Football

Ten Things: Texas 63, Texas Tech 56

GAME LINKS
# Box Score
# Post Game Quotes
# Post Game Notes

1. You Won’t Like Me. Considering I had zero expectations of keeping this game within 3 touchdowns, I don’t know how much I can really complain about losing a game by 7. It was still a somewhat gut-punch of a loss, but it seemed that this loss was largely because of player mistakes and these kids are human and I tend to think had they just made a play, somewhere, then we’re celebrating a win.

Close, just not close enough is sort of how I feel. Not just quite there yet. And that sinking sort of feeling has been there for 3 . . . maybe 4 years? That feeling of being close, but not close enough is really sort of defeating and it is tough to rally from something like that.

Just like the rest of us, you are a glutton for punishment and for me, I’m here cheering for this team regardless. It’s what I love to do and it’s what I enjoy doing. Because there are no unbelievable highs without the sometimes ridiculous lows. And if this ride isn’t any longer for you, that’s okay too. They’re still gonna play every Saturday that they’re able to do so. Should I be really upset? I dunno?  I sometimes feel that there are times where maybe there’s a group of you that would like me to just go-off on the coach and the team and that’s just not in me personally. I want this team to win because it’s fun, but I predicted a 3 touchdown loss and this team took #8 Texas to overtime despite so many errors. I can sort of live with that.

HEAD COACH MATT WELLS PRESS CONFERENCE

2. Defensive Improvement. Let’s try to work out what went better this game, starting with the defensive improvement. How can there be defensive improvement when you give up 63 points? Baby steps. I believe in baby steps. First and foremost, I was happy that the defense didn’t give up long pass plays. There were a couple that were really close to being completed, but just didn’t make it and those count as misses for UT. So the secondary did improve significantly because I thought that this game would be a blood bath. I’d also add that had Zappe been throwing a couple of those longer throws, Texas Tech just might have had another long day, but he wasn’t (BTW, this is intended to make you feel worse because why not, but Houston Baptist lost 38-66 to Louisiana Tech). The secondary didn’t do a good job of jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage late in the game and allowing those short slants that resulted in touchdowns at the end of the game and in overtime were . . . well, terrible. I’m guessing that they’re not coached to let players go unabated, but that’s what happened.

PLAYER PRESS CONFERENCE

3. Offensive Struggles. There were two big areas of concern for the offense: 1) the turnovers by Alan Bowman; and 2) the inability to run the ball.

Alan Bowman’s two biggest turnovers were two huge gifts by the special teams. I can assure you that the two throws were just bad plays. Just physical or mental mistakes on the player that I’m sure he wishes he could have back. Bowman wasn’t particularly sharp, completing just 59% of his passes for 325 yards passing with 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Bowman averaged 6.25 yards per attempt, so he basically completed no big plays. Bowman’s biggest play was a 29 yard play to T.J. Vasher for 29 yards in the third quarter, but there were no rainbow pitch-and-catch sort of plays where the ball just fell gently into the receiver’s welcoming arms. Every time Bowman tried to go deep, he was sort of throwing into double or triple coverage and you’re just wondering what he’s seeing.

The mistakes are killer and the inability to go deep is also problematic. So much of what Bowman does is over the middle and that will eventually get taken away. I’m thinking that the receiver screens will then try to open things up, but that won’t be a panacea for the offense. At some point, he’s got to do a better job of connecting deep.

And as to the other aspect of the offensive struggles, I thought that the running game, generally speaking was pretty putrid for nearly all of the game save for one play. In the 4th quarter, SaRodorick Thompson breaks free and breaks tackles, for 75 yards and a touchdown. It was really all on Thompson because he should have been tackled 3 or 4 times. You take away that run and the offense managed 41 yards on 23 carries which is 1.78 yards per attempt. Texas absolutely stonewalled the offensive line time after time. And truthfully, I thought the offensive line struggled most of the day opening holes. They were manhandled by the UT defensive line and although Bowman didn’t take a sack, I thought that he probably could have taken a couple had he been slightly less nimble. So the offensive line needs to improve because that sort of rushing performance isn’t going to do it. And I should add that Texas largely dominated the line of scrimmage with just 4 down lineman, while Texas Tech would have the 5 linemen, plus a running back or tight end blocking.

I’d also add that it seemed like Thompson had the entire second quarter on the bench and I don’t know if I’m good with that. He’s obviously the best running back on the team and I understand giving him a rest for a play or two, but I don’t think I want him out for an entire quarter.

GAME HIGHLIGHTS

4. Offensive Things I Liked. I loved. Absolutely loved, Erik Ezukanma and KeSean Carter. There is no doubt in my mind that they need to have the ball so much more than what they do. They each need double-digit targets each week. Don’t get me wrong, T.J. Vasher is special too, but the combination of size, speed, and strength with the two of them is pretty special. I also have a love-affair for SaRodorick and he looked terrific on that long run. I thought that Dalton Rigdon played when when he was able to get in the game, but here’s part of my other issue with the offense . . .

