Kliff Kingsbury is now 3-3 against Iowa State as a head coach. Wait, what? Yeah I know, .500 isn’t ideal over six years, but it could be worse. Guess what, Texas Tech is also 5-3 and just scored a primetime night game on ABC at home at The Jones too. But Keith, I thought the sky was falling what with the gnashing of teeth yesterday? No faithful reader, that’s just what losing feels like, especially losing one you can win. I’m not here to pretend that was a fun loss, but lets put it in perspective. That was a game that not so long ago would have been a throttling at the hands of the Cyclones. There is no doubt in my mind that even with a freshman quarterback, this team has taken a step forward in many ways this season, despite the frustrations and week-to-week ups and downs of Big 12 play. That being said, this game was still an emotional whipping for fans and I have not been looking forward to finding any silver lining.
You Broke My Heart Award
For Tech to win this game we knew that all three sides of the ball would need to be on their A-game for four quarters. If there is one person to lay the “blame” of losing on it is 100% Alan Bowman. Alan Bowman is capable of performing as well as any quarterback in the country, I believe that because we’ve seen him do it. Unfortunately, this week he didn’t even give us a glimpse of the player he’s capable of being. Bowman literally threw this game away. He finished the game 32/56 for 323 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions, and a safety. He also had 9 carries for 4 yards and a touchdown. Coming into this game Bowman was #6 in the nation with a 71% completion percentage, he finished the day at 57%. This game was so bad his season average dropped to 67%. Bowman missed open receivers ALL DAY LONG. Most notably, he overthrew men in the flat, missed screen receivers, and missed his safety valve passes. The most basic short throws seemed out of his ability all day long. I’m not sure what was going on with him but to say he looked “off” is an understatement.
Bowman needed to be great and he wasn’t, he threw three AWFUL interceptions that required almost no effort by the defense, including a pick-six. The safety that ultimately destroyed Tech’s chances to win the game was also a bonehead move. A play action from the 12-yard line shouldn’t end up in a game-ending safety. Bowman mishandled the snap, he mishandled the pressure, and Iowa State made him pay. Pressure is fair to bring up as well, Bowman was sacked twice and hurried nine times, but I don’t think all of that is the fault of the offensive line. Bowman and his line being in sync is important to improve pass protection and they seemed to not be communicating well. Penalties stacked up, multiple snap issues occurred, and when pressure did come, Bowman was far too quick to throw it away or he just didn’t have his head on straight about what to do with it. Bowman has had the ability to “feel” the pressure and avoid it well this season by stepping up or rolling out. This week he seemed to move into the pressure almost every time it came. He just wasn’t making plays. If he was just having an off day he picked a really bad place to do it.
Where’d You Go? Award
The running game finished the day with a combined 24 carries for 30 yards and a touchdown. Ward and Henry had another 10 catches for 46 yards to add as well. The long run on the day was 12 yards and Bowman found some success that’s not reflected in the box score scrambling against Iowa State’s three-man rush. I’m baffled as to why the offensive play calling for Tech didn’t find more ways to get Bowman some space to run. I know there are probably those asking about why not try to use Duffey to make some things happen as well, especially running. I can see the reason for the question but I also see the reason for totally avoiding it. Duffey did come in twice but only handed off to Ward and drew a Cyclone timeout. Even with Bowman struggling it looked like Tech was in a position to win the game, with a well-executed drive just right around the corner. Kliff has always been partial to sticking with his starter, both for his qb’s mental toughness and avoiding getting into some kind of two-quarterback system.
Red Raider rushers have not been world-beaters this season. But as a group they’ve been solid, it’s a deep unit, so it’s been nice to know you have that safety valve to go to that can get you into 3rd and manageable situations. Texas Tech running backs have combined for 987 yards and 19 touchdowns on 231 carries and have contributed another 234 yards on 42 catches as well. The fact that there were only 15 rushes by backs illustrates that the play-calling was lopsided this game and that the backs just weren’t getting anywhere. I’m surprised that the coaching staff didn’t try out other runners. Ward had 10 carries, Henry 4, and Felton only 1. Henry found the most success but didn’t get any opportunities to find a rhythm. Texas Tech has been pretty balanced this season based on rushing vs. passing plays. The passing game has been more productive, but rushers have kept defenses honest. That absolutely didn’t happen on Saturday and the Cyclones made the Red Raiders pay.
Just Shut Up Award
I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a color analyst talk that much. I do a little bit of sports radio and I probably shouldn’t be critical because I’m neither experienced nor any good. But man, that guy destroyed me. He never stopped talking, his takes were cold and weak, and he told us he went to Texas about 47 times. I mean I know it was an 11 a.m. game on ESPN2, but did we have to have a Longhorn Network call-up on the broadcasting team? Surely someone else was available – anyone else.
Shining Star Award
Man, talk about being a bright spot in a frustrating day, the Special Teams units really put together some good stuff. Tech basically opened the game with a punt block for a touchdown, setting the tone early. Thomas Leggett blocked the kick and snagged it as it bounced into the end zone giving the Red Raiders an early 7-0 lead. Clayton Hatfield did everything asked of him making his only field goal try from 28 yards and going 4/4 in extra points. Hatfield also had nearly every kickoff go for a touchback. One of the only special teams miscues on the day was allowing a 58-yard kickoff return.
Dominic Panazollo continued his very high level of play putting on a punting clinic. Panazzolo’s 7 punts went for an impressive 302 yards and a long of 56 yards. He averaged 43.1 yards per punt, dropping all but one inside the 20-yard line and multiple inside the 10. Panazzolo deserves credit for his part in a defensive touchdown as well. Because of his ability to drop dimes inside the five, Kliff opted for a punt in potential four-down territory pinning the Cyclones deep once again. A strip of Brock Purdy by Riko Jeffers in the end zone was covered by Dakota Allen which tied the game at 31. When Dom is on, he is a game-changing weapon for the Red Raiders.
