Yet another 1 score loss. So the statement is out there that this team will certainly learn from its losses, that this is all part of the process. I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s a true statement or not. I hate to give you some sort of hope that this is a truth and I really don’t know that this is true. I want it to be true, I want it to mirror Chris Beard’s path, but there’s absolutely no correlation to a coach losing close games to then improving upon those losses. I honestly don’t know how a coach improves that other than having better players that can then make better plays. For all I know a coach may simply be disposed not coaching well enough to win close games. I didn’t think that this week, this was truly on Wells. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t coaching things to criticize, but I didn’t think this was something due to game management. A bad call by a referee on the other side of the field, a special teams gaffe to give up a touchdown after maybe gaining some momentum, and being unable to stop Kansas State on 3rd and longs when it was critical that you get the ball back.
I’m also a bit hurried this morning, so this Ten Things may be abbreviated (FN 1.).
FN 1. I’ve got to finish the men’s basketball preview, tip-off is at 1:00 p.m. and your preview and game day thread will go up at 10:00 a.m.
2. The Offense
Another really slow start, only 91 passing yards, 1 of 6 on 3rd downs, and only 3 points to show for an entire half of football. Thankfully there was some excellent running, but a slow start probably is a pretty big culprit. Oh, and the interceptions were pretty killer in terms of momentum, especially the 2nd one where it seemed like the thing that you gave up more than anything else was field position. At the end of the day, the offense ended up with 512 yards, 368 passing, and 160 rushing yards. Those are good numbers, but it just feels that the numbers referenced at the start of this section were pointless if you’re not putting points on the board. And Texas Tech did end up converting on some third downs, after starting 1 for 6, Texas Tech ended up converting 4 of 9 so that’s just fine. I’m not sure how to make things click offensively from the get-go because being able to create a hole for the opposing offense to have to climb out of would be really nice.
3. The Defense
Overall, the defense did a good job, but the most critical juncture of the game, the defense faltered. I think that’s probably being out on the field on a back and forth game and simply running out of gas, or maybe Kansas State called some terrific plays, but on 3rd and long with less than 4 minutes left in the game, the defense played well enough on 1st and 2nd down and then gave up huge 3rd down conversions. Overall, the defense only allowed Kansas State to run for 3.4 yards per rush, which is good, but allowed 5.7 yards per play on a Kansas State offense that wasn’t a world-beater.
4. The Special Teams
I wrote before the game that the one thing that Kansas State was really good at in terms of special teams (they’re actually good at a few) was kickoff returns and kickoff returns allowed. They also have a helluva kicker, which continued to be true. But back to the kickoff returns, Texas Tech only managed 24 yards a kickoff return, so there was really no huge benefit except until late in the game when Kesean Carter returned it for 41 yards. Up until that, there was not really anything there. Alternatively, Texas Tech allowed 2 kickoffs to be returned and one of them went for 100 yards and a touchdown.
5. Offensive Notes
- I did not think that the offensive line played all that well. The stats will show that they did play well, but it felt like Jett Duffey was under pressure the entire game, having to pull a rabbit out of the hat, and sometimes doing just that. The numbers will look fine, but I just didn’t feel that the offensive line dominated and the K-State defensive line was significantly pressuring Duffey for most of the second half. That one K-State defensive end was abusing Terence Steele for certain plays.
- TJ Vasher made a return, but he was targeted 3 times and didn’t make a catch.
- RJ Turner did play and was really starting over Vasher for the most part and was absolutely terrific. Texas Tech isn’t even in this game without Turner who had 7 catches (just 8 targets and the only drop was where he was nearly knocked out) for 141 yards and a touchdown. He was spectacular.
- Sarodorick Thompson was ao terrific, rushing 21 times for 84 yards, to go along with 7 catches for 28 yards. He very well may be the only scholarship running back healthy because Ta’Zhawn Henry didn’t play. Thompson is very good, I love watching him play, one of the legitimate bright spots for Texas Tech for sure.
- The receiving corps was a bit short-handed, only 5 receivers registered a target, with I think Caden Leggett getting some snaps, but not a look. Turner, McLane Mannix, who caught 4 of 7 for 33 yards, Erik Ezukanma who had 3 for 7 for 69, Kesean Carter who caught 3 of 5 for 27 yards, and the 3 Vasher targets.
- I know this is a bit forward thinking, but I’m feeling good about the future at tight end. I think that Donta Thompson has been an absolute God-send for this staff. I don’t know that Travis Koontz was ready to be a full-time tight end this year, but Thompson was and he’s proven to be really reliable. He caught 3 of 4 for 45 yards yesterday, while Koontz caught 2 for 25. Next year, it will be Koontz and probably the redshirted freshman who get the majority of snaps.
- Duffey only completed 57% of his passes which isn’t very good and he averaged about 6.8 yards per attempt, which again is relatively pedestrian. I thought some of his scrambles were divine in some respects, seemingly impossible, but he escaped and grabbed some yards.
