1. Prettah Fun. Even being up 31-17 for the better part of the 4th quarter, I was nervous as all get-out thinking that something bad was going to happen, but that something never did. Oklahoma State was probably a bit overrated in some respects, but that’s life playing non-conference opponents. There’s still a lot of figuring out that’s happening, and that’s apparently awfully true of Texas Tech as well. The best thing about all of this is of course the win, but it’s also the way that the team won, and this relates back to last week and this week. Last week, Alan Bowman aired it out and Houston had no answer for Antoine Wesley. This week, Oklahoma State had no answer for Demarcus Felton, Tah’Zhawn Henry, SaRodorick Thompson, Donta Thompson and Connor Killian. Those last two are names that probably aren’t going to get called unless they do something wrong because they’ve been blocking their tails off. We’ll get to that in a bit, but they, along with Kevin Johns have transformed this offense. And the defense is maturing greatly, having Jah’Shawn Johnson in the defensive backfield makes a significant different and if you ever wondered why Damarcus Fields was cross training at safety and essentially a back-up there, well, it’s because the safety depth is suspect at best. Johnson is a difference-maker.
2. Rushing Offense is Rolling. Go ahead and put this game on the back the running game, the offensive line, Killian and Thompson. Demarcus Felton ran just 12 times, but it was for 121 yards and 2 touchdowns. Felton’s 27 yard scamper for a touchdown felt like the game-winner and how good do you feel for Felton, essentially wanted to transfer out his senior year and ended up coming back, Kingsbury welcoming him with open arms, injuries to DaLeon Ward and Tre King, darn near force Kingsbury to turn to Felton and they’re both greatly rewarded and part of history.
And the way that the freshmen running backs are running is really pretty mind-blowing. We talk about how this is now Bowman’s job to lose, well, what about SaRodorick Thompson and Ta’Zhawn Henry along with Felton?
Thompson runs for 66 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown, got a ton of those carries late in the game for very few yards per carry because Oklahoma State was defending to stop the run so he was really more effective than his 4.4 yards per rush indicates, but it also seems to indicate that Thompson is trusted not to fumble the ball. Henry runs 11 times for 67 yards, 5.9 yards per carry and really, this was a three-headed running attack, most likely by design.
We’re going to throw out the 3 sacks from Alan Bowman because those aren’t rushing plays, so as a unit, this group ran for 259 yards on 42 carries for over 6 yards a carry. The offensive line, and guards were doing work like we haven’t seen in a long time.
3. Bowman is Human. Freshman Alan Bowman is apparently human as he had the first two interceptions of his career, but still was really terrific otherwise, 35 of 46 for 397 yards, 2 touchdowns and those 2 picks. That’s over 8.6 yards per pass, which is just fine. Bowman’s two interceptions were probably learning mistakes more than anything else. The first interception was right over the middle of the field, in fact, the play prior to this play, Bowman lofts the ball down the field to KeSean Carter, but there’s pass interference on the play. Texas Tech lines up in the exact same personnel and formation and they may have tried it again, just for grins and giggles. This time though, where there was no safety help, a safety was playing centerfield and Bowman essentially just punts the ball away. If Bowman is going to throw it deep in the middle of the field, he’ll have to be more careful about making that call. Find the safety and if he’s not there, then it’s a great play because Carter can most likely just run under the ball. The second pick was where Bowman just didn’t get the ball high enough and far enough away from the defender, throwing it into the end zone, intended for T.J. Vasher on the 4 yard line with 2nd and goal. On those sorts of passes, Bowman needs to somewhat have the same theory that he has overall, which is that if it’s not there, then just live to play another day. Either be really right with the pass, or not right at all.
Even despite those mistakes, Bowman was largely flawless, completing 76% of his passes overall and Oklahoma State really wasn’t sure what Bowman was going to do. Seriously,
4. Burying the Lede. Zero second half points. I don’t know how I’m supposed to choose between the two most impressive things, the rushing offense or the fact that the Texas Tech defense had a flipping shutout in the second half. I cannot recall the last time that happened. And another fun fact, Texas Tech did not allow any passing yards in the 4th quarter?!?! What the what? The difference in this game was that the defense did bend, but it did not break and in critical downs, the defense forced Oklahoma State into some terrible positions. Part of the equation is that I thought that Oklahoma State’s quarterback looked pretty terrible at times, not knowing where to throw the ball or throwing it in the dirt or just missing badly. That’s not to take away from what Texas Tech did because that’s not the point. Maybe the Texas Tech defense was forcing those bad throws. And being not very good at quarterback has nothing to do with the fact that Oklahoma State couldn’t run the ball at all in the second half really. No huge back-breaking plays and Oklahoma State was really at a point in the second half that running the ball wasn’t going to do it, they needed to throw the ball to catch up and that simply didn’t happen.
