stretch the field and make runs possible – sometimes. Additionally, the use of two-back sets and yes, even two tight end sets, are making a difference as well.
Pew, Pew, Pew Award
Alan Bowman, QB
Bowman definitely put in some work this week to get into a starting quarterback groove. He showed poise in the pocket, arm strength to both sides of the field, good command of the offense, and impressive accuracy both from the pocket and on the move. I’m not saying he was perfect, but he was greatly improved with a week of mental preparation as the starter. Bowman ended the day at 22/25 for 282 yards and 2 touchdowns. That’s an average of 11.8 yards per completion and a QBR of 95.3. For comparison, Bowman’s QBR in the Ole Miss game was 53.9. Bowman continues to take great care of the football with no fumbles on 164 snaps handled, and no interceptions in 74 passes. For the second game in a row, we saw Bowman drop a dime on Ja’Deion High from the right hash into the back corner of the end zone. Bowman’s second passing TD was a strike to Antoine Wesley who, as a result of terrible defensive back play, broke loose for a 66-yard score.
Dang Bro Award
T.J. Vasher, WR
Vasher deserves this one again. We saw two fantastic catches from Vasher in Week 1 and he didn’t disappoint in Week 2 either. In the 2nd quarter with Texas Tech starting the drive on their own 12-yard line, Bowman tossed a long one to Vasher down the sideline for a 37-yard gain on 2nd & 11. Vasher again showed great body control to go up for that ball, as well as technique to get the defensive back where he wanted him. A few plays later we also saw Vasher come back to the ball and bail Alan Bowman out of trouble. That awareness turned a potential sack into a 4-yard gain. Vasher finished the day with 3 catches for 51 yards. My Red Raider mind doesn’t compute that as that great, but with 12 receivers catching 30 balls and no one eclipsing 100 yards, it wasn’t too shabby.
Where Did You Come From New Guy Award
Adrian Frye, CB
True freshman Adrian Frye, in what I believe is his first playing time of the season, came up big for the Red Raider defense with two interceptions in the fourth quarter. The first was a 48-yard pick six off of a tip around midfield. The second was in the waning seconds of the game, ending a scoring push by Lamar and sealing the Red Raiders’ first shutout since 2006. The 6’1″ 190lb Frye out of Houston finished the day with 1 tackle, 2 interceptions, and 1 touchdown. Congrats to the new guy. I know this was a garbage time play in a blowout but seeing depth in the secondary, and young talent get playing time is great stuff.
Shining Star Award
Riko Jeffers, LB
Riko Jeffers was the star of the Texas Tech defense on a day when the defense shined bright all the way around. He finished the day with 9 tackles (5 solo), 2 tackles for loss, 1 quarterback hurry, and 1 forced fumble. Jeffers really made his presence known on the day, not that he was the only one but he was pretty loud.
Hitting the Wall Award
Entire Tech Defense
Texas Tech’s entire defense was a wall this week. Again, I’m aware of the opponent, but you don’t often see this level of domination of this kind over any opponent. Tech’s defense allowed 102 yards rushing on 42 carries and 8/32 passing for 80 yards. No Lamar rusher gained over 24 yards and as a team, they were 2-16 on third down and 0-2 on fourth down. The Red Raider defense snagged three interceptions, one resulting in a touchdown. Two picks came from pursuing the ball and an uninvolved defender being there for a tip, something I know David Gibbs coaches the unit on. The Red Raiders also jumped on a fumble late in the game.
I was also very pleased to see this level of fight out of the defense all the way through. They were determined to shut Lamar out. The unit combined for 68 tackles (38 solo), 11 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 8 passes defended, and 11 quarterback hurries. I’d definitely like to see them capitalizing on quarterback pressure with more sacks. They have the speed on the line and at linebacker to get that done. I’m happiest to see a total lack of big plays. I know Texas Tech is faster and more physical than Lamar, but a team with the capacity to put up 70 on anyone (which they did last week) should see them having some playmaking ability. The Cardinals had only five plays from scrimmage over 10 yards.
Deal With It Play of the Game Award
Colt Garrett, QB
Sophomore Colt Garrett is Texas Tech’s fourth-string quarterback out of Roosevelt High School here in Lubbock. Garrett primarily serves as the scout team quarterback. He walked into the game midway through the fourth quarter with a 70-0 lead and threw an absolutely gorgeous 44-yard touchdown pass to true freshman Erik Ezukanma out of Forth Worth, hitting him in stride at the six-yard line. It’s not only his first collegiate touchdown but by the record books, it’s his first pass in a game as well. A passing touchdown earlier in the drive was negated by a block in the back penalty. The team was obviously incredibly excited for Garrett and celebrating with him, that’s a fun one for the local kid.
