1. The Setting
Good Guys: Texas Tech Red Raiders (5-3, 3-2)
Bad Guys: Oklahoma Sooners (7-1, 4-1)
When to Watch: Saturday, November 3rd @ 7:00 p.m.
Where to Watch: Jones AT&T Stadium | Lubbock, Texas
How to Watch: ABC | WatchESPN
How to Listen: 97.3 FM | Affiliates | TuneIn App
The Line: Oklahoma -13.5 (OddsShark)
2. Uniform Tracker
3. The Big Storyline
I did not realize how many of you were legitimate upset about Jett Duffey not playing. I normally go on this rant about how the back-up is the most popular player on the team and to live it up because it’s never going to get any better than when you have it as a backup quarterback. For whatever reason, I thought we sort of moved past that simply because of Patrick Mahomes and then Nic Shimonek. We saw last year, that playing the backup is probably not the best idea (see the UT game where I guess it worked out for the first bit, but then McLane Carter was replaced). I had not realized that so many of you are clamoring for Jett Duffey to play and I remember when I was that guy when the season started.
Intrepid reporter Don Williams asked Kingsbury why Duffey didn’t play and he pretty much said that he turns the ball over too much and he doesn’t study the playbook:
“That’s a very good question,” Kingsbury said Tuesday. “I think the ball security is something that he’s got to get better at. He’s got a very strong arm, he’s very talented and so he’ll take some risks. But he’s got to know when to fold ’em, know when to throw it away.
“And just an overall understanding of our system: installing a game plan, studying it, preparing to be the starter each and every week. I think those are things as a young player he’s got to continue to develop on.”
So what are the things that Kingsbury values as a quarterback? Production, turnovers, and knowing what you are doing. He can pretty much take anything else, but if you turn the ball over, which Duffey is prone to do, then you just aren’t going to play. And I don’t know that any of us are qualified to speak on the last part that Kingsbury values, studying the playbook, but I presume he wouldn’t have said it as much in September if it wasn’t true. And the fact that Kingsbury had to same something maybe motivated Duffey, but isn’t that the problem?
As to the first part, production, this is what got Shimonek benched in 2017 and truthfully it was really just one game that pushed Kingsbury over the edge. On the year, Shimonek had 33 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions and had an average quarterbak rating of 152 for the year. In 2017 Texas Tech had a 4 game losing streak and Shimonek’s rating is in parentheses, West Virginia (160), Iowa State (113), Oklahoma (167), and Kansas State (149). That streak was snapped with a win over Baylor (177). Then Texas Tech hosted TCU (80.34) where Shimonek was terrible with a capital T. That’s what got Shimonek benched.
As far as Bowman is concerned, as a true freshman, Bowman has an average quarterback rating of 148 and here’s his ratings for the year: Ole Miss (113), Lamar (209), Houston (187), Oklahoma State (154), West Virginia (103), Kansas (170), and Iowa State (101). So Bowman is getting close to getting benched for performance and production, the West Virginia game, where Bowman was knocked out early, started incredibly slow and warmed up before he was knocked out of the game. The Iowa State game was a stinker and lots of young guys go through those games and if I had to guess, Kingsbury wants to see if he’ll get better.
When Mahomes was a sophomore in 2015, he had an average quarterback rating of 147 and he had a stinker of a game, in fact it was against Oklahoma where Mahomes had a rating of 102, having just 1 touchdown and throwing 4 interceptions. Other than some early games for Mahomes (like in 2014 when he was a true freshman) he had terrible games against TCU (that was the 82 point debacle) and that very first game against Oklahoma State wasn’t real good. But Mahomes improved the rest of the year in 2014. But I mention that even as a sophomore, Mahomes is entrenched as the starter and he pretty much just flops against Oklahoma, Mahomes would come back and throw 15 touchdowns and 5 interceptions the rest of the way with an average rating of 147.