A couple of additional items. Oklahoma State only had 23 total yards in the fourth quarter. Chalk that up to Kingsbury and Johns running the heck out of the ball in the fourth quarter. And in the third quarter, Oklahoma State only had 3 first downs and 68 total yards, while going 0-2 on third downs. In the first and second quarters, Oklahoma State had over 100 yards of offense. Adjustments were made.
5. Three Penalties. Hold up. I need to choose between three things as the best thing from the game: the running offense, the second half defensive shutout, and only three penalties. And I can remember all three penalties, there was some sort of snap infraction on Paul Stawarz that none of us got to see because the camera work was shoddy at best for the entire game. Then there was the somewhat questionable Zach Austin pass interference penalty in the first quarter where he’s obviously going out for a route, but they call him for blocking down the field. Whatever. Then the final penalty was the intentional grounding on Bowman in the 4th quarter, where Bowman is trying to just throw the ball out of bounds, but he and T.J. Vasher were on different pages, Vasher zigged when Bowman thought he was going to zag and there was no receiver in the vicinity. And I would have thought that there were actually four penalties, the final kickoff right after Felton ran for the 17 yard touchdown, Hatfield kicked the ball out of bounds. They always throw a flag, but I guess that’s not a penalty? I don’t know, but even if it is, the fact that you can count the number of penalties on 3 or 4 fingers is ridiculously impressive and to do that on the road in front of a hostile crowd is a huge deal. The defense didn’t have any dumb penalties, there was no holding called, and it was a very clean game overall.
6. “Quiet” Night Receiving. Name the last time that it seemed like the receivers had a “quiet” game receiving. This isn’t to say that there weren’t some really impressive play, but these guys weren’t the star of the show. And we’re really finding out how good these guys are after waiting two years to get playing time. Ja’Deion High is legitimately a good player, catches almost everything thrown his way, I think he had a drop where he heard feet, but he had 8 catches for 79 yards. Antoine Wesley is incredibly difficult to stop, catching 7 for 98 and leading the team in receiving yards again. Zach Austin is prototypical, 7 for 69. Both High and Austin averaged about 10 yards a catch, so they’re essentially good for a 1st down when they catch the ball. T.J. Vasher caught 3 for 62 yards with a touchdown. That catch Vasher made in the second half where he’s hit, the ball is juggled and still comes down with it was pretty amazing. I’m also sure that Vasher got tackled in the end zone on one pass to him, but it wasn’t called. And I think every single pass that Seth Collins caught was for a huge third down gain, he finished with 3 for 59 yards. That’s a big day from your receivers.
7. Open Field. Wanted to throw some love to some individual defensive play. As an aside, Nick McCann got his first start of the year alongside Broderick Washington, both of those big guys finished with just 1 tackle, but they are doing serious work on the line. Joe Wallace is going to be a beast and he’s going to have a game where you shake your head and wonder where he’s been hiding. It probably won’t happen until he’s a junior, but it will be increasingly difficult to keep him off of the field at some point. He is a very tough cover for the offensive line.
Dakota Allen is so good at making tackles in the open field, it’s gotten to be to the point where it’s routine and you’re expecting it from your linebackers from this point forward. Jordyn Brooks and Allen each led the team with 6 tackles, while Brooks had 2 tackles for a loss. Allen saved a couple of plays from becoming first downs, or even bigger plays.
Jah’Shawn Johnson got his first start of the year and he is a difference maker. Once Johnson laid the wood on that one receiver early in the game, it seemed as if the long deep passes were not something that happened. John Bonney is an okay player, but I think that Johnson and Vaughnte Dorsey are your best safety combinations. Dorsey may be “reliable” but that touchdown pass in the first quarter was Bonney just not being able to get over to even make a play on the ball. Regardless, Johnson is a difference maker and he has been sorely missed.
I thought that Eli Howard had his best game of the year, as did Kolin Hill. Howard’s sack was pretty terrific and speaks to his strength to be able to swipe with his right paw and cause the quarterback to go down. I’d still like for Hill to flash a bit more, but I thought he played really well.
And Adrian Frye is starting to figure things out, the play before his interception was darn near an interception, and then he just went up and made a spectacular play on a throw that should have been to the sideline and not towards the middle of the field. He wanted it more than the receiver did. Damarcus Fields didn’t record a single statistic, but it is becoming increasingly difficult for offenses to complete a pass headed in his direction. He’s starting to turn into an all-conference performer.
