Whew boy! Nothing feels better than to wash the stink of that West Virginia game off us by going into a 1/2 empty Amon G. Carter and beating the TCU Horned Frogs in a game defined by defense. It’s funny to hear broadcasters lose their minds over Texas Tech having a defense that can stand up and win the Red Raiders a game when needed. Despite fears and frustrations, the Texas Tech faithful have known this was coming and that sooner or later this unit was going to put together a performance to be proud of, in a situation where they were desperately needed.
Got ‘Em Award
The Red Raider defense has allowed one touchdown in the second half of Tech’s three Big 12 games this season. That’s not just an arbitrary stat, it’s no secret that winning the second half is important for winning football games and requires the mental toughness and determination to finish. With three games to look at we’re seeing this defense step up and give this team a chance to win. Even when down by a lot against West Virginia it was the defense that stepped up and gave the Red Raiders an opportunity to win by shutting the Mountaineers out in the second half. Dakota Allen once again led the way with 8 tackles (5 solo) and 2 quarterback hurries. The team has been drinking whatever is in Allen’s water as well with 46 of the team’s combined 66 tackles of the solo variety. They also had no trouble getting fired up and started from the first snap. You’ll notice below three of the highlights are from the first quarter.
Tech’s defense over the last 20 years has infuriated fans and often that comes from an inability to execute basic tackling, so my hat is off to David Gibbs and his staff for instilling the fundamentals necessary for success. Tackling certainly involves technique but it is also defined by aggression and physicality and this defense is playing with much more of those two things than I can recall seeing. Herbstreit came back to the point several times that Tech’s defensive line is playing much more physical football than in the past and this week they were getting pressure on Shawn Robinson without bringing the house. That’s always going to be a great recipe for success. I know this unit isn’t highly ranked, but in many individual defensive categories they’re ranked in the 40-60 range nationally, which isn’t awful and feels like an improvement. Most notably, however, they are ranked #20 in the country in third down conversion percentage defense. That just made me smile as I typed it, the Red Raiders are shutting opponents down consistently when it counts. It was fun to listen to the broadcast crew slowly turn from talking about Tech’s defense being ok, to being impressed, to being floored by seeing this defense dominate and ultimately win the game for the Red Raiders. This team and unit made a statement on Thursday, now it’s time to back it up.
You Da Real MVP Award
The Aussie Panazzolo punted 7 times for 297 yards (42.4 average) with a long of 50 and three inside the 20. His consistent punting was a difference-maker in a game like this that was tight throughout and field position was an important factor. To compare, the Horned Frogs were also forced to punt 7 times but only averaged 35 yards per punt, with his last two being just awful. In the fourth quarter, after penalties and a sack pulled the Red Raiders out of a red zone opportunity, Panazzolo dropped a 35-yard dime inside the 1-yard line to pin TCU down. The defense shut them down and TCU’s 35-yard punt from their own 3-yard line gave Tech their best starting field position of the day. A single Jett Duffey run from there gave the Red Raiders the go-ahead score.
Congrats to Panazzolo for working through some early-season woes and finding a groove to bring consistency to that position. He had another opportunity to pin TCU back earlier in the game and boomed it for a touchback, he responded well when the opportunity arose again. Panazzolo also boomed his final punt and it was downed around the 2-yard line forcing a long field for TCU’s final drive opportunity.
Stanley Approves Award
Kliff Kingsbury, HC
I hope I continue having the opportunity to give Kliff awards throughout the season. I’ve contended for some time that we’re seeing him turn a corner as a head coach and I think that continued to be evident in Ft. Worth. Kliff called a great game despite the frustrations of Jett Duffey’s inconsistency and inability to consistently execute the offense at a high level. There were some great designed moments that exploited TCU’s defensive play calls and Duffey deserves credit for his execution in those situations. Even beyond the passes and runs themselves, Duffey looked off safeties and exploited the defensive schemes. Most notably, I think the amount of one on one coaching Kliff was doing was fantastic. He was spending time with Duffey at every opportunity. Whether it was coaching up technique, decision making, digging into his reads, or chewing on him Kliff was there trying to make him better series by series.
