1. Clark Might be the Most Important Player on the Team. Goodness gracious. By no means am I going to say that the Texas Tech offense was good, but at the very least, the offense put up 20 points in the first half, but when Le’Raven Clark went down late in the second quarter, the offense would only manage 3 points the rest of the way and were saved by the son of a former Dallas Cowboy who seems to have a flair for sealing football games for Texas Tech (see the Arkansas game for Exhibit B). After Clark went down, Baylen Brown moved to left tackle and Robert Castaneda moved to right tackle. This did not work out well at all. In addition to having those guys playing, Texas Tech also saw Tony Morales filling in at right guard. Something has to give here because if Clark is out for an extended period of time, this could get ugly at Norman. The Kansas ends would rush as fast as they could up the field and once the interior of the line was somewhat spread out, the interior of the line would come up on stunts or a delayed rush and it was a mess. Brown and Castaneda couldn’t set the edge and that was a huge problem.
2. Johnson’s Saving Play. There’s no reason to let this go further down the list because Jah’Shawn Johnson is just terrific. And I mean absolutely terrific. I’m not at all saying that he’s a perfect player because no one on this defense can say that, but this is the second game that he sealed a win. And without being prone to hyperbole, he saved this game.
I typed this after the game, but prior to Texas Tech taking the ball after Kansas had just scored to pull the game within 3 points, 23-20, I wrote that Texas Tech HAD to score on that drive. It looked promising and DeAndre Washington did everything possible to make it happen with a huge run, but Mahomes is almost sacked on 2nd down and actually sacked on 3rd down created a situation where Texas Tech was too far away for a field goal and too close to punt. Texas Tech punted, and ended up being the best decision that head coach Kliff Kingsbury made all day.
The punt ended up pinning Kansas at their own 7 yard line and had it not been for Branden Jackson and Breiden Fehoko fighting over a fumble from Willis, Texas Tech would have scored there. That was a crazy second down, that led to 3rd down and 6 and Willis is scrambling and tries to find his receiver, not seeing Johnson bracketing said receiver. It was a terrific read and play as Johnson stepped in front of the receiver and made a terrific play.
The next thing that happened is what makes Johnson a gamer. Being a “gamer” i a bit of a funny term and it’s undefinable, but after intercepting the ball, Johnson very well could have gone down and settled for just possessing the ball. I can almost guarantee you that he’ll never do that in his career. What Johnson did is he ran and wiggled his way to a touchdown. I was almost sure that he would fumble the ball, but he just kept churning for yards and even reversed field on the flipping play. Johnson didn’t settle and he thought that the interception wasn’t enough.
I should also mention that other than Gaines giving up that touchdown, his first half hit to cause the fumble and then get that turnover was terrific. Not perfect, but he’s making things happen out there.
3. Mahomes’ Worst Game. By far, this was Patrick Mahomes worst game, which is saying something. It was his worst game, but he ended up throwing for 359 yards, only 1 touchdown and 1 interception, while running for 29 yards on 13 carries. Mahomes could have thrown for 3 or 4 interceptions had Kansas caught the ball and thankfully, for Texas Tech and Mahomes, that never happened. I thought that Kansas would run a ton of zone coverage, and to my very untrained eye, that’s what happened. Although, I think what also happened is what happened last year, which is that the corners were physical with the receivers at the line of scrimmage, preventing the short stuff, and allowing the Kansas defensive line to pressure Mahomes, who hardly had any time at all to make a play. What I didn’t expect was for the offensive line to completely fall apart (see above). Mahomes forced way too much, but he was trying to make a play out of nothing for most of the second half. At the very least he was trying, which you can totally blame him for trying too hard, because that’s exactly what happened. I have a tough time placing too much on Mahomes. Kingsbury said that Mahomes missed reads and that he didn’t have a very good game, that’s something only Kingsbury and Mahomes know. There were a ton of dropped passes and Mahomes, at times, threw behind receivers.