5. Usefulness of the Tight End. This was always one of Yost’s big deals and I’m generally fine with having a tight end on the field some of the time, but when the tight end is a position that is giving almost zero production and your inside receivers are absolutely incredible and you can’t get them on the field enough (Carter, Rigdon, and now Myles Price) then it might be time to take a look as to whether or not the tight end is giving you enough production to justify being out there for every play.

I thought that Travis Koontz would be better than what he is, not that he’s necessarily bad, but I thought he’d be giving the offense more. Koontz had 2 catches for 12 yards and a drop (maybe a bad pass, I can’t remember) and I do remember the John Holcomb drop, it was a critical third down and Bowman goes to the most inexperienced receiver on the field in Holcomb for a first down and the UT defender is all over him (it was a good defensive play). I don’t know if Bowman has to go to Holcomb there or if he had options, but I would have tried something else.

Anyway, because if nothing, once I get something in my brain I can’t get it out. I’d also add that 2 weeks ago, Koontz had 1 catch for 9 yards and Holcomb was targeted 1 time without a catch. Meanwhile, there aren’t enough snaps for the inside receivers. That’s basically one entire receiver that doesn’t have to be covered because you’re not necessarily worried about production.

6. Strength of the Defense. I do think the strength of the defense is the linebackers and I thought that the line played significantly better this week compared to the HBU game. Riko Jeffers, Krishon Merriweather, Brandon Bouyer-Randle, Colin Schooler, and even Jacob Morgenstern all played really well I thought. I know that Texas had a ton of rushing yards, 214 to be exact, but I really didn’t think that this group played badly. Room for improvement, sure, but in the grand scheme of things, I think the linebackers are going to be really good and I’m excited to see how they perform once they get some additional opportunities. And this is going to sound incredibly tacky, but for the most part, Thomas Leggett wasn’t a liability. I think he was the safety on one of the 4th quarter or overtime touchdowns (or maybe he was there for both) and there was still some non-seamless transitions that allowed the UT receiver to run free when maybe they shouldn’t have.

7. “Special” Teams. Get it, they were “special” yesterday. Aww, neverminded. Yes, the special teams were really good although they had a significant mishap, a blocked punt that it seemed like Austin McNamara held onto the snap too long, which led to a UT touchdown. Generally speaking though, when you can recover an onside kick, block some punts, and score a special teams touchdown, that’s sort of a win in my book. Oh, and Trey Wolff missed a field goal (oh, are we talking about an entirely different game if he makes that field goal) in the third quarter that he seemingly made pretty easily last year.

8. Not Exactly Talkative. Head coach Matt Wells wasn’t exactly talkative after the game. A lot of short answers to questions, understandably so. His opening statement was the biggest quote from yesterday:

What a ballgame. I’m proud of our guys. They fought. They’re resilient. What a college football game, and we’ve got to find a way to close it out. There were a few things that stand out right out of the gate for me. There are some things that we did well. I thought we played really well on third down. Third down defense was really good. We did not get enough turnovers. We lost the turnover margin. That was a key to their victory. I think we were minus-2 there on both sides because that’s a team stat. We didn’t finish in the red zone a couple of times. Special teams, there were big plays for us and there were big plays against us, so it was probably a wash. In a game that goes into overtime, at the end of the game, any of those can stand out. Recover an on-side kick. Don’t give up a blocked punt for a touchdown. Just a stop there late. But, our sidelines were into it, our players were into it. It was a great college football game, unfortunately we didn’t win. There is no moral victory at all in that for us. What we need to do is use that to springboard us in the coming weeks going on the road. I’m proud of our guys, and I’m proud to be their coach. We gotta keep digging in, dig deeper and find a way to close it out.

And then Wells also acknowledged what I think you are feeling, which is that they were close, but not close enough:

Q: How are y’all able to have such a big improvement from the opener to this game against Texas?
“I think our guys, you know there’s a few things we did better. Jarred, I do believe there’s more room to grow, um constantly I would say better. There’re times where we still don’t challenge the receivers like we need to in certain areas of the field. Again, Alex Hogan, I think played well. It was good to have Frye back and Ja’marcus Ingram back. Those two guys, you know what they move Seth, moving Seth Collins to safety will help, still doesn’t have enough time back there for reps and everything but I thought he came in and played well, I was happy with him for what I saw before I watch it on tape. But yeah there’s still room to improve but definitely some improvement was made, it was noticeable a little bit.”

9. Still Out. Don Williams reported before the game that DT Nelson Mbanasor, CB Damarcus Fields, IR McLane Mannix, and OT Zach Adams were out for yesterday. I know that I’d love to see Mbanasor, Fields, and Mannix (I can’t say that I’ve seen enough of Adams to know how good he is or is not) on the field and would be interested if their absence is COVID related or injury related. Oh, and Seth Collins is at safety. Didn’t see that coming.

10. Up Next. Thank goodness Texas Tech doesn’t have an opponent that was able to pull off an upset win against the highest ranked team in the Big 12 on the road . . . Oh, wait, that’s exactly what’s about to happen. Texas Tech will travel to Manhattan on Saturday, a 2:30 p.m. kickoff again, to take on Kansas State, who just upset #3 Oklahoma in Norman. It should be noted that K-State did lose to Louisiana their first game of the season, but they obviously got much better. And I’d also say that Texas Tech got much better too, just not enough on Saturday.

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