Football

Ten Things: Texas Tech 45, Oklahoma State 35

First conference win!

1. Overall

What a game. Really had a bit of everything, a ton of offense for Texas Tech, a dominating first half performance by the defense, some wide open play by the offense. A strong second half performance by Oklahoma state was stymied in the end by some key plays by the defense. Lots of math involved as well, trying to figure out if one team should go for two or just kick the extra point.

And a bit of redemption too. Just as last week’s game isn’t a definitive, “Well, I told you all that Wells, Yost, and Patterson were terrible coaches,” this week shouldn’t be the opposite of that, “Well, I told you that Wells, Patterson and Yost would be in the Ring of Honor.” We probably saw last week Texas Tech’s worst perfomance of the year, from the coaches to the players, while this week is the team’s best performance to date. It’s fun to knee-jerk, but it’s also god to just think that this game was a really good and fun game

2. The Offense

The offense really did a 180 from last week. I thought there were two main things, the first being that the offensive line was really terrific and I thought that Jett Duffey hit some receivers down the field, didn’t turn the ball over, and I thought that Duffey trusted his guys to make plays. Put it up there and let these guys do their thing. Duffey throwing for 424 yards on 44 attempts, averaging almost 10 yards an attempt with 4 touchdowns. That’s a heck of a day. I thought for sure that Duffey would run a bit more, but he only had 5 carries, but maybe the running touchdown helped open some things up on offense that wasn’t normally there.

And to go back to the line, I thought that they didn’t allow a ton of pressure today, I can think of just a few opportunities where Duffey was really under duress. The running backs ran for 5.8 yards a carry (the offense averaged 4.6, but this is just the running backs).

And I thought the offense was opened up by utilizing the tight ends a lot more, which didn’t really happen at all last week and I also thought that the inside receivers were utilized to open things up, rather than the outside guys, I thought that the inside guys running post routes and trying to burn the defense was a significant factor to opening some things up.

3. The Defense

The opening first half was absolutely incredible, I thought that the defensive line was the key to the dominating performance. There were 7 sacks during the game and 14 tackles for a loss. That’s something you don’t see for maybe 3 different games, much less one against a top 25 opponent and what’s been one of the top offenses in the nation. And it wasn’t just a couple of guys, I thought it was great that we were able to see some players shine that haven’t had the playing time just yet, like Nelson Mbanasor, Jaylon Hutchings, Tony Bradford, Xavier Benson, they all made plays and I thought that the starters, were all pretty terrific as well. Just a super solid performance, and Texas Tech was never going to stop Oklahoma State for two halves, so to do what they did and just jump out on top of the Cowboys was significant.

4. The Special Teams

Kind of stunk that Trey Wolff missed his first field goal, kind of a wonky miss where it tailed off at the end. Other than that, I thought he rebounded nicely, which isn’t always easy to do. I thought that Austin McNamara was asked to do some situational punting, which is why he didn’t average the 45 yards a punt he normally does. I think he’s still got to work on his touch a bit, but that’s a super minor criticism for a true freshman who’s been playing so well. I think we probably need to see the fake field goal taken out of the playbook. I thought that by not kicking the field goal on that particular drive sort of required Texas Tech to do some fin-angling later on with going for two, which ended up working out, but I probably would have just taken the points in that situation. And I think that Wells has made it clear that’s his decision to do that as a head coach (at least in previous weeks) and would think that’s also his decision this week as well.