Oh No Baby, What is You Doing?? Award
Quarterbacks Alan Bowman and Jett Duffey
But Keith, you already gave Bowman an award. Well reader friend, this isn’t exactly an “award.” I’m not going to pretend that there weren’t things to improve on during this game. I wasn’t going to kick the team while they were down (much) after the Ole Miss loss. But in a game like this, it’s important to remember what needs improving. The Red Raiders’ longest play from scrimmage on the day was a 66-yard touchdown pass from Bowman to Antoine Wesley. A Lamar defender sold out diving for the ball trying to jump the route for an interception. Wesley almost seemed surprised to have the ball in his hands as he turned around to run down the sideline, and the defender seemed surprised as well when he didn’t get up to try to make a tackle. This play would have most likely been an interception against most Big 12 secondaries, and if a defender didn’t have to dive to jump that route it could be a pick six. Bowman has taken care of the ball well so far, but it’s only going to get harder.
Duffey threw a particularly egregious interception during his time in the game after the half. He rolled out right and just basically ignored a linebacker that rolled with him directly in front of the receiver. I can’t find an accessible video of it to give you a gif, but it was a total mental mistake. The coaching staff has indicated that Duffey is behind Bowman because he doesn’t take care of the football, this was a very clear indication of that. Duffey is fun to watch and he runs well, but even in running in a touchdown he was holding the ball like a loaf of bread. Kudos to Kliff and company for not bowing to pressure and playing who they think gives the team the best chance to win.
You Deserve A Whipping Award
Entire Texas Tech Team
There’s really not much more to say about it at this point. 14 penalties for 139 yards. I know Texas Tech reached deep into the depth chart to get guys into the game, but aren’t the young guys supposed to be having discipline hammered into them? The Red Raiders had two scores called back on mental mistake penalties. A totally unnecessary holding penalty downfield and a block in the back. Tech is not in a position to give away anything, I can’t wait for the day someone figures out how to build in enough accountability to end this plague of penalties we’ve seen for years. I will concede the excessive celebration penalty on Erik Ezukanma. He and Colt Garrett had every right to celebrate after that beauty, I’d have been ok with an old school bowl game team celebration there.
Donta Thompson, TE – We’re beginning to hear Donta Thompson’s name on gameday. He caught 1 pass for 11 yards Saturday, but his utilization as a blocking tight end is paying dividends. The 6’5″ 225lb junior has the ability to create mismatches on the field in multiple ways and I’m expecting to see his roles continue to expand.
De’Quan Bowman, WR/PR – Bowman returned a 42-yard punt 49 yards to the Lamar six-yard line, netting them -2 yards on the drive. Why then is Bowman on the Honorable Mention list, because he got knocked out of bounds by the punter, he should have had six.
Antoine Wesley, WR – Wesley again had a strong showing and the 66-yard touchdown was a good catch and run, however as I mentioned above, against most teams that was probably an interception. He needs to do a better job managing his defender and without that catch, he would have had 21 yards receiving.
Dare We Hope Award
Red Raider Nation
What are sports without optimism, the hope that the next play, pitch, swing, game are the one we need? If not for optimism, why would we come back year after year? Do you feel it Red Raiders? Do you feel yourself being sucked back in to believe that there’s a chance at redemption? You know I’m a sucker for hope and optimism. I love the possibility that good things can happen, especially in sports where greatness begins with turnarounds that leave us with stories to tell.
I was bolstered in this game by one thing that 70-0 really points to, never quitting. I said in our staff pick ’em if Lamar scored more than 14 we should be worried. Initially, I was thinking about giving up too much to such an inferior team. But on further reflection, I wondered how the team and coaching staff would respond to the Ole Miss game.
Some observers were unhappy with Kliff’s comments in Sunday media availability, feeling he should have taken more responsibility. Isn’t that what we’ve heard a ton of over the years though?
Maybe instead of Kliff taking the blame, he’s realizing he needs to place blame on the players. Not throwing them under the bus, but putting the accountability on them to get better. At one point late in the Lamar game, Kliff was talking to the team he had in, none were starters. He was red in the face yelling and using choice language. He didn’t seem to be angry, no he was passionate. He was impressing upon them the importance of domination in this situation. I’m not a lip reader, but I think he was reminding them what it feels like to be questioned all week after a loss. In this case, giving anything up to Lamar on either side of the ball would have been a loss. I’m proud of how this team and coaching staff responded to the Ole Miss game. There’s character, accountability, and fire to compete built after weeks like that and I think that’s what is happening. They walked into what was basically a guaranteed win determined to squeeze every ounce of experience and success from this game.
Here we go, a fool’s hope indeed.