Not going to lie. This was a weird game for me to consume. I got home from work on Friday evening and mowed until about 7:00. I went inside, showered, had a few beers and then passed the heck out (figuratively, not literally). My wife had taken Youssouf to soccer practice and when she got home, she thought that the house was way too hot. So I get up, and sure enough, the A/C isn’t working. I check what I know to check, like the breakers, check the overflow pan, etc., and nothing. So we sleep in the heat. Unfortunately, the A/C isn’t going to be looked at until Monday, so we’re staying the next two nights at my parents, who live in the same town. But my parents internet is terrible and the only way I could watch the game was to stay at home, in an 88 degree house, have a few cold ones and watch it on my computer.
Now, to the game. Maybe the best part of the game is that the offense was very much uneven, and now, Wells and the coaches have something to point to and say, “We need to work on this.” I think that the offense in general is fine, I’m good with it conceptually and I actually like it quite a bit, but it’s just not clicking on all cylindars for whatever reason. Maybe it’s just years of trying to play a certain way and reconditioning how the offense approaches the games.
And the defense? The defense was the star of the show. We’ll get to that more in a second, but I absolutely loved what they did.
2. The Offense
For me personally, I thought that the offense was just okay. Statistically, you have all of the good things that go along with the offense, like 260 yards passing, 160 rushing yards, 424 yards of total offense. The rushing attack averaged over 5 yards a run, but from a passing perspective, Alan Bowman had a high completion percent, high enough at 67%, but only a shade over 5 yards per attempt. So something is amiss offensively. And maybe that starts up front. Jack Anderson and Terence Steele didn’t suit up, which meant that you had an offensive line consisting of the following:
RT: Casey Verhulst
RG: Weston Wright
C: Dawson Deaton
LG: Madison Akamnonu
LT: Travis Bruffy
I don’t know about you all, but it is always so difficult for me to watch all of the moving parts, especially on offense (it’s usually the secondary I don’t catch on defense) when I watch a game. I thought that Bowman was probably pressured more than if he had Jack Anderson available and it just wasn’t a clean a game for Bowman.
And last week, we looked at how the completions were divided and this week the wide receivers had 11 receptions, the inside receivers and tight ends had 10 receptions, while the running backs had 8 receptions.
3. The Defense
These guys get the star of the game. Without question, they dominated. For the game, UTEP had 131 total yards, 77 on the ground for 2 yards per attempt, and 54 total passing yards. That’s absolutely ridiculous. Jordyn Brooks led the way, and we’ll get to his stats later, but son of a gun, from the line, to the linebackers, to the secondary, they simply could not be contained. I know that UTEP is inept offensively, but to only allow 11 first downs all game, and the only allow 2 of 15 on third down conversions, I’m trying to find a statistical category that the defense didn’t dominate and I’m just not sure what it is. And technically, other than actually score, which that interception return by Zech McPhearson should have counted because the penalty that was called was not a penalty, but whatever.
One other stat, UTEP was 1-1 in the red zone last night, making their only field goal. Consider that other than one time, when the game was surely out of hand, did UTEP even drive the ball into the red zone. They absolutely dominated the field.
4. The Special Teams
Not a lot of stats here. I thought punter Austin McNamara looked great and there was one spot early in the game when it looked like Texas Tech would give UTEP decent field position and he booted a 55 yard punt down the field. Ta’Zhawn Henry had one kickoff return for 28 yards, and Adrian Frye never had an opportunity to return any punts, largely because UTEP only averaged 40 yards a punt.
5. Offensive Notes
- T.J. Vasher played very well and maybe my favorite part was that he was really aggressive, he wanted that second touchdown, drove his legs, and dove for that second score. I loved the touch on the first touchdown, but the second one was pretty terrific because he had to work for it. Vasher had 6 receptions on 78 yards and the 2 scores.
- Internally, I think that the staff likes Armand Shyne as the best running back and he really did well, 8 carries for 45 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown was a pretty nice display of getting outside and it was pretty open from there. Shyne maybe isn’t as versatile in the passing game. And since we’re talking about Shyne, SaRodorick Thompson also had 45 yards on 8 carries, with 2 receptions for just 3 yards.