5. Offensive Notes

  • I thought that T.J. Vasher had one of this best games that I can recall, 5 catches for 110 yards, and 1 touchdowns. His catch radius was on full display yesterday, Duffey just throwing passes where maybe only he could get it made a significant impact. Oklahoma State really didn’t have anyone to stop him and I think that’s probably true of the rest of the Big 12.
  • Duffey completed 26 passes to 11 different receivers. Vasher and Donta Thompson were his top targets (Vasher with 10 targets, and Thompson with 9) and Thompson finished with 5 for 46. So yeah, Yost wanted the tight end to be more involved, and that makes sense. Maybe we saw an offense that was only at 75% because the tight end wasn’t a huge player in the offensive attack.
  • So great to see Erik Ezukanma break out, his best game to-date, 3 catches for 92 yards and a touchdown (also targeted just 3 times). His ole of the defensive back to end up walking into the end zone was terrific.
  • The inside guys only had 2 catches for 13 yards, but I thought they were being asked to be more involved vertically. They didn’t connect, Duffey missed Dalton Rigdon on what would have likely been a touchdown, and McLane Mannix could have had a big gain but couldn’t quite haul in a pass. Wells was in Mannix’s ear after that catch and the announcers said that maybe Mannix needed to get those hands up to go grab the ball, which made sense. But you sort of like the head coach trying to correct those small things that can make a big difference.
  • The running backs had 210 combined yards, 144 rushing on 25 carries and 66 yards receiving on just 5 receptions. Any time you can get 200 total yards from your running backs, that’s a good day. And I think that Sarodorick Thompson may be the team’s best running back? That’s debatable because Ta’Zhawn Henry is really good and Armand Shyne is maybe working through an injury. Henry is so explosive, and they’re all relentless, which is what you love in a running back.
  • There were some things that needed to be fixed, the offense was only 2 of 13 on third downs and that’s not going to play most of the time. I didn’t think that the offense had struggled to that extent on third downs, the game didn’t feel that way. And most of the third downs were third and short (only 1 for 5) and that medium range, 5 to 8 yards (0-7). That’s something that needs to be addressed, but that’s a really minor issue when you score 45. Still, managing those third downs are a big deal, and probably more important on the road next week.
  • The offense averaged 7.4 yards per play and only had 79 plays, so there weren’t really pushing the tempo, which is fine with me.
  • Kind of a crazy stat, Texas Tech had 332 yards on first down, an average of 8.3 yards for every first down. That’s kind of insane and a huge credit to Duffey for just sort of going for it.
  • Jack Anderson is out for the year with an upper body injury that was suffered in the Oklahoma game. So now the line consists of some young players that are having to get baptized really quickly. I thought they were really good, I thought that they played with some serious passion and determination. Some nastiness.

6. Defensive Notes

  • Oklahoma State had just 67 yards in the first quarter, despite having the ball for over 9 minutes. At the halftime, OSU had 179 yards overall, 112 of them coming in the second quarter. I thought that Texas Tech did a really nice job of holding Hubbard down, he was always going to get his, and they usually happened in chunks, not in consistent 5 to 6 yards a run. Being able to just hold Oklahoma State to a loss or no-gain, really forced some third down situations that were pretty difficult.
  • Jordyn Brooks was epic. That’s the stuff of storybooks. 19 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss, 1 quarterback hurry, and 1 forced fumble. That’s the kind of game that deserves some serious reflection. Brooks was all over the field, and he’s so smart and fun to watch. Last week was forgettable, but this week, he was amazing. And stopping Spencer Sanders on the two-point conversion was a thing of beauty. After the game, Brooks said that on that play where Sanders runs the ball, he always runs to his right. Every time in film study, he noticed that. That’s where preparation meets execution.
  • All Douglas Coleman does is make interceptions. That’s 2 more interceptions on the year, for 5 total and he said that he should have had 8. Tack on 7 tackles and another pass break-up for his stat line.
  • Thomas Leggett left the game, as did Desmon Smith, who was on crutches. Leggett walked out under his own power, I think maybe hit his head and could be a concussion situation. I hope it’s nothing major. Smith’s injury looks to be more serious. By the time that Leggett had left (which he’s playing that Spur position which probably suits him perfectly) he had 9 tackles and 2 tackles for a loss. By far his best game.
  • I also thought that Xavier Benson had his best game, 7 tackles and that one third down stop was huge.
  • I loved Broderick Washington giving the guns-up after his two big plays in the first quarter. I can’t remember a player doing that after a big play. Washington would end up with 6 tackles, half a sack, and 1.5 tackles for a loss.
  • Eli Howard really flashed as well, 4 tackles, half a sack, and a quarterback hurry.
  • I’m all but positive that in my preview of the game, I thought that Sanders was maybe a bit turnover prone and yeah, that’s a problem. He forces too many throws when he doesn’t have too and he’s a bit too loose with the football in the pocket. Texas Tech made plays and forced a bunch of those turnovers by the pressure and simply going after Sanders.

