Ten Things: Texas Tech 63, Houston 49

1. What. A. Game. As a disclaimer, I didn’t see the first 40 minutes of actual time for the game. I decided to mow on Saturday afternoon and I knew that I had DVR’ed the game, so I felt comfortable being able to pick up when I got done. I did not account for FOX staying with a Dodger blowout of the Cardinals, so I missed most of the first quarter had picked the game up when the national feed went with the game. Keeping track of everything that happened seems incredibly difficult. It’s a blur to me at times to remember everything that happened.

Some key things: 1) Scoring a touchdown with 0:03 remaining in the 2nd quarter to go up by 7 going into half time; 2) Texas Tech had 17 possessions (this includes their last possession where they essentially downed the ball and lost 13 yards) and scored 9 touchdowns; 3) Texas Tech had to punt on 3 of their first 4 possessions; 4) Texas Tech scored 2 touchdowns to end the first half and 2 touchdowns to start the third quarter; 5) Houston lost the ball on downs on 3 occasions; 6) Texas Tech had exactly 100 plays and 704 yards of offense; 7) Texas Tech had 10 kickoffs and 8 of there were for touchbacks; 8) Texas Tech went 7 for 7 in the red zone; 9) Houston had 1 sack; 10) No field goals.

2. Records Were Set. Alan Bowman and Antoine Wesley were absolutely dominant. There are two things that probably aren’t going to get enough play.

  1. Antoine Wesley is a very smart and physically talented wide receiver. I thought Brady Quinn’s comment about how Wesley came back to get that pass on one play that could have been an interception for Bowman is really an indication about how Wesley really helps his quarterback be great. Wesley coming back, with the ball a little high, but not being a problem for him because he’s 6’5″ resulted in a positive play. Watch how well Wesley does little things, like when he caught that fade in the end zone, he created separation because his arms are so long. A defensive back simply cannot get around him because of physics. Wesley is not particularly fast, but those long legs are like me (I’m 5’9″) trying to keep pace and run a marathon with someone who is 6’3″. Our legs are moving the same speed, but he’s making up a lot more ground. Wesley finishes with 13 catches for 261 yards and 3 touchdowns, averaging 20 yards a catch. That’s pretty impressive
  2. Alan Bowman was equally terrific, for a true freshman, Bowman delivered. I’m still not sold on his long pass, he had two of them yesterday, both to Wesley, but generally speaking, it’s not his strong suite. And that’s okay. That’s not a criticism, even after the Ole Miss game, it was really clear that Bowman was very good in and around the line of scrimmage, within 10 yards or so. He’s got that nailed and he finds the mismatches there rather than down the field. I don’t know how that’s going to work when you play a team like TCU, but that’s not my problem this week. Bowman finished 43 of 59, good for 73% of his passes completed, 605 yards, 5 touchdowns and no interceptions. That’s still over 10 yards per pass, which is really good.

3. The Offensive Line Was Impressive. Within the first quarter, it looked like the line was going to struggle very much with running the ball and not holding Ed Oliver. Travis Bruffy goes down and out and Madison Akamnonu is injured, so the entire left side of the line, the guy protecting Bowman’s blindside is replaced with Dawson Deaton and Jacob Hines and to write that they did admirably is an understatement. But eventually, things sort of worked themselves out. Oliver ended up finishing with just 6 tackles and 1 tackle for a loss, but no sacks and no quarterback pressures. And by the end of the game, freshman running back Ta’Zhawn Henry finished with 111 yards on 24 carries for 4.6 yards per carry and 4 touchdowns. Oliver was largely quiet for most of the second half, I don’t remember him making a play at all in the second half and you can credit the guys up front, Paul Stawarz, Jack Anderson, Terence Steele, Deaton and Hines.

This video has no sound from the booth, just the plays, which is something I haven’t seen before. And notice that Donta Thompson (see below) is the lead blocker on the pitch to Henry at 3:15.

4. The Pass Defense Needs Work. The pass defense was pretty bad in the first half and improved quite a bit I think in the second half. I don’t have the splits between the first and second half, but it felt significantly better. The problem was that the defense gave up some long plays and I think that a healthy Jah’Shawn Johnson helps, but he’s not here right now and the safeties really do need to improve. John Bonney and Vaughnte Dorsey got the start and they were both imperfect, which is fine, but there were some instances where there were long passes (and Dorsey just running past Williams on that long running play), but absolutely no safety help. I don’t know the play called, so who knows what’s happening, but Justus Parker and Douglas Coleman were both on the receiving end of touchdowns, but the safety was either late or simply ineffective to being able to help.

