Football

Preview: Texas Longhorns vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Let’s take a deep dive.

GAME THINGS
Texas Tech Red Raiders (1-0, 0-0)
Texas Longhorns (1-0, 0-0)
September 26th @ 2:30 p.m.
Jones AT&T Stadium – Lubbock, Texas
Texas -17.5 FN. 1
FOX | FOX Sports Go
Sunny, 96-63.

I’ve been trying to do a depth chart spreadsheet for the game. I’m still learning numbers and it helps me to have something handy. You can check out my Three-Deep Spreadsheet for the UT game.

5 Players to Scheme Around

1. QB Sam Ehlinger (6-3/225, Sr.): Ehlinger is sort of the do-it-all player for the Longhorns, much more so than your typical quarterback. Ehlinger keys the passing and the running game. From a passing perspective, he’s without Devin Duvernay, who was incredibly consistent last year, catching nearly everything thrown his way. Ehlinger’s success will be largely dependent on how good the replacement receivers are going to be because he had some talented receivers last year. Ehlinger completed 65% of his passes last year, 8.1 yards per attempt, with 32 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, while running for nearly 4 yards a carry with 7 touchdowns. Last week, Ehlinger threw for 426 yards, completing 76% of his passes for nearly 13 yards an attempt with 5 touchdowns and no interceptions.

2. LB Joseph Ossai (6-4/253, Sr.): Ossai’s primary skill is as a pass rusher, but he only had 5 sacks last year, but he did have 13.5 tackles for a loss. So, behind the line of scrimmage is what’s key for Ossai. And believe it or not, the 5 sacks led UT. Ossai wasn’t a dominant tackler, almost 7 a game last year, so either the defense was really balanced or he just didn’t make a ton of plays other than splash plays. Last week, Ossai probably played half a game, maybe 3/4 and finished with 8 tackles, and half a TFL with a QB hurry.

3. OT Sam Cosmi (6-7/309, Jr.): Maybe the bet offensive lineman in the Big 12 this year. A terrific pass-blocking tackle, but Cosmi is a guy that probably doesn’t need help with a double-team or a chip and the for Texas Tech effectiveness may not be if Texas Tech can create sacks from this spot, but rather if the opposing defender can make UT adjust by giving Cosmi some help.

4. RB Keontay Ingram (6-0/222, Jr.):Last year Ingram led UT with 853 rushing yards, 7 touchdowns, at nearly 6 yards a carry, while catching 29 passes, and over 8 yards a catch with 3 touchdowns out of the backfield. I think Ingram’s biggest advantage is the ability to make people miss at the size he is at. Texas Tech will need to be sure of getting Ingram to the ground as quickly as possible. Last week, Ingram didn’t do a ton, but he didn’t need to do a ton, 9 carries, 44 yards, for about 5 yards a pop.

5. CB D’Shawn Jamison (5-10/184, Jr.): Jamison is a terrific athlete, averaged 25 yards a punt return, plus 30 yards a kickoff return. You wonder if he should be playing defense. Jamison had 3 interceptions last year with 3 passes broken up, 35 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, and a forced fumble. Last week, Jamison had 5 tackles and half a tackle for a loss.

Thoughts Based on Some YouTube Video

Texas opens up the game with a simple slant play that takes a bit of time to develop, but UTEP’s secondary looks similar to Texas Tech’s secondary in whiffing and being out of place to make a play. The slant from the receiver position puts pressure on those safeties, which struggled mightily . . . the Texas running game is quite adept and the offensive linemen are powerful, while the running backs hit the hole hard . . . the catch by the tight end, Brewer, is interesting because it is zone coverage by UTEP, the tight end is lined up outside, crosses paths with the inside receiver and is wide-ass open. Nothing fancy, but the handoff between the secondary was simply not there . . . the very next play on the highlights is a touchdown and the cornerback just lets the top outside receiver release and was more wide open than who Ehlinger actually threw the ball to, which was the tight end. From a defensive standpoint, there are two defenders trying to cover a screen pass while two offensive players are running free behind them. UT just overloaded a side of the field and UTEP didn’t have any answers . . . UT generally runs right out of 11 personnel . . . There are very few defensive plays, but UT definitely loaded up to stop the run and that’s because UTEP doesn’t really have a decent quarterback on the roster that’s capable of a real forward pass . . . There’s a pass by the UTEP quarterback a bit later that is absolutely a terrible throw and if you wanted to know the difference between Houston Baptist and UTEP, it was the quarterback and an offensive game plan . . . There is a 3rd and 9 for UTEP and the pass is to absolutely no one . . . I mentioned this earlier in the week, but UTEP had a total of 190 passing yards on 39 attempts, which is about 5 yards an attempt and rushed for 43 total yards on 33 attempts (with maybe 20 of those rushing yards coming in the 4th quarter) . . . UT was pretty vanilla on defense, which I would have been that way too, there was no need to do too many interesting things, and I’d expect more pressure from different points against Texas Tech . . .

Stats

It’s been difficult to find good stats that are still free (i.e. without subscription) so for the time being, I’m going to link to College Football Data for a look at the past week’s or game’s box score (which is the link above). I believe that Football Outsiders is going to a paid subscription model and I’d get FEI and other data from them in the past. I did sign up to pay for ProFootbalFocus grades for each position, which was like $30 for the entire year, so I have that, more or less to confirm my thoughts on how players played. So, here we go with College Football Data.