- Henry had 5 receptions for 32 yards, plus 28 yards on the ground. He didn’t break any big plays like Shyne (20 yard carry) and Thompson (16 yard carry), he was really terrific in the first drive.
- On Alan Bowman’s lone interception for the night, it looked like he just straight threw it to a defender. The intended receiver was Myller Royals, and after the play had ended, you can see head coach Matt Wells having an animated discussion with Royals, maybe something like he’s got to come back to the ball on that play. I’m guessing it was some sort of miscommunication, that’s not like Bowman to straight-up and throw it to the other team. And I think that Royals was suspended for the last game, no reason given, so the staff didn’t hold it against him and he received playing time despite coming off of a short suspension.
- Again, I thought there were way too many lulls offensively, Bowman admits (see below) that he could have been better, sharper. Only 260 total yards isn’t the norm against one of the worst teams in FBS, but to still score 38 and not really have a great game is commendable.
- That triple option play that Dalton Rigdon scored on is pretty darned neat. I don’t know how many teams are going to really play the run for Bowman, so I don’t know how much of an option that it really is, but for now, it’s working. Rigdon’s speed was really impressive.
- I don’t know that Donta Thompson is going to be a huge part of the offense, but he had at least 1 catch that was on third down and moved the chains and he’s more of a vertical threat than he ever displayed last year. I really like his addition.
6. Defensive Notes
- Jordyn Brooks was amazing. He had 11 tackles, 1.5 tackle for a loss and 2 QB hurries, but he was exactly where UTEP was wanting to run the ball so many times. Just amazing to see how he’s progressed and his his added size, from this end of things, he seems like he feels more like a terminator.
- Goodness, the defensive line looked all sorts of amazing. Broderick Washington, Nick McCann, and Eli Howard were all just fabulous. Washington only finished with 3 tackles, but his play up front was huge, and McCann didn’t register a stat, but I thought he was really good.
- As a team, the group had 3 sacks, 7 tackles for a loss, only 1 pass break-up, and 7 quarterback hurries.
- I’m always cautious of espousing success in a defensive category if the opposing offense isn’t good at it and I’m sort of that way with any passing stats. UTEP’s quarterbacks are not good, not good at all. Super glad that those secondary guys got some stats, but maybe just grain of salt those guys.
- Also really liked the play of Tony Bradford and Jaylon Hutchings, as well as Nelson Mbanasor. I like that these guys are getting reps because Washington and McCann I think will graduate.
7. Coach Quotes
Proud of our team. Proud of our guys. Found a way to win. We celebrate all wins. Dana Dimel has been doing this for a long time. I have a lot of respect for that staff at UTEP. Has veteran coordinators, Keith Burns, Joe Robinson, a lot of veteran guys. That’s a very well-coached football team and I wish them the best moving forward.
I’m really proud of our defense. Tremendous night, 131 yards given up. Tremendous night. Wish we could have got a shutout. I’m not sure we didn’t coach a little harder on the last two series. Proud of Keith Patterson, our defensive staff. Thought they had our guys extremely ready to play. Our guys executed at a high level. Still looking for that first takeaway. We’re going to continue to coach it, continue to demand it. The takeaways will come. We’ll get them. When they come, they will come in bunches.
Offensively, I thought Alan, again, played another good game. You know, I don’t think our running game was as sharp as it needs to be. We’ve got to go back and probably look at some stuff. It will be good to get some guys back healthy. We’ve played a lot of guys in the last two weeks and I’m looking forward to going on the road next week at Arizona.
But happy with our performance. We celebrate all wins, but it was a really, really good night. The whole night belonged to our defense.
Wells on what he liked about the defense:
Just their — with how we play great team defense. We ran to the ball. Rallied. We made some really good opening tackles — excuse me, not good opening tackles but some good open-field tackles early in the game on some of those bubbles and perimeter now screens and some of the things they were doing to try to put us in space and we made good tackles in space. But we were rallying, running to the ball and I thought our D-Line kind of dominated pretty early in the game.
