1. The Setting
Good Guys: Texas Tech Red Raiders (5-4, 3-3)
Bad Guys: Texas Longhorns (6-3, 4-2)
When to Watch: Saturday, November 10th @ 6:30 p.m.
Where to Watch: Jones AT&T Stadium | Lubbock, Texas
How to Watch: FOX | FOXSportsGo
How to Listen: 97.3 FM | Affiliates | TuneIn App
The Line: Texas -1.5 (OddsShark)
2. Uniform Tracker
3. The Big Storyline
Since it seems all but certain that quarterback Jett Duffey gets the start this week due to Alan Bowman’s injury, I’d like to suggest that Duffey and Kingsbury essentially do the same thing that Oklahoma does with Murray, which is that on almost every play, there is some sort of zone read and/or play-action. And I should be careful because I don’t literally think that Oklahoma is running a zone read on every play, there’s lots of plays where I think that the Sooners all know that they’re going to hand the ball off regardless as to what the defense does, but the mere action of creating some misdirection could give Duffey and the offense just a bit more time.
I thought week’s Kliff Kingsbury press conference was more insightful about how he runs the quarterback room than I can recall. Kingsbury establishes that pretty much no matter what, the guy who is starting gets the majority of snaps and there simply isn’t enough practice time and/or reps to have a full and complete game plan for two different quarterbacks:
You have to understand the reps that each guy gets, and Bowman, we try to get everybody a ton of reps at that position, but Bowman is going to get the majority. I just needed to call things to get him into more of a rhythm, and better communication — what do you like, what are we doing, but it was kind of one of those things right before we kicked off, Alan is not going to go.
So I should have found a way to have better plays ready, but it changes simply because you know all week what your starter loves and wants because he’s getting the majority of the reps and you really don’t know to an extent what Jett loves or wants. I mean, we have him circle his plays every week, okay, what do you like but the lines of communication aren’t as much as you have with your starter.
And that last part is really interesting to me because Kingsbury sits down with each quarterback and they circle plays that the quarterback likes. This isn’t a dictatorship, this is a situation where Kingsbury gets input from the quarterback about what he likes, what he doesn’t like and how to implement that into a game plan.
Kingsbury reiterates that he tries to pick the quarterbacks’ brains about how the game plan will operate:
Like I said, I’m big on getting in those guys heads throughout the week and picking their brain and trying to get on the same page. You don’t do that. You only have time to really do that with one guy and put your focus on him and when the other guy comes in, you try to find of get it going on the sideline. But that’s the only difficulty is not really knowing to what extent they are comfortable with this play or that day and just trying to get him in a rhythm and trying to call things that they really do like.
So, the reason why it’s difficult to switch quarterbacks mid-game is because he’s probably gone over a full game plan with the starter and not knowing how comfortable they are with the plays that the other quarterback really liked. I’ve mentioned before that Kingsbury and Kevin Johns (and apparently Jett Duffey) really like running out of 10 personnel. Probably more than half the time, so that’s obviously by design.
And Kingsbury also said that he wants Duffey to be the quarterback he was in high school.
Yeah, I think just the operation. You know, I want to get Jett to a point where he’s so comfortable, he’s playing like he played in high school, where he’s free and he’s making plays and running around. At times and he know this is, you know, he’s too robotic in our system, one, two, three, four, five — that’s not his game. Get back to being a feel player. If you’ve got it, you got it and if you don’t, work your magic and I think you’ve seen some of that at times. If we can get him so comfortable with the season to where he’s playing and not thinking so much, that’s when he’s going to take that next step.
Well, that’s the quarterback that we see here, a quarterback that likes to run around and make plays with his legs, and he never afraid of a throw, even if the coverage is tight or double-coverage, but in high school, the defenses weren’t good enough to make those plays. So I’m guessing that there’s this part of Duffey who could literally do whatever he wanted in high school and it worked out for the most part, but then those plays haven’t always worked out at the collegiate level. One thing that I did note is that even in high school, Duffey runs a ton of stuff out of 10 personnel and now you know why he does it for Texas Tech because that’s what he likes and Kingsbury takes in that input. I really never imagined that it was a two-way street, but I’m glad that it is and it’s not a surprise that Kingsbury is so good at what he does.
