Week 1 Awards: So It Begins

The Matt Wells era at Texas Tech began with a 45-10 victory over the FCS Montana State Bobcats. It’s always difficult to know what exactly to take away from these early-season games against small-school opponents. There have been years the Red Raiders have drubbed them, like 77-0 over Lamar in 2018, and other years they’ve been tighter matches. What does seem consistent is that they are generally not a true indicator of the success or failure of the season. All-in-all I thought Tech did some good things. It’s apparent that OC David Yost is a big can of the slot, he likes finding seams in the defense, and he needs a quarterback who can thread the needle. If those things are true then there’s a potential for some nice scoring this season even against stiffer competition. One thing we won’t know is if the speed, size, and athleticism advantages Tech held over Montana State will translate to any advantages over stiffer Big 12 competition.

I don’t think the day was all sunshine and rainbows, there were mistakes and miscues and the team saw a lull in the third quarter that won’t fly against other competition. I also question some of the execution, there were some tight passes squeezed into seams that may be much more dangerous later in the season. There were also some dropped interceptions trying to force balls into spots as well. One definite in these games is that Tech is going to generally be bigger and more athletic than players on the FCS opponents they’re facing. But when it feels that Tech is winning because of that advantage rather than due to better execution of their offense and game plan then I get a little nervous. I’m not here to throw up red flags, I’m just saying it’s a win to be happy about but the true tests are yet to come.

I Like You Award – Matt Wells, HC

I like this guy. He’s earnest in his beliefs, he knows exactly who he is and who he wants to be as a head football coach, and he makes no apologies for setting a high bar for his staff and his team and refusing to lower it. There are a lot of things about Matt Wells that I identify with personally and that I respect. I’ve heard him speak several times in person and while he’s not going to have the room eating out of his hand like Chris Beard, his honest enthusiasm and steadfastness come through in spades and I think people know he’s the real deal.

I also love that he does things like this.

This is something I would do. A couple of hours before the biggest moment in his professional life and he’s standing midfield in Jones AT&T Stadium soaking it in. If I had the chance to bet I would think Matt Wells was praying prayers of thanksgiving for his opportunities. He’s been very open about how blessed he feels to be here and he’s working hard to show folks that he’s bought in 100% to Texas Tech University and what Red Raiders believe in. He’s also made it clear that he’s going to ensure his team feels the same responsibility for TTU. I appreciate that about Wells and I think moments like this show you even more that he’s a truth-teller.

Dang Bro Award – Armand Shyne, RB

The graduate transfer from Utah rumbled for 11 carries for 125 yards including an impressive 69-yard touchdown run in which he found a hole, burst through it, made two men miss, and outran three Bobcats to score. Shyne, a 210lb native of Oakland, California is a welcome surprise addition to the Red Raider backfield that ultimately combined for 225 yards and 4 touchdowns on 40 carries Saturday afternoon, including a rushing TD by Alan Bowman and two more from SaRodorick Thompson who used size and nice footwork to punch a couple in for the Red Raiders.

Slow Clap Award – Jordyn Brooks, LB

It was no secret coming into the season that Jordyn Brooks would be the leader of the linebacking corps. We’d heard tales from around the team last season that he was the best of the unit even with Dakota Allen back on the squad. Brooks led the team with 11 tackles Saturday, 4 of them solo, and he had 1 tackle for loss as well. Brooks had great defensive penetration throughout the day and read the ball carrier very well at times. The defense combined for 7 tackles for loss and 1 sack on the day. I was most pleased to see solid tackling technique and Brooks, Broderick Washington, and others made nice wrap-ups in the backfield. Thirty of Tech’s 64 tackles on the day were solo.

New Guy Award – Xavier White, WR

The Lubbock Monterey product was electric on Saturday with 5 catches for 125 yards including a 45-yard long for a touchdown. Matt Wells called White the surprise of camp with how fast he’s risen in the WR ranks. With performances like that White will become a fan favorite, there’s nothing Red Raiders love more than hometown kids doing well. After graduating from Monterey, the 5’11, 185lb White spent his freshman season at Dodge City Community College before coming to the Red Raiders for his sophomore year.

Shining Star Award – TEMPO

For years we heard Kliff Kingsbury talk about wanting to run a fast tempo. I recall a Grantland mini-documentary in practice with the Red Raiders and the entire piece being about wanting to run fast and how they worked towards it with practice tempo. Unfortunately, that tempo never seemed to translate to the field and when the Red Raiders did try to implement it they struggled with miscues and problems. Tempo requires a ton of preparation by the sideline to support the field, communicate with the booth, call in plays efficiently and clearly, and all of that while moving down the field. My hat is off to OC David Yost and the rest of the staff for the tempo, particularly in the first drive. They had Montana State reeling early and when the Red Raiders reached the red zone and finally subbed, it seemed like the Bobcats swapped out their entire defense. Using tempo as a tool in the belt will be very valuable for this team throughout the season.