4. Washington Was Good. It appeared that DeAndrew Washington was bottled up for most of the afternoon, battling what appeared to be a line that didn’t provide much of any room for him to run. Not only that, but Justin Stockton was limited to 5 carries for 17 yards. Any time he touched the ball, there was nothing there. Absolutely nothing. Washington did persevere and it appeared that by the end of the game, he had worn down the Kansas defense. He had a 45 yard run towards the end of the game that should have been a score of some sort, and at the end of the game, Washington ran for 2 yards and then he rattled of 17. Then he ran for 3 more on second down, and Mahomes sealed the end of the game to run for a first down on 3rd and 4. By the end of the game, Washington had rushed 22 times for 160 yards and a touchdown, but even Washington, the usually sure-handed receiver, dropped at least 1 screen pass that would have gone for some good yardage. NO one was perfect and it showed.
5. Young Receivers Shrink. The freshmen, aside from Tony Brown who actually caught 2 passes for 29 yards, they all pretty much were absent. I don’t write down every drop, perhaps I should, but it seemed like an epidemic for this game and it almost cost Texas Tech the game. The problem in diagnosing this sort of game is that the camera angles don’t let us figure out what happened in the secondary, but what we can presume is that these guys were covered up because Mahomes typically does a terrific job of seeing pretty much everything down the field. The presumption is that there was nothing there or it was covered up. Devin Lauderdale did return to play this week, and he played okay, although he had a critical fumble that resulted in a first down, but fighting for extra yardage resulted in a play where he appeared that he hurt his leg a bit. Before the game, i thought that the Kansas defensive backs would end up playing incredibly physical, which is what plagued the receivers last year.
The bright spots were Reginald Davis being able to clear a dropped pass to then pull in a touchdown on a pretty play into the endzone (2 for 57), while Zach Austin (8 for 80), Jakeem Grant (6 for 76), Devin Lauderdale (5 for 50), Cameron Batson (2 for 58) and Tony Brown (2 for 29) all had okay days, but there were still too many dropped passes.
6. Kudos to Jackson. For the first time in a really long time, I felt that Branden Jackson was a physical presence. Actually dominating on the line of scrimmage and making plays behind the line of scrimmage. Not every play mind you, but I thought that yesterday was the best game that Jackson had ever played at Texas Tech. He finished with 6 tackles, 1 sack, a forced fumble (stripping the ball from a Willis pass attempt where Robertson then made the recovery) and one pass break-up. It’s been a long time coming for Jackson and it hasn’t been easy for him to be a presence, but I thought he was certainly a presence yesterday and I hope that’s a harbinger of things to come with Jackson through the rest of the schedule. I thought, generally speaking, the defensive line and linebackers also played their best game of the year. Granted, it was against a fairly less than spectacular Kansas offense, but in looking at their performance, it seemed like they did a pretty good job of making plays and all things considered, they kept things in front of them pretty much all day. There were a couple of long runs for Kansas, but generally speaking, Mann’s run of 41 was the longest of the day.
7. That Was One Heck of a Play. Kudos to Clark and David Brenner, especially Brenner. That was a thing of beauty.
8. Hoping for a Mistake. It seemed that David Gibbs general plan, and I think I would have done the same thing, was to give Willis any and all of the underneath stuff. Obviously, the touchdown to get Kansas within 3 points wasn’t underneath, but that was the lone impactful pass play that I can recall where Willis went over the top of the defense. Gaines was running from behind after getting picked a bit, so he wasn’t easy for him to catch up, but it was a beautiful play call. In any event, it seemed that Gibbs was willing to give Wills the short stuff all day, and hopefully lure him into making a mistake. That didn’t happen until late, when Willis threw an interception that cost Kansas the chance to tie the game. As most of you know, I’m pretty conservative and it makes sense to force a freshman quarterback to make some plays and he made almost every short to intermmediate throw he was asked to make. I’d also say that I think part of the success getting pressure late in the game was the constant rotation of the defensive line. Late in the game, the Kansas offensive line was overwhelmed and that’s when I thought that Jackson and the entire crew looked dominant.