4. Keys for Texas Tech
- I think it starts up front again for Texas Tech. I wasn’t very happy with the running game last week, but I was happy with how Da’Leon Ward looked. I thought he was the team’s best running back in the spring and I still believe that right now. He’s just a little bit better than anyone else and with Duffey’s legs I think it is important to get something rolling aside from what he does. The Texas defense is a bit beat up and I’d love for Texas Tech to take advantage of that.
- Ehlinger isn’t as dynamic as Kyler Murray, but they’re both similar in that how they go, so goes the offense. Ehlinger hasn’t thrown an interception since Maryland, the first game of the year. I don’t care who you are, that’s pretty impressive, and the best thing about Ehlinger is that he’s been really consistent, most of his quarterback ratinsg haven’t been lower than the 120 range and averages about 145. Of course, last week, Kyler Murray hadn’t thrown a pick either and I’ll be interested to see how and if Gibbs can dial something up to disguise coverage and bait Ehlinger into some bad decisions. That will be tough, but Ehlinger’s worst days are when he doesn’t have a high completion rate and that’s going to be tough for Texas Tech’s defensive backfield.
- Duffey’s got to have more intermediate success. I don’t think this is a game where there’s only 17 points, so he’s got to be better than just making the big huge play or nothing at all. There needs to be a good middle ground. The other thought I had was that in Duffey’s lone start against TCU, he didn’t have T.J. Vasher to throw the ball too and I mentioned during that game that Duffey’s strengths weren’t necessarily those that were the same as Dalton Rigdon, who right now doesn’t have the size advantage as Vasher. Duffey will have both Wesley and Vasher this week and I hope he utilizes them in this intermediate game. Move those chains and take what the defense gives you.
- Last week, the Texas Tech defense gave up too many big plays, but Oklahoma has done that to darn near everyone. UT’s biggest deep threat, receiver Collin Johnson, may be limited this week, suffering a leg/knee injury late in the week and on crutches. it would be absolutely imperative that if Johnson can’t go, that the defense limit those big plays.
5. What to Watch
First play, Texas brings the blitz and Sills is just sailing down the middle of the field wide open, maybe the easiest play WVU has all year and I can’t believe he’s that wide open, and it’s not really even a double move from Sills, he doesn’t even sell the first move very well and he gone . . . Pretty simple handoff here with zone blocking and some missed tackles lead to a pretty big touchdown run . . . a nice throw by Ehlinger leads to a Watson touchdown, but that was pretty terrible coverage by WVU . . . another zone blocking scheme for WVU and there’s a hat on every defender and the WVU RB goes in the end zone untouched, #7 looks like he doesn’t want any part of that play . . . play action gives Ehlinger enough time to pause the defense and he finds the WR pretty wide open, nice throw in stride . . . that WVU dagger by Grier is something only a few quarterbacks can do, throw the ball that far and accurately, that’s not something that I think Bowman or Duffey can do with any sort of consistency . . . the two point conversion was nothing special, but you have to have a quarterback who can run it and the defense was so worried about Grier going up the middle, which doesn’t make a lot of sense, #23 for UT gets all caught up in thinking Grier is going to the middle of the field and he could have made the play . . .
The Texas defense gets a little lost by the play action, but it’s impossible to tell what’s happening in the secondary and why you’ve got a guy open, yet surrounded by four UT players . . . I’m telling you guys/gals that Ehlinger is pretty good and he’s a definite running threat . . . nothing special in terms of blocking with that long OSU run and not sure why UT can’t shed blocks sometimes . . . I think that maybe play-action is a killer for the UT defense, which is odd because they probably face it every day with Ehlinger at quarterback, the play by OSU has two tight ends on the right side next to each other, the outside tight end stays in and blocks and the inside tight end goes out for a route pretty much completely uncovered . . . just wide open for OSU in zone coverage and a nice throw by the OSU QB . . . Ehlinger again, I think he loves to take the ball and doesn’t mind getting hit and/or beat up . . . that OSU pass was great or terrible, but probably shouldn’t have been thrown . . . the UT touchdown throw is pretty nice, Ehlinger has to throw it across his body, the OL has to give the WR enough time to drag across the field and it’s a perfect throw . . . the jump pass is whatever, probably not a huge part of UT’s playbook and it’s a nice play that gives Ehlinger a nice option, if it’s open, great, if not, then throw it away, it was 2nd and goal, so there was at least one more play, plus UT probably knew that OSU’s linebackers can’t cover for the life of them . .
