1. Dominating Offensive Performance. Let’s start at the beginning, which is that Texas Tech averaged yearly 9 yards a play yesterday. To be exact, Texas Tech averaged 8.9 yards a play and had a school record of 776 yards on Saturday. The ground game broke free for an astounding 261 yards rushing and the quarterbacks, all three of them, threw for 515 yards on Saturday. I watched the game later than the rest of you, but I never felt that the game was really ever in doubt, simply because the offense was that good. It was flipping deadly and it was big play after big play that just knocked the wind out of Iowa State. And consider that Texas Tech isn’t even at full speed on offense with guys like Devin Lauderdale and Ian Sadler sitting out this game (and Dylan Cantrell hasn’t played a down just yet). I’d also add that the offense was terrific despite having less than stellar field position whenever Iowa State kicked off (that Iowa State coverage was fantastic and Texas Tech should have been better).
2. Get Used to This. This is the Texas Tech defense. They’re going to give up yards and they are going to give up big plays. If you have an expectation about the offense essentially doing the same thing, the defense is right there and this is what you can expect. The defense still gave up nearly 500 yards of offense to Iowa State, but they only surrendered 24 points and that’s the thing you have to focus on. If the defense can get turnovers, the yards really don’t matter all that much and that’s essentially what happened yesterday. The defense gave the offense three additional opportunities and the offense capitalized on those opportunities. And truthfully, the game played out pretty much like the stats said that they would, at least offensively. Texas Tech got their yards and points (plus some) and Iowa State got their yards and points (about what the Cyclones average). The key to the defense’s success is largely based on the success of the defense making those special plays. There’s also the thought that Texas Tech won’t face two teams like TCU and Baylor offensively, particularly on third down. Most teams don’t get those third downs like those teams do and that’s what separate elite offensive teams, is the ability to convert big-time third down opportunities (Texas Tech does this too). Most teams just aren’t that efficient.
And before I forget, I think the defense deserves some credit for the two goal line stands, that resulted in a missed field goal and a made field goal for Iowa State. Those were huge in the first half.
2. Who Got the Start? The Texas Tech coaches made some decisions this week, choosing to start Ja’Deion High at the Z-receiver position over Reginald Davis, while Tony Morales got the start at right guard. Their replacements saw plenty of action and after the game, head coach Kliff Kingsbury said that he was trying to motivate Davis and reward High for their work:
Just consistency. We wanted to push Reggie, and Ja’Deion is a guy who shows up every day, always going to be where’s supposed to be always going to catch the ball, always going to run the route. Probably not the burst that Reg has but we just wanted to create some competition there, and I thought he stepped in and every ball that was thrown to him he made a play on it.
Defensively, J.J. Gaines started over Keenan Ward at strong safety. Thierry Nguema also got the start again at cornerback over Nigel Bethel, II. Ward didn’t register a tackle, although the box score says that he played (I didn’t notice if he did). I can’t remember that happening, Ward not being in the starting lineup and registering a tackle in a really long time. In fact, I think he saw time very late in the 4th quarter. Gaines’ start ended up resulting in two interceptions and that’s what the coaches are looking for (I think) which is gusy that make plays. I don’t know if it will last and I really like Ward, but Gibbs is sending messages.
Gibbs and Kingsbury like sending wake-up calls to players by who is starting and who isn’t starting. Playing time is the leverage to correct play that isn’t great.
3. Young Receivers Step Up. Those young receivers, I thought, took a step forward on Saturday. The drops were just a few and they produced time and time again on Saturday. Jonathan Giles had 5 catches for 59 yards and 2 touchdowns, Cameron Batson caught 4 for 28. High had 3 for 49 yards. Tony Brown ended up with 3 catches for 44 yards, Keke Coutee had 3 for 27 and Zach Austin had 3 for 21. That’s a total of 21 catches for 228 yards. That’s not necessarily explosive, about 11 yards a catch, but that’s some solid production from a very young group of receivers that have had to grow up quick.
4. Running Back Production. Let’s start with one of the best, where DeAndre Washington only had 72 yards on 12 carries and the first touchdown of the game, which is still good for 6 yards a touch, but he also had 4 catches for 48 yards, including a 49 yard (yeah, the math doesn’t work out, as he lost some yards on some pass plays) screen pass that was terrific from a blocking standpoint, but also watching Washington run was great. That’s 120 yards of production from Washington alone.
Justin Stockton was electric today, touching the ball just 7 times for 101 yards, including a 54 yard touchdown ru where he also looked like he was being shot out of a cannon and then we got to see who I think is in line to give you that Washington like production in Demarcus Felton, who had 3 carries for 66 yards, including a 53 yard touchdown run. The reason I think Felton gets a real shot is that he’s so danged similar to Washington between the tackles. We haven’t really had the chance to see it, but I think they’re very similar players. It wouldn’t at all surprise me to see Felton, Quinton White, Stockton and Corey Dauphine all get reps next year and I don’t know that there will be “a guy” like Washington is this year.
And after Felton scored, which I think was the first touchdown of his very young career, Washington wasn’t there to chest bump Felton, but he grabs his head and says something to Felton. Maybe he was telling Felton to remember the moment and be hungry and to do that every day. Again, I hope we’re all appreciating how terrific of a player and representative Washington is for Texas Tech.
I think it would be safe to say that the running back position is in good hands. Pretty good little hands.
