1. This is week #2 that Patrick Mahomes has left me with my jaw open thinking that it just can’t get any better, but man oh, man, this is fun. Mahomes didn’t even get the yards that he could, because of some drops and I’m sure some poor reads, that he could have, which means that his 361 yards on 33 attempts for 10.93 yards per attempt average, with 4 touchdowns. Mahomes also ran for 23 yards with 2 touchdowns. There’s really just something magical about what’s happening with Mahomes and I keep waiting for him to falter, well, not waiting for him to falter, but waiting for him to be human, but maybe that’s just not going to happen. Still, this is a ton of fun, and it seems like it’s been a long time since we’ve just had the offense cranking.
The most interesting thing (to me) about what UTEP is that they did get pressure on Texas Tech and Mahomes, especially off of some corner blitzes. There were times in the first half that it took Mahomes a bit of time to get the ball off or where it affected him a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I think he did terrific, but I could certainly see other teams doing what UTEP did, which is blitz off of that corner or bring five guys. The problem for defenses is that he could make you pay dearly for bringing five defenders. It seems like the one thing that’s made Mahomes be somewhat human, but even then, he’s able to put up nearly 50 points in a half.
2. The defense was better, but certainly not perfect. It seems like there are some things with the defense that we can take away from this game that makes me feel better about where they are as a team. And maybe the biggest question is if the defense improved from last week to this week and I think the answer is yes, but there are still questions about performance.
There were two or three drives in the first half that were problematic, the second UTEP drive that resulted in a 75 yard, 10 play drive where they eventually scored off of a screen pass to Aaron Jones for 24 yards. Too many missed tackles and bad plays on that drive. The very next drive was a 91 yard touchdown run by Jones. There were a number of frustrating things here, the most important being Jones being able to scamper through the line for 91 yards, but Texas Tech also pinned UTEP deep with a penalty. The third and final drive was the 10 play 69 yard drive that lead to a field goal for UTEP, where the Miners were, again, moving the ball with ease.
The disappointing thing for Texas Tech and UTEP fans is that Jones then got hurt and it was a heck of a lot tougher to guage what the Texas Tech offense really was at that point without UTEP’s best player. And after seeing that offense without Jones, it was abundantly clear that Jones was the best player.
Take those three drives away and you’ve got something to really be proud of in terms of production. It wasn’t perfect, but after the UTEP field goal, the Miners gained a total of 52 yards on 6 drives (albeit one of those drives was the end of the half, so that probably shouldn’t count).
3. Last week, I really didn’t even get to mention the running backs (there’s only ten thoughts!), but let’s talk about how good DeAndre Washington was yesterday, where he ran just 12 times for 138 yards, including a 51 yard touchdown run, which was absolutely terrific. As a group, the running backs had 200 yards rushing with the lone Washington touchdown, plus 53 yards receiving, including a jailbreak screen pass, that was the perfect call and electric play by Justin Stockton that went for 46 touchdowns. Those 250 yards per game is about where I think this offense can be from the running backs. Those big plays are part of what this offense can do and it is part of what makes it so dynamic. And credit goes to that offensive line for opening up those huge holes for Washington on the 51 yard touchdown and how about that blocking on Stockton’s screen pass. Both plays were a thing of beauty.
One other thing, which is that maybe the Texas Tech offense really imposed their will on UTEP with Texas Tech up 17-14 and Texas Tech running the ball on five straight carries. After that, it felt like the offense just wasn’t going to be stopped. After that touchdown, Kingsbury was high-fiving that offensive line as they came off after the extra point.
4. It was good to see Pete Robertson return and after the game, Robertson didn’t say anything ground-breaking, just that you live and you learn and he was happy to be out on the field. Robertson did make a difference, nothing 4 tackles, including 2 tackles for a loss, one of those being a sack. Robertson is a play-maker and I’m sure that being able to be out on the field and actually playing is more important than any sort of off-the-field things he did.