6. Coach’s Corner
I am more annoyed at the official sites just linking to a video of a coach’s press conference and not actual quotes. UT has quotes of players, but not of the coach and I don’t understand that. Anyway, the DallasNews’ Trenton Daeschner does have some quotes from Texas head coach Tom Herman. Not pulling all of them, just some of them, so go check it out for all of the quotes.
On the defensive struggles:
“I think for whatever reason we haven’t cut it loose at times,” Herman said. “That’s on us to figure out why. Maybe it’s an uncertainty. I think the easiest way to alleviate some of that is to trim down your call sheet a little bit, make sure that guys are ultimately confident in what we’re doing. Not that they haven’t been, but as coaches, you try to uncover every stone. Then we’ve got to just have more precision. We’ve got to coach our guys to fit our gaps more precisely and make sure we’re playing a lot more disciplined.”
On quarterback Sam Ehlinger:
“Sam is playing great right now,” Herman said. “He’s still playing hurt. That shoulder is still not fully healed. I think the biggest thing where you’ve seen the growth of Sam is, one, he trusts the offense. He is throwing the ball on time now more than I’ve ever seen him, so he’s trusting himself, he’s trusting the receivers, he’s trusting the O-line. He has a lot of trust right now. He’s aggressive. He’s not worried about making mistakes.”
On the last two weeks:
“Proud and frustrated at the same time,” Herman said. “I’m so proud of the way that we fought two weeks ago in Stillwater. I’m extremely proud of the level of intensity and physicality that we continue to play with. That is something that will never waver in this program. I’m certainly frustrated that we couldn’t close the deal this past weekend, got off to such a poor start the weekend prior.
“I am very optimistic that we have proven to ourselves what we’re capable of. I have no doubt that we’ll see that again this week.”
Light a Fire:
Eraser Wanted: Riko Jeffers (6-2/245) may have to do the job that Dakota Allen normally does and I really don’t think the defense has lost much of a step, but Allen’s experience is invaluable. If it is Jeffers, he and Jordyn Brooks will be instrumental in stopping Ehlinger and if they can’t, it will be a long day. In limited time, Jeffers is 4th on the team with 30.5 tackles, and has 5.5 TFL’s, 7.5 run stuffs, and 2 forced fumbles so he’s been effective when he’s had the opportunity.
Needs Repair: The rushing game has gone in the tank since TCU and really since West Virginia. The keys in both the TCU and West Virginia games was that Duffey was making plays with his legs and without him in the game, against Kansas and Iowa State, it’s been not very effective. Only 112 yards and 3.2 yards per carry against Kansas and 30 yards and 1.25 yards per carry against Iowa State. Against Oklahoma, the rushing offense got over 100 yards, but again, it was largely Duffey scrambling in the second half. I mentioned this as a key, but the offense has to do a better job of opening things up for those running backs.
Under the Microscope: Much like Oklahoma, Texas doesn’t have huge defensive backs. They are all 6’0″ pretty much, which isn’t small by any means, but there will be opportunities and teams are now more concerned about Antoine Wesley, who is still getting things done despite the extra attention, and Vasher should be more open or Ja’Deion High or Zach Austin or KeSean Carter. They can’t cover everyone and Duffey needs to find those other guys.
Tacos vs. Burritos Matchup of the Week: Texas Tech Offensive Line and Running Backs vs. Texas Defensive Line and Linebackers – Want to beat Texas? Run the danged ball. UT is averaging 124 yards a game given up on defense in wins and 185 in losses. And at home, the Longhorns only give up 130 yards running the ball, while on the road they give up 163.