I get your anxiety about the situation, trust me, I do, but it’s too early. If Bowman has another stinker against Oklahoma then yeah, I think the discussion is something we can have. But I think Kingsbury wants to see how Bowman bounces back. And truthfully, even then, Kingsbury may give Bowman more than just the Oklahoma game because there’s a pretty good chance that Bowman may not look great because Texas Tech could be playing from behind no matter who is at quarterback. I won’t tell you to relax, but I will say that I get it. I’ve been the chief engineer for the Duffey hype train during the offseason and I still think he’s got a ton of talent, but if one of Duffey’s detriments is not knowing the playbook as well and Bowman does and has been productive except for the last game, well that’s not enough for what we’ve seen of Kingsbury to replace Bowman. Kingsbury typically gives a quarterback at least one game to get better.
Freshman Tracker: Bowman, Ta’Zhawn Henry, and KeSean Carter were the only freshmen to play last week.
4. Keys for Texas Tech
- A lot is on the offense to keep pace with the Oklahoma offense. It’s going to be really tough and somethings are going to have to fall Texas Tech’s way. I think this means that the running game and the offensive line are going to need to improve significantly over the last week because what happened last week and the week before that and the week before that. That’s right, the running game has really been in a funk since the TCU game where Texas Tech averaged 3.5 yards per carry, and then 3.2 against Kansas and 1.25 last week against Iowa State. There’s been a sharp decline in productivity and that really has to stop and if the offense wants to give Bowman a shot, it starts with the offensive line and running backs just being better. Maybe the key to making the running game work is to get hats on linebackers Kenneth Murray and Curtis Bolton. Those guys are making plays all over the field and if they’re not blocked, then they’re most likely going to be involved in the tackle. Neutralizing them will go a long ways to moving the ball against the Sooners. And as one of those interesting nuggests, Texas Tech is essentially averaging 5 carries more a game than last year, averaged 35 carries last year and 40 this year.
- The defense is going to be charged with stopping the explosive plays that the Sooners seem to create with ease. And when watching highlights, you keep wondering why is that guy (it could be any guy) so wide open and it’s because the Sooners have so many weapons, it is incredibly difficult to just pinpoint one guy to stop, there’s a handful of them and they can all beat you. I know that I keep talking up the Oklahoma offense to the point that it might make you ill, but they are that good and anyone that tries to tell you differently is not telling you the truth.
- The Oklahoma offense is human in some respects, they are surprisingly 67th in third and long situations, so that would be something to look for. In fact, the average third down distance is 7.7 yards, which is 87th in the nation, so they do miss and when they do, forcing them into long third downs is a good thing. The defense has to turn those into stops.
- Embrace the moment. Weird things are supposed to happen in Lubbock at night right around Halloween. It has been ten years ago when we were all jumping around our living rooms or at the stadium celebrating an unlikely victory. It seems as if those weird moments haven’t happened in quite some time and I hope the students and fans (me included) embrace that and give Texas Tech an advantage. I hope that the attitude is that anything can happen. And if you are curious about what tipped the scales against Texas against the Sooners it was 3 turnovers, and time of possession for the Longhorns.
5. What to Watch
We miss the first touchdown and why that tight end is so open, but get used to that . . . the second play, the OU offensive line does a fantastic job of putting hats on defenders and the K-State defenders are unsure about whether or not Murray is going run or pass, and that indecision is what beats opposing teams so bad . . . this next play is just so LOL and it is simple and bad defense by Kansas State, but you can see the receivers beat coverage before you could blink and Murray makes an easy play . . . I’m sure that play was targeting . . . we can’t really take anything from K-State’s touchdown because Texas Tech doesn’t do that . . . a simple pitch for a touchdown . . . almost every one of these plays is play action and-or zone read, every single one and I guess why not, I mention that the indecision is what causes problems . . . this pass to Lamb could have been mitigated with a good tackle or pass break-up and not tackling was a problem for K-State . . . even when Murray isn’t in the game, OU does play-action . . . again K-State scores, but I don’t think Texas Tech really does that . . .