I’m Proud of You Award
On paper, they gave up 40 points, but you and I both know there’s a lot more to unpack there than that. The offense turned the ball over three times, including a pick-six that gave up 7 points, so that’s down to 33. On top of that, the defense forced a punt following Bowman’s second interception, forced a missed field goal on Iowa State’s second possession, and again on the Cyclones’ first possession of the second half. Additionally, they only allowed a field goal after a rare special teams coverage miscue allowed a 58 yard return. That’s pretty salty to start with a field that short and still force the kick.
Between a fumble recovery for a touchdown in the end zone and a blocked punt recovered for a touchdown (yeah it’s still fair to count for defense and special teams) this unit accounted for 45% of Tech’s points on the day – FORTY-FIVE PERCENT. Now I get it, they’re not ‘Bama and they’re not a shutdown, punch you in the mouth defense. But imagine this game with any other Tech defense of the Kliff Kingsbury era – yeah, not a pretty though, so I’m glad they are where they are, and I think the future is bright.
On the day the defense finished with a combined 3 sacks, 6 tackles for loss, 5 passes defended, 3 quarterback hurries, and a touchdown. After Dakota Allen, who once again led the way, Riko Jeffers, Jah’Shawn Johnson, Vaughnte Dorsey, and Broderick Washington rounded out the top five. They combined for 32 (15 solo) of the team’s remaining 71 tackles (35 solo), 1 of 3 sacks, and 2 of 5 tackles for loss. There were a lot of great plays in the secondary throughout the day as well, some you’ll see below.
Dakota Allen, LB – Allen once again led the team in tackles with 16 on the day (2 solo), 2 tackles for loss, 1 quarterback hurry, and a fumble recovery. Dakota isn’t leading the nation in any categories or operating as a stat monster, but he’s the leader of a much-improved defense and he makes his teammates better. Allen flies to the ball, gets into position to back his teammates up downfield, and terrorizes opposing offenses in ways the stats don’t always show. I predicted we’d begin seeing more big plays from him and that was evident this week. Allen recovered a stripped fumble for a touchdown because he always is directly in the middle of the play.
Antoine Wesley, WR – Wesley was the only receiver over 100 yards this week and the only one with a touchdown. He finished the day with 8 catches for 119 yards and one touchdown. That touchdown was also his long of 31 yards, a catch that was very similar to one he made against West Virginia in the North End Zone at The Jones. Wesley has become a big and consistent receiver on the outside. He has impressively strong hands, great body control, and solid top-end speed. He’s also strong in the screen game and can come out of the slot creating mismatches. But honestly, anytime he’s running down a sideline there’s almost automatically a mismatch.
Big 12 Officiating – This is just a joke at this point. Some of these calls have gotten so ridiculous that the Big 12 should be ashamed of itself. Normally I am not one to rail on the officials, in fact I think people complaining about officiating is one of the most annoying and petty things in sports. But I’ve seen some horrible officiating at multiple levels this season both in person and otherwise and my opinion is turning. Some of these guys are just trash and they do a terrible job. I don’t think officiating cost Texas Tech a game, but they definitely cost Tech some opportunities and there were plenty of no-calls, particularly on the line, that gave Iowa state some freebies.
I Want to Believe So Stop Making It So DANG DIFFICULT Award
I know the pre-season rankings between friends ran the gamut from those hoping for an 8-win season to those expecting coming away with 3 or 4 victories and a new coaching staff. Well, the Red Raiders are 5-3 (3-2). They’re sitting at 5th in the Big 12 currently with two teams below them (KState and Baylor) left to play and two above (Texas & Oklahoma) as well. I’m not going to sit here and pump sunshine, I try to be a pretty level-headed guy when it comes to this stuff. While I want the Red Raiders to do well and I prefer to find the silver lining, I think it’s pretty logical to say that there are still good things ahead for this team. They absolutely have things to fix but I don’t believe they deserve our ire, hellfire and brimstone, or our disgust.
- They simply cannot be inconsistent on offense. The prolific passing offense (even in a more balanced look) is Tech’s greatest strength and they have to show up and perform week in and week out. Alan Bowman is a true freshman, so we can do our best to be reasonable in our expectations, but we’ve seen him perform at incredibly high levels so it’s hard not to weave those performances into our expectations and want him to SHOW UP. In case it’s not clear I’m frustrated with the young gunslinger this week. Three picks, a safety, and 57% do not win ballgames, but it can force you to grow up and walk into a big one with something to prove.
- The coaching staff has to find ways to make the rush offense more effective and to come back to it throughout the game. We’ve given a lot of credit to the blocking schemes and play-calling input Kevin Johns has brought to the team. We’ve also given Kliff a lot of credit for growing up this season and out-scheming, out-gameplanning, and out-calling his opponents. Well, this game feels like one that neither Johns nor Kingsbury were able to put everything together. They left questions for fans, which is always even more frustrating than the loss itself. Why not go to other backs besides Ward? They’ve ridden the hot hand all season, Ward shouldn’t be the automatic feature back just because he’s back from a groin injury.
We can re-litigate this game all night and still not find any conclusion or peace about its outcome. It was frustrating to see your star youngster give it away, especially when other units did a lot to help this team win. All we can ask is for these guys to put in their best week of work yet. They need to come out firing on all cylinders, punch OU in the mouth in an ABC primetime game, and make the Jones rock like another blackout from 10 years ago. Make no mistake, OU is beatable, and while Kyler Murray is talented and their defense is improving, they are still porous and they lack other major offensive weapons. This game is winnable by a Tech team in top form. That’s why I buy season tickets, for these moments, I want to see these guys fight to the last man.