Wells on Bowman (including the question as well):
Q. Well, just didn’t seem like he ever got into a flow. Seemed like it never really flowed for you that you wanted — I realize you put a bunk of points on the board. Just didn’t seem like that you were consistently going —
COACH MATT WELLS: Well, I think that’s — yeah, I respect the question. But one, two, three, four — I mean, we had four touchdowns under two minutes and 33 seconds. That’s pretty fast. I think the thing that probably makes you feel that way is we had a few more three and outs compared to last week. And again, I think I can kind of contribute to the running game. We have to run the ball better.
But any time you — I mean, six touchdowns, and the longest drive was three minutes and 30 seconds — excuse me, 3:34 for the field goal. That’s fast.
But we’ve got to be able to run the ball better and there’s a few more three and outs. This offense needs a first down. I think it’s 58 percent of the time or something like that, we get a first down, we’re going to score something, and then you add two first downs, and then it continues to climb. That’s what the offense needs. It needs plays, but there’s going to be some times that we’re going to be pretty quick striking and as long as you’re putting points on the board, that’s good.
If you go three-and-out, we hurt the defense a couple times tonight, putting them back out on the field. It’s probably the way — it’s probably why you feel that way, but you finish drives with touchdowns, we’ll take it.
On Jordyn Brooks:
I think Jordyn Brooks is a big-time linebacker. He practices really good. He’s a football junkie. He can blitz. He can come in gaps skinny and come out thick and that’s a natural art.
To answer that question directly, he’s very, very comparable. I think we have four linebackers on active roster right now in the NFL and he is very, very comparable to those guys — you got a bug on your hoodie. It’s coming inside your hoodie right there. I’m dead serious. It’s on the inside of your hoodie. I promise you it’s in there — no, it’s for real.
And I know some of you guys are still recording that, aren’t you (Laughter).
8. Player Quotes
Defensive tackle Broderick Washington on third downs:
Q. UTEP was 2-15 on third down conversions. What made you all so effective on third down?
BRODERICK WASHINGTON: I give credit to our preparation, really, because I mean, without doing the stuff that we did throughout the week, we couldn’t have been ready for some of the plays they wanted to run.
But it’s all in the preparation, really.
Washington on his sack:
I feel like it really just set the tone, really and just put everybody in their mindset to dominate, really. That’s pretty much it.
Quarterback Alan Bowman on his play:
A little upset with myself. I feel like I could play a lot better. I think I missed a of downfield throws which will probably be the key emphasis for next week.
But no, I think we stayed on course. We didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot but we just kind of — there’s plays that can be made that weren’t, and I feel like that’s all on my fault. I can be better and I feel like I need to make more throws, obviously, in this league. So I feel like I can do a lot better.
On Vasher’s touchdowns:
Yeah, I think the first one, obviously, they were manned up on the outside. We had a little stutter and go playoff of a zone read, and they were man coverage, that probably wasn’t going to work. T.J. was just one-on-one, got a great release on the ball, got his hands on the ball as quickly as possible and fought to get in the end zone and stuck it over the pylon, or over the goal line.
On the second one, we just wanted it — these one-on-ones, if they are going to go one-on-one against T.J., we are going to attack it, he’s 6-6,210, I can’t guard him, I don’t know a lot of people that can.
So when he’s streaking down the sideline — that’s one of the throws I did make, and he made a hell of a catch, too. So I think the combination of both of those things.
On what UTEP was doing defensively:
They run a lot of different coverages, switching from three and four down. But at the end of the day, our guys were open; I wasn’t hitting them.
Obviously we won big, but we could have won a lot bigger. And just got to work on some accuracy and we’ll be just fine. Just it’s a good week to grow.
9. Looking Ahead
Texas Tech definitely needs to play better offensively, but you I feel pretty good going into Arizona, who beat Northern Arizona, 65-41. At this point, you somewhat want the defense to be playing really well with Arizona being such a terrific offensive team, 431 yards rushing against NAU (with Tate only rushing 2 times for 1 yard). We’re about to see how good the defense really is. As an aside, Arizona allowed 373 passing yards and only 69 rushing yards.
10. The Final Word
I kinda give this sort of win, winning by the spread, 35, and doing it in standout defensive fashion, is really encouraging. I think I’d give this performance an overall B, shading towards a B+. I’d really like to write more, but I’m running up against it (will do player ratings on Monday).