5. Solid Plays on Defense. It’s always tough to gauge how a defense does when they give up 500 yards of offense, but three turnovers flips the field. Dakota Allen continues to be very solid and without question the future of the linebacking corps. Allen finished with 11 tackles, while Micah Awe had 9 tackles. I’d also add that the inclusion of D’Vonta Hinton into the rotation is a nod to next year as well because he needs to figure out the speed of the game now so that he’s more ready next year. Pete Robertson registered 2.5 tackles for a loss and 5 tackles and Gary Moore runs around like a man on fire, notching 2 tackles for a loss.
Gibbs doesn’t like to blitz because it leaves a suspect secondary even more vulnerable, but what he does like to do, if he has the opportunity, does like to send out a pass-rush defensive line, which consists of Robertson and Gary Moore at the ends and then throws in Breiden Fehoko at the nose guard and Branden Jackson at the tackle spot. I think I agree with this thought process because the thought is to limit the big plays, that’s the intent. It didn’t work out against Baylor and TCU and other than a couple of big third down plays by Iowa State early, Iowa State was only 5 of 15 on third downs, which is less than what they were averaging, which was a shade over 40% for the year.
As mentioned above, Iowa State still did what they normally do on offense, they just weren’t able to punch the ball in the endzone when it mattered and Rhoads is too conservative to go for it on 4th down within his own five yard line. That’s not a criticism on Rhoads (I’m way too conservative too), but being on the road and knowing that you’ll most likely need points, I think I would have gone for it on both instances because why the heck not.
6. That Mahomes Kid Has Something. I mean.
Seriously, that’s just all sorts of unfair to a defense and it’s the reason that he’s so special. Mahomes only ran for 8 yards on the day and only had 3 rushes, so he’s no longer having to lean on his legs to make plays and scramble as he’s leaning on his legs to make plays with his arm and that’s exactly what he did against Iowa State. Again, no defense can hold that long, but in that play to Grant he throws a 50 yard laser between two Iowa State players and two Texas Tech receivers. I think Grant was just sitting there waiting on something to happen. Mahomes completed 72% of passes for 9.3 yards per attempt and throwing for 428 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Soak it in and enjoy how good Mahomes is as a true sophomore. They showed the stat during the game of the first 10 games of Mahomes, Graham Harrell and Kliff Kingsbury’s careers. Mahomes has completely flipped on Kingsbury and those stats aren’t close, but Mahomes is right there with Harrell (and Harrell had an extra year of being able to sit out and learn how to play). Presuming that Mahomes stays healthy, he breaks all sorts of records at Texas Tech.
8. Things Balanced Out. There was some concern that the Texas Tech defense was as bad as they had shown against Baylor and TCU and the question was if they would be able to revert to the norm, which is what I thought they were yesterday. Lots of yards and not as many points, while the offense was predictably terrific and couldn’t be stopped. I thought prior to the game that if the offense didn’t let up off the petal, then the game wouldn’t be close and thanks to an early Tevin Madison interception, that absolutely was true. Madison helped put the screws to Iowa State very early.
The two questions for the rest of the class to consider is how much improved is the team over last year and where does this team fall in regards to the rest of the Big 12? Last year, Iowa State made this game unconfortably close, but it was also one of the first starts (maybe the first) for Mahomes. It was on the road, but it was still close. This game, Texas Tech wins by 30 points in a relatively easy game. I think we’ll see much of the same against Kansas next week, as the Jayhawks just don’t have the personnel to match up with Texas Tech.
The improvement of this team isn’t going to be by leaps and bounds, as I don’t think that’s how teams get better from a year-to-year basis, but the things that Kingsbury preached from this summer have come to light, which is that if this team doesn’t turn the ball over and can be in the postive on turnover margin, then this is going to be an okay team.
The next question, and it was one that was posed by ESPN’s Max Olson, is how do you rank the group after Baylor and TCU? How would you rank Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, West Virginia and Texas Tech?
9. Offensive Line Penalties. This has got to be a tad bit frustrating for Lee Hays, a guy that I would guess preaches discipline, but the offensive line penalties were frustrating yesterda. Jared Kaster with a facemask, a Tony Morales false start, a Baylen Brown holding call weren’t good. I’m nitpicking here, but I think that the line could be even better and it stops with some of these holding calls.
To heap some praise on these guys, once again, they didn’t allow a sack and the lanes that they opened up for the running backs were tremendous. I especially loved Kaster pulling and making things happen was key to some of those plays and I love seeing some of these young guys get some time because they’ll be needed next year. And a guy that we never talk about because he almost never has any penalties and his opposing player almost never does anything productive on the field, La’Raven Clark, is a defensive line assasssin.
10. Grant is Very Much Improved. I haven’t even talked about one of the best players on the field on Saturday, Jakeem Grant. The diminutive receiver ended up with 9 catches for 166 yards, including a 75 yard touchdown haul that was all about Grant making a huge play. There is no question that I had my doubts that Grant could lead this team in receiving and that he wasn’t cut out to be a lead receiver for Texas Tech, but I think I’m wrong. No, I think I’m very wrong about that. Not only is Grant the lead receiver, he’s darn near doubled up the nearest competitor. We all wondered which one of the receivers would step up after Bradley Marquez graduated and it’s been Grant. He’s had one bad game in terms of drops, but he has exceeded my expectations this year and it hasn’t even been close.
And Grant has made plays. Like, he has literally turned a play that was a decent game into big touchdowns. Grant has improved his game and he’s been a joy to watch this year. I couldn’t be happier to be wrong.