Nailed It Award – Texas Tech Athletics

FINALLY, RaiderGate is becoming what Texas Tech needs. I’ve long been frustrated that Texas Tech has fractious and uncoordinated tailgating. Every great program and even not-so-great programs (looking at you SMU) have great tailgating atmospheres close to their stadium. Unfortunately, over the years the parking lots around the Jones and even those across campus have become more focused solely on parking and less on that most American of sports traditions, tailgating. I was very impressed with RaiderGate on Saturday.

The traffic flow around Memorial Circle was more controlled and a large stage was set facing down the Engineering Key. Not only is that a great view from the other end with the Administration Building in the background and RaiderGate laid out before it, but it also directed the music from the bangin’ show by the Hogg Maulies toward the stadium. There were also two large LED panels on either side of the stage playing another Big 12 game.

Buying beer and food was very simple, there were clothing vendors set up, picnic tables and tall cocktail tables, bouncy houses, yard games, and a ton of people. It was a fun place to be where a lot of Red Raiders could spend time together. I imagine the crowds will be even larger with a night game next week and William Clark Green on the stage. There appeared to be plenty of room for businesses and groups to reserve tailgating tent spaces down the length of the engineering key. The whole setup is bolstered by more tailgating coming off the left side of the Engineering Key between buildings. For you older Red Raiders you’ll remember this is where the leaky old English building used to sit.

I caught up briefly with Robert Giovanetti at RaiderGate and thanked him for the vision to update the RaiderGate idea. I think this area and setup are exactly what Texas Tech needs and it adds another level of connectedness to the gameday atmosphere. The cheerleaders and Raider Red also appearances and were immediate hits with the TONS of children and families that were out there. Texas Tech made a couple of other changes as well, particularly moving the commuter lot buses to the north side of Jones AT&T Stadium, making the area in front of the newly updated Frazier Alumni Pavilion much more pedestrian-friendly.

Stroke of Genius Award – Covenant Health Systems Marketing

I’m sure everyone is aware that Staking the Plains is full of a bunch of random folks that enjoy writing and talking about Texas Tech sports. So we all have real jobs and do things like this because it’s fun. Well, one of the hosts of the 23 Personnel Podcast (shoutout on their new pregame radio gig on 1340 AM) works in the marketing department at Covenant. Unfortunately, all winnings from the Stroke of Genius Award must be forfeited due to his affiliation with StP. He’d mentioned that they weren’t doing the Kid of the Game anymore which had been sponsored by Covenant, but the cat he didn’t let out of the bag was a big one, a lion in fact.

In lieu of Kid of the Game, the highlight of fan interaction was the brand new Simba Cam, in which parents were encouraged to hold their kiddos to the sky while music from The Lion King washed over the crowd. Not only was it adorable, and we witnessed the inexplicable reaction of shaking your toddler while holding them in the air, we also saw college students do their thing and begin holding each other up. It was a great moment in the stadium and a hilarious, relevant, and genius sponsorship by Covenant.

Honorable Mentions

Alan Bowman, QB – Bowman picked up right where he left off going 40/55 for 436 yards and 2 TDs. He also ran in a score on a zone-read in the red zone. Generally, Bowman looked pretty sharp throughout the day hitting some tight spots early in the game and some longer balls as time went on. He managed the clock well and made quality reads. Bowman also made some nice throws on the run to his right with some Pat Mahomes inspiration. We all have seen Bowman flourish as a freshman and we can only expect him to continue to grow and improve with experience. I am a bit surprised Tech never worked in a second or third quarterback. I expected to see both of the backups as Coach Wells has indicated the second spot has yet to be decided.

Dalton Rigdon, WR – Rigdon was a walk-on a little over a week ago and was awarded a scholarship as one of eight Matt Wells handed out at the end of fall camp. The 5’11, 170lb redshirt sophomore is a product of the Perryton Rangers. He became a consistent target for Bowman in an early drive, particularly on a  strong side screen.

Way to Show Up – Red Raider Nation

I was sitting in my seat a 2:45 pm and you had me nervous Red Raider fans. The Jones was embarrassingly empty and I feared you weren’t coming – but you did. I’m not saying it was a UT ’08 crowd but it was respectable for Labor Day weekend, 95 degrees, at 3 pm. It’s not a secret that Texas Tech ticket sales numbers have taken a hard dip this season. With a new coach and a lot of questions yet to be answered, coupled with a down year in the home schedule, Tech has been deeply discounting single-game tickets for Montana State and UTEP as well as giving a lot away all over town. Granted the crowd left at halftime and beyond but to show up and support is important for this team and for what Matt Wells is looking to build. Fans will be retrained over time to come and stay but that comes with success so I’m not here to rail on leaving, I’m just glad as many came as did.

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