5. The Defensive Line and Linebackers Played Better in the Second Half. This is somewhat disingenuous because the defensive line and linebackers gave up 173 yards on the day and it looked like it was going to be a very long day. Some of it may have just been that Houston just didn’t run the ball that much in the second half in order to play catch-up. I don’t know, but at the very least, these guys were getting some splash plays. Texas Tech finished with 6 tackles for a loss, 1 sack, and 5 quarterback pressures. At least they were getting pressure and the total yards is going to look ridiculous, 635, although 75 of those yards came when Texas Tech was up by 3 touchdowns in the 4th quarter and Houston wasn’t coming back, but they didn’t want to down the ball. That’s still 560 total yards and Houston averaged 6.9 yards per play (Texas Tech averaged 7.0). That Baylor offense creates pressure and space and gaps and places for players to run. It’s wonderfully designed. I thought as a group, they played significantly better int he second half and I thought that Dakota Allen was special. His open field tackling is an art form and it’s beautiful to watch, the fact that he tracked down E’riq King on that one scramble in the second half was an absolute thing of beauty.

And I thought that Joe Wallace, Preston Gordon and Broderick Washington were very good in the second half. Gordon finished with 5 tackles and half a tackle for a loss, Wallace finished with 5 tackles and Washington finished with 4 tackles and another half a tackle for a loss.

6. Thompson Is Blocking his tail off. On the first Henry Touchdown, Donta Thompson is already taking a defender into the end zone with his blocking while the rest of the line is at the goal line. When Texas Tech has the ball at their own 30, up by 7 with 8:27 left in the 3rd quarter, Thompson is in as off-the-line of scrimmage tight end protecting the pocket (this is 3:24 on the highlight video above). You can almost be assured that if Thompson is in the game, that the first look is for Bowman to go deep because theoretically Thompson is supposed to give Bowman more time as an additional blocker. And it works to perfection. Houston shows they are bringing their 3 down linemen but blitz 2 linebackers. The right tackle deftly hands off one defender to Thompson and is essentially ready to pick up the 3rd linebacker that hasn’t blitzed yet. Everyone is stalemated along the line, Bowman slides to his right and drops one of his two long passes to Wesley. The very next play, the ball is at the Houston 13 yard line. It’s the exact same formation, but a toss to Henry. The offensive line has done their job, they’ve engaged everyone that needs to be engaged, and Thompson sees that the only player not blocked and engaged is the safety and he’s a man on a mission as that safety is blocked and Henry scoots into the end zone. The plays by Bowman, Wesley and Henry are all great, but they probably don’t happen without a competent player picking up a defensive end and picking up and blocking the safety. It’s just a matter of time before Thompson gets involved in the passing game and that gives Texas Tech yet another weapon down the road, but for now, Thompson being able to block the way he does is very significant and you should watch when he’s in the game.

7. No Turnover. For the first time in 16 games, the defense didn’t force a turnover. I think this is one of those things where this isn’t quite as noticeable when you don’t turn the ball over. If your offense is just turning the ball over on downs, that’s one thing, but when you give the opponent a short field, something that seemingly happened more than it should have last year, and you’re constantly trying to play catch-up after that, it’s a bad deal. The defense doesn’t have to get turnovers if the offense does their job, which it does more times than not.

8. Game Iconography.

Tortilla Tossin’ Player of the Game: I don’t know how you choose between Wesley and Bowman, so I won’t. They both deserve player of the games. Huge and record setting games from both of those young men.

Guns Up Offensive MVP: We’re going to give this to the battered, but still standing offensive line. Only giving up 1 sack, none of which went to the best defensive lineman in the nation, a 100 yard rusher in Henry and out two starters. And it helps that Bowman typically doesn’t hang onto the ball very often.

Sheriff Star Defensive MVP: My jaw dropped when Allen chased down King, I thought my eyes were deceiving me. That was just something we don’t typically see. 9 tackles, 7 of them solo, 1 tackle for a loss, 2 pass break-ups (batting the ball at the line of scrimmage), and 1 quarterback hurry. Allen’s ability to open field tackle is just great.

