Football

Game Preview: Houston Baptist vs. Texas Tech

Photo by Chris Knight on Unsplash

GAME THINGS
Texas Tech Red Raiders (0-0, 0-0)
Houston Baptist Huskies (0-1, 0-0)
November 12th @ 7:00 p.m.
Jones AT&T Stadium – Lubbock, Texas
Texas Tech -39.5
ESPN+ | ESPN+
Partly Cloudy, 83-60.

5 Players to Scheme Around

1. QB Bailey Zappe (6-2/215, Sr.): Zappe threw for 3,811 yards, 35 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Zappe completed 63% of his passes, and had a quarterback rating of 136. Zappe is not much of a runner, he gained 183 and lost 183 (probably through sacks) and doesn’t look terribly athletic and I don’t think is really looking to run. It is a Kingsbury offense, so you know that Kittley wants to focus on the quarterback to just throw the ball.

2. RB DreShawn Minnieweather (6-0/235, Sr.): Minnieweather ran for 723 yards on 105 carries and averaged about 7 yards a carry with 7 touchdowns last year. Not a huge pass catcher, only 11 catches for 141 yards and 3 touchdowns, so he’s a threat out of the backfield, but Zappe is throwing to his receivers much more than his running backs.

3. WR Ben Ratzlaff (6-2/190, Sr.): Ratzlaff had 87 catches for 1,139 yards, averaged 13 yards a catch, with 12 touchdowns last year. Also returning, but not one of the five players is Jerreth Sterns, who had 105 catches for 833 yards and about 8 yards a catch with 9 touchdowns. They both return and they’re a dangerous combination. They accounted for over 50% of the catches last year for Houston Baptist.

4. LB Caleb Johnson (6-2/220, Sr.): Johnson had 104 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss, 6 sacks, and an interception. Johnson is the defender with the most sacks returning this year. Andre Walker, a defensive end in name, but linebacker in size had 15 sacks last year, but graduated.

5. LB Brennan Young (6-0/220, Jr.): Young made 124 tackles last year, 50 solo and 74 assisted, with 10 tackles for a loss, a sack, 2 interceptions, and 3 quarterback hurries. He’s definitely noticeable in the video embedded below. This is a defense that is predicated on linebacker success, Young and Johnson had a ton of success, as did the graduated Walker. Neutralize the linebackers and you’ll likely have a ton of success.

Thoughts Based on Some YouTube Video

Spoiler alert! This turns out to be a fantastic game. HBU and the South Dakota Coyotes (FN. 1) fight to the very end and HBU squeaks out a 53-52 win over SDU.

Houston runs a 4-3 defense, pretty standard stuff to open up the game, although their starting lineups say that they run a 3-3-5, I tend to think most teams run basically the same thing and most coaches are trying to be as versitle as possible.

Defensively is where HBU has their biggest issues. They gamble quite a bit, have no problem sending guys from multiple positions to blitz. I would guess that they like to consider themselves opportunistic. HBU tries to bring heat when SD is in the red zone and they are much more aggressive there than outside that area. It worked on the first couple of drives for sure.

Kittley runs the same thing that Kingsbury ran and don’t see a ton of variation. I don’t know why he would change much, they really are more than competent offensively (FN 2). The HBU quarterback has a decent arm, but within the first few minutes of this game, he’s prone to take chances. Throws a deep route into double-coverage and gets picked off. It was almost as if he’s a bit mechanical in terms of what he’s supposed to do, that was the only route he was going to throw to. The receivers do a nice job of blocking, which is pretty standard for a Kingsbury offense. I think that’s pretty much required everywhere. The offense also appears to shoot itself in the foot time after time in the first quarter with negative plays, holding, near-fumbles, etc. The wide receiver screen game is pretty strong here, but again, that’s pretty standard with most spread teams and how you get the defense to open up a it. The offensive line is struggling to keep the SD defenders in front of them. Strangely, South Dakota scores a touchdown on the last play of the first quarter, so effectively, these two teams manage 102 points for 3 quarters. HBU gets on the board with an outside receiver sort of pick-play between the outside and inside receiver with a nice double-move that resulted in a pretty easy touchdown.