8. Game Iconography.
Tortilla Tossin’ Player of the Game: I’m going with the senior here, Demarcus Felton. Huge game for him and was the nail in Oklahoma State’s coffin.
Guns Up Offensive MVP: I’m giving this to the Thompson and Killian, who were instrumental in blocking the entire game, especially in the second half. Oklahoma State was trying to stop the run, yet this team ran for 82 yards in the third quarter and 69 yards in the fourth quarter (nice). That’s 151 yards in the second half alone. Boom.
Sheriff Star Defensive MVP: Last week, we could have given it to Adrian Frye, but we’ll give it to him this week. A huge interception and improved play at cornerback is a good thing.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury on winning in Stillwater:
On how it felt to be on the winning side in Stillwater
“(Coach Gundy) has had our number for a long time, particularly out here. So for those guys to play the way they did and execute the way they did, I’m just proud of their effort. Hopefully we can build off it.”
Kingsbury on Alan Bowman:
On QB Alan Bowman’s success
“We take a lot of pride in that position, making sure our room is deep, and having two or three guys that can go out there and win games. We are excited for him and his progress. He had a couple of throws he’d like to have back, but he doesn’t get rattled, he keeps playing. He has just got to keep progressing.”
Kingsbury on the offensive line:
On the performance of Tech’s offensive line
“I thought they played really well. We had a plan to make sure we knew where we were going with the ball, and not to hold it to long and I thought Alan (Bowman) did a good job of getting it out of his hand. When it wasn’t there he threw the ball away. We have to give our offensive line a lot of credit, and Alan a lot of credit for not taking those sacks.”
Kingsbury on the defense:
On Tech’s defensive performance
“I think that we’re just progressing each week. We weren’t happy the first three weeks with where we were. Getting Jah’Shawn (Johnson) back allowed some calmness to set back in. He’s a four-year starter and one of the best players in the conference. Adding him back added leadership and play-making ability and that helped.”
Demarcus Felton returning and how the team is all-in:
On returning to Texas Tech for his senior year
“I’m very glad to be coming back. These are the moments I came back for. I wanted to be with my brothers and the team and play for these coaches and this coaching staff.”
On the turnaround from the first game
“The biggest reason is that everyone is all in. All of the coaches are all in–the whole staff, the players. No one is taking short corners. We are all just in it to win it.”
Jah’Shawn Johson on his first game back of the year:
On his first game back
“It was exciting. The guys were excited to have me back. Credit to the training staff for working with me these last three weeks I was out. It was exciting and I’m glad we got the win.”
10. Final Thoughts & La Yapa.
- This really deserves more attention, and not included here in the notes, but this is not really an Air-Raid offense. This is a multi-dimensional offense that is much more difficult to stop and you can call it Air-Raid if you want, but I wanted to track the plays from this week because when watching the Houston game, it seemed like Texas Tech was in 11 personnel quite a bit. Of the 97 plays that I tracked, only 37% were in 10 personnel, which is traditional Air-Raid one-back with four wide outs. And 36% of the 97 plays were in 11 personnel, meaning there was at a tight end and one running back. If you want to add in the 6 plays that had a tight end and two running backs, Texas Tech ran the ball with at least 1 tight end or H-back 42% of the time. This is an offense that is varied and multi-dimensional and I credit Kingsbury and Kevin Johns for bringing things to this offense that we just haven’t seen in a long time.
- Aside from the kickoff out of bounds and the missed field goal, the special teams unit has been very good. Oklahoma State didn’t breathe on Dominic Panazzolo and he averaged 41 yards a punt. Oklahoma State only averaged 14 yards per kickoff return and Clayton Hatfield kicked three of his 8 kickoffs into the end zone. And let’s keep in mind that it was deep snapper Kyle Heffron who knocked the ball loose on that muffed punt return for Riko Jeffers to recover. Heffron is almost always down the field first on coverage and that turnover came at a time when Bowman had just been sacked and when recovering the ball, Hatfield kicked a field goal to get to 34 points.
- I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but Justus Parker didn’t have any tackles or discernible stats from last night.
- Texas Tech held the ball for 41 minutes to Oklahoma State’s 18. Want to know why this team dominated? This is it.
- Bowman and the offense went 9 for 14 on third downs. That continues to be a huge statistic for this offense staying on the field.
- Texas Tech averaged 6.75 yards per play and had 621 of total offense against what was supposed to be a top 20 defense.
- I can’t remember if I’ve already made a big deal about the defense in the second half. They gave up 91 yards in the second half. That’s total yards. 91. In the second half.
— Michael Strong (@stillstrongttu) September 23, 2018