There’s another remarkable storyline here that deserves mentioning – injuries. Obviously, quarterback injuries continue to plague the Red Raiders and hold down offensive production. But effecting this game in particular starting center Paul Stawarz did not travel with the team as a result of an injury which pressed junior Bailey Smith into action. Smith received his share of snap infractions throughout the game which inflated the penalty total. I’m not one to make excuses, but I think considering the situation there can be some understanding regarding his learning curve. Compounding the offensive line woes was seeing starting left tackle and Team Captain Travis Bruffy go down in the second quarter. Redshirt Freshman Dawson Deaton was pressed into service and the two most important positions on the offensive line were missing starters. Also, T.J. Vasher appeared to injure his back in the first quarter and left for the game. Kliff and company found ways to adjust for these both with Duffey’s mobility and great play calling that capitalized on the defensive aggression that Gary Patterson is known for.
Nailed It Award
Jett Duffey, QB
I have never been on the Jett Duffey train, in fact, when all of the quarterback conversations were going on in the pre-season I put my money on Bowman to start. That certainly didn’t happen as expected, but whatever, I’ll take it and gladly claim that win. But Duffey deserves credit where it’s due for this game. He wasn’t a world-beater and he wasn’t lights out amazing, but he executed when it counted. I was ready to throw my shoe at the tv when Duffey failed on a third-down conversion trying to scramble and get the corner and did the same on the ensuing fourth down. But that’s easy to forget when you see the plays below that were the difference in the game. The broadcast crew broke down the touchdown to Ja’Deion High and talked about busted coverage, but looking closely I think that was all Duffey. The linebacker didn’t go with the fly route like he should have, but Duffey recognized that. He looked the safety all the way over to the sideline before throwing a gorgeous strike to High downfield knowing if he could pull the safety himself then High would be wide open. That was an excellent play call to use TCU’s defense to Tech’s advantage and it was beautifully executed by all.
Duffey finished the day 13/24 for 190 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception, he also chipped in 16 carries for 83 yards and another touchdown. Duffey was Tech’s leading rusher on the day and his long of 38 yards was ultimately the game-deciding play. Kliff gave Duffey kudos in the locker room after giving the team Friday and Saturday off. Duffey showed real mental toughness fighting through adversity with two linemen and a top target out, on the road, in his first start of his college career. He took non-stop coaching from Kingsbury and even when they gave McClane Carter a try after halftime he had to bounce back in and immediately perform again. Duffey also took better care of the football in part thanks to better play calling that took advantage of his strengths. He did throw one interception that was negated by a roughing the passer penalty on TCU and another that in reality was more of an arm punt. Overall he had a solid game and he got the most important stat of all – he got the W.
GET THE BALL!!
- A lateral pass was dropped and the Red Raiders didn’t jump on it despite surrounding it.
- Jordyn Brooks intercepted a pass that bounced off the wide receiver’s knee but then brought it out of the end zone setting his team up with terrible field position.
- Shawn Robinson fumbled on a scramble and Tech couldn’t grab it, setting the Horned Frogs up in the red zone.
- Adrian Frye had an interception go through/off his hands.
- Douglas Coleman had an interception go through his hands in the third quarter.
- The out of bounds leg fumble would have been a turnover if Coleman had caught the ball when it popped directly into his hands prior to hitting the TCU player’s leg.
- Douglas Coleman had an interception go through his hands late in the game.
David Gibbs has been all about creating opportunities for turnovers, and while the defense is finding success without significant turnover numbers, they definitely need to do a better job capitalizing on the opportunities that come their way. West Virginia and Will Grier are more turnover-prone than they showed in Lubbock, which was evident against Kansas last week. The Jayhawks lead the nation in turnovers gained and turnover margin so they get some credit for creating those but the Red Raiders should be better at creating those opportunities and that could have been the difference against the Mountaineers.
Texas Tech simply has to begin capitalizing on their opportunities, whether it’s a heads-up play, a potential lateral pass, or grabbing interceptions. The Horned Frogs coughed it up 4 times and Tech only fell on one of those fumbles. Notice I’m not hammering on the ridiculous out of bounds on the leg fumble, that’s a rule that needs to be tweaked and clarified for specific situations. But, that ball initially popped right into a defender’s bread basket and he didn’t snag it.