———-

FN. 1: Not enough teams use the coyote as a mascot. Seems like a disservice to the coyote. South Dakota, the College of Southern Nevada, Kansas Wesleyan University, and Weatherford College are the only teams that I could find that use the coyote as a mascot.

FN. 2: I also didn’t realize that HBU was an Under Armour school, but that’s another connection.

Stats

Because Houston Baptist is an FCS program, there aren’t a ton of stats to get into. Plus, with internet issues, it is incredibly difficult to put together a decent spreadsheet. You should know that Houston Baptist is a pass-heavy team on offense and a not-so-great defensive team.

General Thoughts and Prediction About the Game

There were a couple of main takeaways for Texas Tech football, for me at least, from this incredibly strange and unprecedented offseason.

1. Cross-Training: Wells preached cross-training and it was clearly something that was an area of focus for the coaches and the team. Guys need to be able to play multiple positions because there may be a week where Texas Tech is playing a 53 man roster rather than a 120 man roster. Wells was emphatic about the idea of making sure that he could get his best players on the field, regardless of position. That’s not to say that Riko Jeffers is going to line up at safety, but Jeffers does need to be able to play all 3 linebacker positions. And every guard needs to be able to play center and the center needs to be able to play guard. That’s the idea behind cross-training and being versatile. I think it’s smart and if and when COVID-19 hits the team hard, they might be more prepared than the team they’re facing, or at the very least be able to put players out there who are more talented.

And that’s probably another thought, which is that if the players are cross-training so much, are they able to focus on just one position or does the cross-training create a situation where they may not know that position as well? We’ll find out soon enough, defensive mistakes are pretty easy to recognize.

2. Transfer U: Wells knew that the defense wasn’t up to snuff and he went out and tried to upgrade the defense as much as possible. Not including the two JUCO secondary players, Cameron Watts and Cameron White, Wells and Texas Tech’s program gained transfers from LSU’s safety Eric Monroe, Duke linebacker Jacob Morganstern, Michigan State linebacker Brandon Boyer-Randle, Texas A&M defensive end Tyree Wilson, and Arizona linebacker Colin Schooler.

Need to upgrade the defense? Bring in some Division I talent to the talent you already have. This is classic Chris Beard on two fronts: 1) it increases the talent on your team; and 2) it makes incumbent players uncomfortable. Players probably thought there was a pecking order and that they were the next guys to step up into a starting or second team role? Well, not with all of these transfers. There’s a better than zero chance they’re going to pass you over. The incumbent can either get motivated to be better or move on. Beard has never cared if a player moves on because he knows that there is not a finite number of talented players and he, and now Wells, have proven or are attempting to prove that talented players can be just a transfer away.

3. Upgrade Coaching: I think we were mostly fine with the offensive coaching. It wasn’t perfect, but acceptable. It was good, but not great. Hopefully that comes in year two for the offense. With the defense, they were terrible. Not acceptable, but terrible. Some of that is talent and some of that is coaching. We addressed the talent in item 2 above, but the coaching of Kerry Cooks and Julius Brown in the secondary apparently wasn’t up to par and replaced both of them with Duke’s Derek Jones. We don’t know that there will be an improvement in the secondary, but we do know that Wells didn’t just sit around and wait for guys to get better. At the very least, he addressed the weakest part of the defense from a performance perspective and tried to make it better. I’m not applauding the move or anything like that, at least not yet, but I do appreciate the fact that he tried to make an improvement on both the talent and coaching side of things. And make no mistake, Jones was more expensive, so it was a commitment from Wells and the athletic department, and a commitment from Jones, who left a program in Duke for a much maligned defense in Texas Tech.

Prediction: Generally speaking, Texas Tech should win this game in run-away fashion. It should not be close. I don’t know how you predict something like this, but a 40 point win seems about right and with the line at Texas Tech -39.5 that’s probably right.

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