7. Quotes

Head coach Matt Wells started off his press conference talking about how he appreciated the fans, the students, and the energy. Again, he acknowledges that last week was embarrassing and how the team responded:

Before we get into the game, I just want to tell all the fans thanks for coming out, the students, the fans. I’m going to tell you what, they brought some juice, they brought some energy. We fed off of it. I think it goes back and forth.

But 3rd down, the energy was really, really good in there today, and we’re going to continue to do everything we can to make the Jones the hardest place to play in the Big 12, and I understand our team is a big part of that, but so is the fans, and I just appreciate all of them coming out and supporting our guys through the end.

Really proud of our team. This was a tough week. It was an emotional week. Nobody was very happy about the way we played last week, embarrassed, and I thought they responded. Tremendous amount of guts, especially late in the game.

You look out there, we lose Des Smith early in the game, he’s scheduled to play half the game at one of the corners. He’s a three-team special teams starter, and you look up and you’ve got a true freshman safety and a true freshman corner just battling their tail off, Broderick and Jordan. Tremendous performance by Jordan Brooks. Just individually, very, very heroic. I mean, all the TFLs and the sacks that he had, I thought he single-handedly just propelled our defense. Doug Coleman had a great game.

And then offensively really good drive in the fourth quarter. I think that shows heart, it shows character, guts, especially by our O-line and our running backs and our tight ends.

Wells was also asked about his team responding:

Q. In any sort of way, is maybe the loss last week, seeing how your players responded, are you seeing more of that player program that you wanted to see from the beginning start to develop?
MATT WELLS: Yeah, it’s something that we talk about. Don’t think we’re there yet. But I think we had some guys step up during the week. Some of the captains, some of the leaders, I thought — I’m not saying this post-game, but the Tuesday practice was the best we’d had. It was physical, it was emotional, it was good. I thought our practices were really good this week.

But we did. We’re not there yet in terms of all the player-led leadership. But I think we took a big, big step this week. Now the key moving forward is can we come back into the building on Monday morning at 6:30 and make corrections, see what we did good and see what we did right — excuse me, wrong, and make those corrections and move on to another opponent, and it’s going to be like this every single week in this league, I think. Proud of our guys. Big step today. Big win against a top-25 team.

Wells was asked about this past week and how this team responded:

Q. What did you tell your team after what happened last Saturday to keep them on track?
MATT WELLS: Well, that’s kind of between me and the team. But there were some pointed conversations, emotional, and I mean, that’s football. It’s relationships. We learn to trust each other a little bit better, and it’s got to go both ways. It’s not just players. Coaches trusting players, players gotta trust coaches, and it goes both ways, and I think any time you have that kind of game and — it was embarrassing. I know I keep saying it, but a lot of us took it personal.

Wells had some huge praise for Dadrion Taylor, the freshman safety who got his first start:

Q. What’s the ceiling for Dadrion Taylor?
MATT WELLS: Well, let’s talk about Rabbit. I mean, first of all, what a special deal for him being from Oklahoma, from a really good high school program, Carl Albert. That kid is — he just oozes football junkie. I mean, he’s a winner. He’s always been a winner, starter on the basketball team for three years. We go watch him play in January, and he’s guarding the 5. Are you kidding me? I mean, the guy is 5’1″ — I mean, 5’10”, but he’s guarding the 5, he’s jumping. He’s an eye tailback at one of the top 5A schools in Oklahoma, three-year starter, track. I mean, the guy does everything right, and he’s playing DB for the first time. I mean, that’s his fifth game out there playing DB.