Shining Star Award
Dakota Allen continues to be absolutely everywhere for the Texas Tech defense. He led the team with 8 tackles (5 solo) and 2 quarterback hurries. He made a shoestring tackle from the side to save a first down and stop a potential breakaway by Jalen Reagor. He consistently pursued, chased, pushed around, and out-Whataburgered the TCU offense all over the field. The stats don’t reflect it, but in rewatching the game I think Allen forced two of TCU’s four fumbles, including the one Texas Tech recovered. Allen makes others around him better and his name isn’t called over and over for huge plays, but he is deserving of any hype he gets, he’s the real deal. Remember that Jordyn Brooks interception in the end zone? Did you notice who was in Robinson’s face forcing him backward and throwing off his back foot? Yep, you got it.
Balanced Offense – Tech passed for 202 yards and a touchdown on Thursday and rushed for 151 and a touchdown. That 151 reflects 23 lost yards as well so overall the Red Raiders found a lot of balance against the Horned Frogs despite missing men and challenges. In wins, Tech has averaged over 180 yards rushing per game. This stable of backs have been a powerful tool for the Red Raiders and I look forward to seeing the run game grow and develop in coming games and seasons.
Adrian Frye, CB – Redshirt freshman Adrian Frye has cemented his place in the Texas Tech secondary. He saw his first action in the Lamar game where he snagged two interceptions (one a pick-six) and tipped another ball that was intercepted by Vaughnte Dorsey. Since then he’s snagged two more picks and is tied for #1 in the nation in interceptions gained is #2 in the nation in interceptions per game. For the season Frye has recorded 8 tackles, 4 interceptions, 1 touchdown, and 8 passes defended. I know I’m giving him an award for a season’s worth of work but I think he deserves some credit, and while his interception this game wasn’t difficult, it did seal the win for the Red Raiders. Players like Frye really give a lot of hope for the future as they continue to build the defense around young playmakers.
What Just Happened Award
Well, that was unexpected! The over/under for this game was 61.5 points and I think a lot of folks agreed with Spencer Rogers that the under was a reasonable expectation, but I don’t think any of us expected to see Tech reimagine its offense for Jett Duffey and win with defense. To me the game was pretty cut and dry:
- Jett Duffey executed when it counted both with his arm and his legs.
- The defense did absolutely everything asked of them and more.
- Tech defined the pace and tone of this game and outshined a school (and coach) that are heralded for their defense.
This was a big win for the Red Raiders. Owning TCU in Ft. Worth again not only feels awesome but doing it starting a third-string quarterback and with three other offensive starters out with injuries it showed that this team is more resilient and determined than we have given them credit for. They’ve bounced back from both losses with strong victories, this time on the road in a conference game. Credit to the coaches is due as well, on offense for adjusting to the strengths of Jett Duffey and dealing with the lost players. On defense, this team held Shawn Robinson to a quarterback rating of 52.7 and only allowed 121 yards rushing when TCU averages almost 190 yards per game. The gameplan was well-executed and I’ll give credit to the coaches here for really digging in and doing their homework on TCU and finding opportunities to exploit. Duffey’s touchdown scamper was a designed run, and the Red Raiders held onto that play waiting for the right time to call it and embarrass the defense.
All that being said, I certainly don’t want to continue to see games of this type. The Red Raiders need to get healthy and put their best players back on the field on offense. I can’t imagine Alan Bowman isn’t ready to go against Kansas. I can understand the wish to keep him healthy assuming the Jayhawks are an easy win, but they’re not. As I said above, Kansas leads the nation in turnover margin and turnovers gained, so Bowman is definitely the best option for executing the offense and making smart decisions that protect the football. Also, I’d be nervous to see Bowman sit through another game and get out of his groove going to Ames and facing a surging Iowa State team.
Enjoy the win folks and I hope the Jones is packed for the 2:30 p.m. kickoff against the Jayhawks.