5. Just looking at the defensive box score, it was good to see the linebackers at the top of the heap. Dakota Allen had 10 tackles to lead the way, including 1 TFL, with Micah Awe registering 7 tackles and 1 TFL and Kris Williams had 5 on the day. That’s three of your top four tacklers on the team and that’s some good production. Generally speaking, this group was much better and as mentioned above, I do think that defensive coordinator DAvid Gibbs deserves some credit for improved play. We’re not talking about a ticker-tape parade of anything, but a solid high-five for the better play.
6. Aside from UTEP’s best play was the boot leg pass from Leftwich to tight end Hayden Plinke. Dakota Allen was covering Plinke and there wasn’t anything fancy to the play, but get used to seeing that because next week, Arkansas has two terrific tight end options that can make plays. Both of those tight ends are fast and big and Allen didn’t have terrible coverage, but he had a hard time keeping up.
And I guess by seeing Allen so much, I wonder if Allen has, for all intents and purposes, replaced Malik Jenkins. I know that Allen and Jinkens are on the field quite a bit, but does anyone else like Allen’s play-making ability a bit more? I think I’m leaning that way, but I still need to see a bit more evidence.
7. The Texas Tech defensive backs did not get any sort of workout this game. They essentially got the game off for all intents and purposes. I can’t really think of any big plays on the cornerbacks and that is most likely a result of the UTEP quarterback, Leftwich, just not looking deep. Leftwich didn’t look deep last week and he didn’t look deep this week either. I don’t want to credit those defensive backs when I feel pretty certain that this is a UTEP thing and not something that Texas Tech did to shut down those wideouts.
8. I felt that the receivers were better, but there were additional drops that bothered me, passes off the fingertips. There are always going to be dropped passes, so that’s just part of the deal, you just hate to see them just glance off of the fingertips. Texas Tech did get some terrific yards from Jakeem Grant, who seemingly set the tone with his first catch of the game (I think) where he went 60 yards, made some guys miss and started the game off with a bang. Reginald Davis did have one of those passes drop off of his fingertips, but he also caught 3 other passes for 73 yards and also had a 21 yard reverse, where he could have had more, but he just got caught up in the that wide open space. He also caught a terrific touchdown for 35 yards at the end of the first half (see item 10 below). It was also great to really get to see guys like Keke Coutee and Tony Brown start to stretch their wings as true freshmen. There’s some talented receivers on this team. I said after the spring that not getting J.F. Thomas onto campus was disappointing as he was clearing a big-time player, but I thought during the spring and I think now that this receiver class was filled with doubles and triples. Thomas was maybe a home run, but these other guys have got a little something too. You have to replenish with talented players and I think they did that.
9. The defensive line looked gassed and terrible last week, but I thought that this week, they looked significantly better. It’s always dangerous to take away a particular play from the total, but if you take away the 91 yard touchdown run from Jones, UTEP only ran for 136 total yards and averaged a mere 2.95 yards per attempt on the day. It seemed as if Breiden Fehoko was much more comfortable today and seemed more at ease and it was terrific to see him get his very first tackle behind the backfield and see him explode into the line of scrimmage. You can expect a minimum of two more years of that and on a much more regular basis. I thought Rika Levi looked more explosive as well and stronger. I really do think that the heat played a huge role in how the team played last week. Not an excuse, but I do think it was a factor. That group looked tired last week and I thought they looked much better this week.
10. I thought that this team did a much better job of finishing off UTEP. After the Washington-dominated drive, the drive with about a minute and a half left on the clock before the end of the half was, I think, exactly what Kingsbury wanted in terms of finishing a team. The game wasn’t over, but Texas Tech scored in 30 seconds, or something ridiculous. At that point, Texas Tech went up 38-17 and never looked back. The Red Raiders wound up scoring 17 more points to open up the second half and that’s what Kingsbury wanted.
The biggest deal was just finishing the game. Offensively we limited our penalties. I thought last week too many times we were putting ourselves in second and 15, second and 20 type situations. Protected the football and just closed the deal. That was kind of the mantra all week, was when you have an opportunity to close the deal, close the deal.