The thing that jumps out at me is that despite the close score against Houston Baptist, Texas Tech was the better team in a lot of respects. The Red Raiders scored more points per opportunity than Houston Baptist, created more positive metrics when it comes to the defense, and was generally a successful offensive team. The problem was that HBU’s quarterback was phenomenal AND that HBU had pretty much all of the explosive plays. This is what your eyes told you watching the game as well, but that’s how big of a difference Zappe made and Bowman wasn’t necessarily bad. Oh, and the third quarter for Texas Tech was worse than any quarter by any team for the entire game. Texas Tech also succeeded more, so it had the highest high of the two teams, but also the lowest low.

General Thoughts and Prediction On the Game

[Ed. note] Earlier in the week I made the mistake of stating that Cade Brewer was related to Charlie and Michael Brewer and that’s just wrong. Apologies for the error, it was in my brain that this was true and didn’t check it and should have.

What I can say is that Longhorn inside receiver Brenden Schooler is a brother to Texas Tech linebacker Colin Schooler and they are brothers [FN. 2]. Schooler should get the start on Saturday after not playing last week against Houston Baptist.

Texas’ stats against UTEP are pretty silly in the grand scheme of things so I don’t know how applicable they actually are to what we’ll see against Texas Tech. Ehligner threw for 426 yards on just 33 attempts with 5 touchdowns, the team ran for over 200 yards with 9 players getting at least one carry, and 10 receivers caught at least one pass. The defense had 8 tackles for a loss, allowed, 3.2 yards a play, and forced 8 punts. Texas averaged 11.7 yards per pass attempt and 6.3 yards per rush. It was thoroughly illuminating.

I did something that I really didn’t want to do, which is I went back and re-watched the extended mixtape for the HBS vs. TTU game.

There were some things that really stood out to me as I watched.

1. One look reads. Zappe knows exactly where he is going on every play and I credit Kittley with knowing Texas Tech’s personnel, which he does. On the touchdown where Leggett is behind the play, he’s lined up on the slot receiver, which is an obvious match-up problem for Texas Tech, and HBU knew exactly where they were going to throw the ball. There was zero hesitation and zero looks anywhere else by Zappe. It was a beautiful play and read to be honest, but that’s the power of advanced scouting and the power of knowing a roster like Kittley knew Texas Tech’s. Want to expose your team’s weaknesses to start the season? Play a team where the offensive coordinator was a graduate assistant and knows your team inside and out.

2. Focusing on Leggett and No Deep Safeties. I didn’t really count the times that HBU focused on Leggett, but it seemed like it was a lot. He’s just out-matched from a speed perspective when it comes to covering opposing receivers. Covering a tight end? Probably okay. Covering slot receivers or outside receivers. A disaster. I think the same thing could be said for Jacob Mortanstern, he had to cover a running back or slot receiver once and it was not good. Texas Tech really didn’t play with any deep safeties and that’s an issue if you want to limit explosive plays. I don’t think that Keith Patterson has really ever given a flip about minimizing explosive plays, but they are a killer and there is a reason why every advanced statistic takes into account explosive plays, because when an offense scores so quickly, it puts significant pressure on the opposing offense to replicate and scoring isn’t a given. Without question, Texas is salivating at the idea of going over the top of the defense and I’d highly recommend putting your two best and athletic safeties in the secondary and not let players get over the top. This leads to point 3.

3. Secondary had Issues Handing-Off Receivers. This was an absolute killer for the secondary. Every single touchdown it seemed that there was confusion about who was supposed to take the under receiver and who takes the over receiver and Zappe just waited until one broke free. HBU saw the confusion early (I’m guessing) and just capitalized on it. It’s almost as if they tried some sort of zone defense this past week despite playing man in the secondary for all of fall camp.

When head coach Matt Wells said that things needed to “tighten up” this is what was glaring to me in watching the highlights. I can get the physical limitations of players, but the lack of awareness of what secondary players needed to cover what receivers was a real problem. And when you have a quarterback like Zappe that can buy time by scrambling a bit and is incredibly accurate, then it is a disaster waiting to happen, which leads to item 4.

4. Three Man Pass Rush Ain’t Happening. A significant pressure of Zappe’s biggest plays happened because the secondary didn’t know which receivers to take AND a three-man pass rush gave Zappe a significant amount of time to find the open receiver. Eli Howard was the only real player that put consistent pressure on Zappe (there were others, but he stood out to me) on that three-man front. Well, there are 5 offensive linemen and if two of them take Howard, that leaves 3 offensive linemen to block 2 defensive linemen.

Texas is very competent offensively. That’s a terrible phrase. They are terrific offensively. A quarterback who has been around for 3 years, decent receivers (they are not as good as they were last year in my opinion), and a stable of running backs is a disaster waiting to happen for this defense IF we see a repeat performance from last week’s game. Not one member of the secondary performed well last week. Not one. the front seven was okay, but not good enough, so if Texas Tech is to have a chance, and they do because the offense is better than it probably showed last week, the defense is going to have to step up significantly and figure a handful of items out.

Prediction. I’m not feeling particularly confident about this game. On Sunday I thought the line would be Texas -21 and am surprised it didn’t open higher. Texas is so good offensively and some of the offensive production came against a UTEP team that is putrid offensively and is struggling to gain footing as a legitimate football program. But I think the Longhorns are pretty good and I’ll still take Texas on this one.

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FN. 1 The line has been strange. Yesterday it snuck up to Texas -18.5 and now it is -17.5.

FN. 2 Horns Illustrated for credit for this note.

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