9. Quotes. Your press conference can be found here, and head coach Kliff Kingsbury was asked about Bowman’s progress:

Q. Has Bowman progressed faster than expected?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, you know, he’s come along about like I thought, I think. The receivers are playing really well. O-line had great pass protection. He just did a nice job of getting through his reads on these things. Pat did it against the No. 5 team in the country, and we weren’t very good, either. He’s got a long ways to go to be mentioned in that category, but I like how he’s progressed, and we’ve just got to keep working hard at it.

Kingsbury on Antoine Wesley:

Q. What about Antoine Wesley; he had some terrific catches today. You said before the start of the season you thought he was going to have a big season.
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, I thought beginning of spring he was really coming on. He had the injury, had a long rehab process, came back bigger, stronger, faster than ever, really worked hard at that. Drew Kruger, our trainer, had a great plan, and he just is continuing to develop that size, and he’s got more quickness than people would think. He works really hard at it, does everything right, so you cheer for a guy like that.

Q. He’s put up career numbers three weeks in a row now after having only 10 catches in his career. To do something like that, what does that do for a player’s confidence?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, I think he always believed he could have been playing. We had him in the wrong position, playing inside for a couple years, and he’s an outside wide receiver, and that’s where he feels comfortable, and he never complained, never moaned about it, just did his job, and then we got him back outside and you just see the confidence building and him getting better and better. And like I said, you’ve got to give him a lot of credit because he went through a grueling rehab with his injury and has come back better than he was before.

Kingsbury on the defense:

Q. Everybody is going to talk about the offensive stats of Houston, but you guys made some really big defensive plays at times that kept you in the game —
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Yeah, they’re really good. You can’t simulate that tempo. They’re going to have a great run in their conference. They’ve got it rolling. That quarterback is special the way he can make you miss with his feet, and he was putting balls on the money in the throwing game. Kendall had some really creative trick play type deals that got them out of 2nd and long, 3rd and long situations. So I was really proud of — after going through that chaos in first half, they settled in, had some big 4th down stops and gave us the stops we needed to win the game, and that’s what matters.

10. Final Thoughts & La Yapa.

A grown man taping his fingers for no reason at all.
  • Kendal Briles has taped his fingers as an offensive coordinator since Baylor and this is a trend that he continues to do. I would mock this act by a grown-ass man, but there’s really no point in doing this because it speaks for itself.
  • The 4th down in the third quarter with the pass completion to Vasher was a terrific play and the right play call. Kingsbury caught a ton of hell for some of the play calls against Ole Miss, but I thought his play calling in general was really good and that 4th down play was critical and a terrific play, get the ball to the guy that has a huge catch radius (big boy football term alert).
  • Being able to score before the end of the half needs to be emphasized, such a huge play, managing the clock was really terrific for Bowman. As mentioned above, it was very difficult to criticize the play calling throughout the game. Of course I missed probably the most frustrating part, the beginning of the game, so I’m at a disadvantage there.
  • We really need to talk about some of the other receiving performances, Ja’Deion High had 7 catches for 120 yards. The inside receivers aren’t as dominant as they were last year, but High is really filling a role here. T.J. Vasher had 6 for 94 yards and I think it’s interesting that both of his touchdowns were just drags across the end zone. Like Wesley, he’s a really tough cover because of his catch radius (look at me using big boy football terms).
  • Ta’Zhawn Henry had 153 yards from scrimmage, 111 yards rushing on 24 carries and 42 receiving on 7 catches. Having your running backs get 150 yards from scrimmage is usually a pretty good sign. And isn’t that some sort of record for a freshman running back? 4 touchdowns seems like that would be a record for a true freshman.
  • You still don’t like the penalties, 9 for 82, but the offense was seemingly much better in the second half, although I think Vasher had a holding penalty that didn’t hurt as much and Dorsey and Tony Jones each had late hit/roughing the passer that were not ideal. Have to work on those.
  • That double forward pass by Houston was the most illegal of plays and somehow didn’t get a review.
  • Kliff Kingsbury’s beard is 1-0.
  • Texas Tech dominated the time of possession, 35:38 to 24:22, a large part of that was Texas Tech’s ability to run the ball and Bowman’s ability to not turn the ball over.
  • Texas Tech completed 9 of 17 3rd downs. Want to know how an offense becomes great? This stat is above 50%.
  • I thought that Texas Tech’s conditioning was a pretty big deal in this game. It seemed like Houston tired as the game wore on and Texas Tech was really hitting their groove in the second half. Shout-out to Rusty Whitt, Scott Salwasser, and the entire staff there. The defense and the offense both didn’t seem to lose their legs as the game progressed.
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