The first play is non-play action but that doesn’t mean that the OU receiver isn’t wide open, and the receiver is in the slot position and just drags across the field, where you just can’t cover a receiver that long and the TCU zone coverage breaks down . . . punt return for a touchdown (by a person no longer on the team) . . . a 4th and 1 ends up going for a 20 yard touchdown you would think that TCU would have more players along the line of scrimmage, but the receivers run 3-verts and it’s so wide open . . . goodness, the offensive line just blocks so well and the running back makes people miss, I think that Murray is just counting defenders in the box and chooses what to do when that happens, whether he keeps the ball or runs the ball, this being a running play because the receivers are down the field blocking, but Murray could have kept it and run outside but with the defensive end crashing, it’s an easy call to the running back . . . empty backfield and it’s not a difficult route, just one that is executed well for a touchdown . . . a tunnel screen takes advantage of an aggressive OU defense (same guy no longer on the team) . . . single coverage for the OU defense, not a lot to do here other take a chance down the field, which I think Texas Tech will have advantages over the OU defenders . . . again, we get the guy in the slot, just dragging across the middle and getting lost in the zone coverage where Murray finds him open . . . just a beautiful read by the running back to cut against the grain in a simple zone blocking scheme and the TCU defense is nowhere to be found . . . do not throw interceptions in your own end zone and cover tight ends on third and goal . . .
6. Coach’s Corner
No official transcript and I couldn’t find one source that had multiple quotes other than Lincoln Riley saying that he could care less about the Cleveland Browns job (and shouldn’t it have been “couldn’t care less”?).
“Our team played a really complete game and made some improvements, certainly, from the last week,” Riley said afterward. “The team is listening. They’re listening to what we’re putting in front of them as a staff. They’re responding and it’s fun when you get all three sides rolling like that. Great team win.”
“I think we’re playing a little more consistent right now. That’s probably the biggest thing,” Riley said of his defense. “I think getting some of these young guys back healthy has created competition with more ability on the field. Some of those young guys are certainly playing better and they’ve just got a good demeanor and mentally right now.”
“We hit some big ones,” Riley said of his offense. “Had a few at the right time. Guys made some great plays. I think it started with the physicality though, with us being able to run the ball. I thought our backs ran really hard. We played another very strong game up front. Once you can do that, you put teams in tough positions.”
Light a Fire: Has to be the offensive line. I don’t think the running backs are running any more or less tough, they just don’t have any opportunity to run. And as you all know, this is all a bit symbiotic, the running game will be better if the passing game can open things up, and that’s one of the things that Bowman didn’t do a very good job at last week, which is getting the ball down the field (that one completion to Wesley is the exception). I think I want the responsibility of opening up that passing game on the offensive line.
Eraser Wanted: Normally I choose a defensive player here, but we’ve almost gone the entire season without mentioning the special teams before the game. Dominic Panazzolo has been special this year. Panazzolo has been 6th in the nation in punt efficiency and has flipped the field numerous times. And Clayton Hatfield has made 10 of 11 field goals, plus 44 of 44 on point after attempts. Panazzolo especially has been great at erasing opportunities with his punting and he gave the offense multiple opportunities (along with the defense) the ability to make the Iowa State game a game of field position. It was this close to working.
Needs Repair: Turnovers. If you want this game to fade away gently into the night, then turn the ball over like last week and it will be over by halftime. Texas Tech has had 3 turnovers in games against West Virginia, Kansas and Iowa State. Ther were 3 interceptions against WVU, 2 by Duffey and 1 by Bowman, 1 interception against Kansas and 2 fumbles, while the 3 picks last week were killers. This trend cannot continue and Oklahoma will absolutely dominate if the Red Raiders turn the ball over. This trend has to get reversed.
Under the Microscope: I think it is imperative that some of the other receiving threats have big games. It has seemingly been a two-man receiving group, with Antoine Wesley and Ja’Deion High making most of the plays. I’d love to see T.J. Vasher, Zach Austin, KeSean Carter and Seth Collins have big days receiving and I’d also be interested to see if the running backs can get some slip screens against an aggressive Oklahoma defense. I think those are going to be key this week.
Tacos vs. Burritos Matchup of the Week: Antoine Wesley & T.J. Vahser vs. Parnell Motley and Tre Brown – Motley (6-0/177) and Brown (5-10/182) aren’t very big and I get that there will be safety help, but Wesley and Vasher will need to feast against a smaller secondary. Bowman will have to throw it where Wesley and Vasher can get it and that’s got to be one of the key components to the offense succeeding. If Wesley and Vasher (to a lesser extent) don’t have big games, then I don’t know that this game will be close.