He’s got a big ceiling. I mean, he’s not where he needs to be yet, but he cares. He’s always studying. He’s in the building forever. I’ve got a lot of respect. I’ll go to battle with guys like that, I don’t care how young they are.

And Wells is also asked about balancing the long-term with the right now:

Q. How much what you’re going through, how much is staying focused on long-term and how much of it is what can we do better right now?
MATT WELLS: That’s the best question I’ve been asked in a while because that’s the essence of coaching, especially first year in a program. I think the key is that we’re not going to deviate from the culture that we’re trying to build and the foundation in terms of accountability and discipline. You’re playing for the now, you’re playing for the long-term. That’s a tough mix. It’s an interesting mix. We’re playing for right now. I mean, you just keep going back and forth.

But what we’re doing is we’re building a foundation of accountability and discipline and toughness the way we practice, the way we go to class, the way we lift weights. All those kind of things. And we’re not going to deviate from it no matter if we’re coming off last week’s game or we’re coming off this game. We’re going to act just the same this week.

I think that will in turn build confidence in our players when they understand that the process works. And we as humans are very results-driven all the time. Coaches are impatient by nature. But it’s a — I keep — it’s not a delicate mix. We’re going to be who we are, but we’re going to do everything we can to win right now, but we’re not going to sacrifice the future for it because we’re building this thing to be a consistent winner.

8. Stats and Things

  • Oklahoma State ran the ball 56 times. That’s a ton, and overall, they only ran for 3.9 yards a carry, but if you take out the sacks, which there were a ton, then that jumps up to 5.3 yards a carry. That’s the huge part of those behind-the-line of scrimmage plays that create bad situations for the offense. I think it’s cumulative.
  • Oklahoma State had an early lead for time of possession in the first quarter, 9:15 to 5:45 for Texas Tech, but then things evened out in the second quarter, 7:06 to 7:54 in favor of Texas Tech. I did not realize this, but in the third quarter, Texas Tech sort of dominated the ball, 8:14 to 6:46, and in the 4th quarter, OSU had the ball almost 9 minute, 8:49 to 6:11. Would love to see more possession in the second half, but again, a small complaint.
  • Texas Tech completed both of their third downs in the third quarter.
  • Oklahoma State was 4 of 5 on 4th downs.
  • Texas Tech had 7 penalties for 7 yards. I thought this was a pretty clean game. Two of those penalties were pretty costly, the Terence Steele celebration penalty, which I have no idea what happened, and the Riko Jeffers penalty where he late-hit and was ejected was absolute trash. That’s an ass-chewing penalty and hitting a defenseless receiver and then standing over him like it’s a big deal to hit someone who can’t see you ain’t cool. Now he’ll have to sit out the first half of the Baylor game.

9. Looking Ahead

Texas Tech plays their first game at McLane Stadium in Waco in the history of ever. The game will be on FS1 again, first snap is at 3:00 p.m.

10. The Final Word

This team is pretty dinged up, especially after yesterday, and so I don’t know how that plays on the road. I think that playing on the road is always a different animal and playing at home really gives the home team a significant advantage. Oklahoma State looked flat coming out of the gates because of the Texas Tech defense. And Duffey not having any turnovers for the game were a big deal. It’s been one of those things that’s been his biggest downfall, just throwing the ball into coverage, so I think he’s made a pretty significant step in not trying to do too much. There were some plays where he threw into double-coverage, so maybe he got a bit lucky, but he also threw the ball where Vasher was going to catch it or it goes incomplete.

I’m really happy with this win and you hopefully are too. Enjoy the rest of the day.

Edit. I meant to include the locker room post-game celebration and Wells giving Douglas Coleman the game ball was pretty powerful, and then a shout-out to the allegedly 50 high school players who checked out Texas Tech and the football program over the weekend:

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