9. Shooting Self in Foot Often. Quite Often. What an odd game, to see a defensive holding on Breiden Fehoko, and I can’t recall Le’Raven Clark getting a holding call this year, but both of those things happened. Both situations exasperated drives, Fehoko’s penalties gave Kansas an additional 10 yards on one play and rather than 1st and goal from the 9, it was first and goal from the 4. Kansas promptly missed the field goal, but most teams are going to score a touchdown there. Clark’s was part of the drive that resulted in Mahomes scrambling on 4th down and 4, only to come up a yard short. Texas Tech had a 2nd and 1 staring at them, an easy conversion and that penalty set Texas Tech back to the point they couldn’t come back.
The frustrating penalties were the unsportsman like conduct on Jared Kaster for jumping on and pushing down a player after the play was over. Everyone was just standing around. Rather than just a 3rd and 8, Texas Tech was facing a 3rd and 23 situation, one where most teams don’t convert that (despite last week’s conversion of 3 and 30). Because of that penalty, Clayton Hatfield missed a field goal, hitting the bottom crossbar. Just think what would have happened had Hatfield been given a few extra yards.
Then, another personal foul on Kaster and Brown for chop blocking, one where Washington had just run for 12 yards on a nice option play. Rather than a first down, Texas Tech is now facing 3rd and 14, a third down where Mahomes is going to need time to throw the ball, time that the offensive line doesn’t give Mahomes as he’s hurried and throws an incomplete pass to Grant.
It seems as if Kaster if frustrated by the play of the line or maybe his own play, he’s prone to make plays that are detrimental to this team and as a senior, he has to be better than that. He just has to be better. He’s too smart to allow the game to get away from him, and as the offensive line is falling apart, he’s got to pull them together as best he can. It’s just disappointing because this appears to be a pattern with Kaster, but this also means I have high expectations for him.
10. We All Just Choked on That Side of the Ball. Quotes via LAJ’s Don Williams:
“(The defense) kept bailing us out,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “Offensively, that’s on me as a coach for not having them ready to go. Guys got nervous and we really choked on that side of the ball – drops and penalties and fumbles.
“They were not interested in playing hard. (Kansas) outplayed us and they outcoached us on that side of the ball. But, I am really proud of the defense for stepping up and winning that game.”
Whenever there is a bad showing, Kingsbury doesn’t throw his team under the bus. He always takes the blame, I think that’s what good coaches do. Granted, Kingsbury and Lee Hays weren’t out there missing blocks and Eric Morris and Darrin Chiaverini weren’t out there dropping passes. Kingsbury mentioned that he was out coached, and that’s something that’s always tough for me to write because there’s so many things that I don’t know about how the game is being called versus what’s happening out on the field. Is the disconnect the coaching or the players executing what needs to happen on the field. I don’t have a clue. If a coach says it, then absolutely.
Oklahoma is coming up next and there’s two narratives heading into that game. Either Texas Tech needed a wake-up call, in which case this team will play better next Saturday, or this team is regressing. I do think it’s important to note that it was still a win, which is great, although it feels like a loss. The expectation everyone had coming into this game was that it was going to be a blow-out win, but for whatever reason, football is a funny game. I never would have thought that Oklahoma would have lost to Texas last week and then follow that up with an absolute blowout of Kansas State in Manhattan. You’re never as bad as you think you are or as good as you think you are, you’re always somewhere in between.
I’d imagine that Kingsbury is going to be tough on these guys this week because he and we all have higher expectations of the offense. That’s a good thing. I don’t think that Oklahoma is as dominating as the Kansas State win or as bad as the Texas loss. Saturday should be fascinating.