- David Yost’s “trick” plays are pretty terrible. I’d like for Yost to put a little more thought in some of these plays because they’re generally not inventive and they don’t work on a pretty consistent basis. It would be better to just run what you run and go from there.
6. Defensive Notes
- The last four penalties in the game were all bail-out situations, mostly where the pass was generally underthown, and Douglas Coleman, Desmon Smith, Adam Beck, and Zech McPhearson all had huge 15 yard (or a first down) pass interference calls.
- Riko Jeffers recorded the only sack and he was good, but he sure does like to talk. I’m not really used to that, but I don’t think there’s really any way of getting around that. Jeffers finished with 7 tackles and 2 tackles for a loss, one of those being that sack.
- I was very glad to see Jordyn Brooks back on the field and even if he was at 50% it was still better than what the alternative was.
- Xavier Benson had 8 tackles and no real splash plays and I think if he adds 10 pounds he’s going to be very tough to stop.
- The secondary may just need to be fired into the sun. I do not get the aforementioned penalties and the huge pass completions. I’m not a smart enough football man to figure it out, but it feels as if the secondary guys are good athletes and they should not be last in the nation in passing yards allowed (Texas Tech may not be last, but it’s near the bottom). I would think that some significant change needs to happen here in the offseason because whatever is happening here is not working. I think this unit regressed. Yes, the turnovers that Douglas Coleman has produced has somewhat minimized the overall negative effect, but Texas Tech is 128th in passing yards allowed (there’s only 130 teams) and 99th in passer rating. And now that I look back at 2018, Texas Tech was 129th in passing yards allowed and 90th in passer rating. So maybe they haven’t regressed at all. Maybe this is just what they are.
Head coach Matt Wells opening statement:
MATT WELLS: Well, it was a tough, hard fought game. Tough ending for us. But it’s a lot of heart and a lot of passion. I thought it was a good football game. Tough. Kind of a tale of two halves. First half saw defense, both sides, really just playing tough, hard nosed, sound, very fundamental defense on both sides. And then you come out in the second half and both offenses kind of get going. Unfortunately, we give up a couple shots and but we get right back in it. Kickoff return, the touch may have been the difference in the ball game. Outstanding play by that kid.
But these seniors have a special place in my heart. What they did to help us continue — or to set this foundation, I think it reflects a passion, it reflects a toughness and a fight and a grit. I think we have all seen that. Unfortunately, we have come up short again and that will never be good enough in terms of the win and loss and we all know that. But we’re going to keep knocking on that door and we’re going to keep fighting and these wins are coming and they’re coming soon. And when they come, they’re going to come in bunches. I know that it’s frustrating right now for us. It’s frustrating for our players, because we’re so close. But we’re going to continue to fight and stick together and that’s one thing that I respect about that locker room is they have not turned on each other and they have stuck it out and, through a lot of frustration, just in terms of the scoreboard and the results. But I am very proud of them. Go ahead and open it up for questions.
I think that Wells answers this question correctly regarding the close losses.
Q. The fact that this is your fourth loss in conference by three points or less, is that just where you are talent-wise relative to other teams or you’re not playing with quite as much poise as you need to late in games, or what do you think is the reason for that?
MATT WELLS: Well, it’s a good question. I haven’t stopped to think about it in terms of that. That sounds like an off season question for me. I mean, when you want, if you want to assess talent, it’s the fourth loss with three points or less, we’re pretty close. I mean, I don’t think it’s — we are very, very thin in some spots. I think that we have got to build our depth. And our numbers are very, very, are low in some positions. We have to recruit. We have to develop. I’m not sure we have completely lost our poise, but there’s been some times that you do make mistakes at the end of the game where it can be pointed at poise. I think there were a couple games that I don’t think should have gotten to that too. So I do think that will be something that’s addressed and looked at as we get into the off season though.
Wells on Duffey:
Q. How do you think Jett played overall?
MATT WELLS: You know, can’t throw two picks. I think that his scrambles were outstanding. I thought his demeanor, I thought his verbiage in terms of the things that he did, we have had very little the last couple weeks, mistakes in terms of the plays and the signals and all that. And we changed a lot of stuff this week. He handled that very well. I thought he handled the clock well, scrambling, the run game stuff, very well. And, you know, and I’m sure he would tell you he wishes he had both picks back.
And Wells answers why Ta’Zhawn Henry and Demarcus Fields didn’t play:
Q. What did Damarcus and Ta’Zhawn have tonight?
MATT WELLS: Ta’Zhawn actually got hurt in pregame and I didn’t see it. And he kind of got, he got banged up. Hit heads in pregame. And our trainers and doctors ruled him out before the game.
Damarcus is just battling a hip injury and was kind of questionable. Probably could have gone if it was an emergency, but trying to battle it through the week. I think he’ll be good for next week
8. Stats and Things
- Texas Tech had 8 penalties for 92 yards including the 4 defensive holding or pass interference penalties.
- The time of possession was pretty much 50/50 until Kansas State possessed the ball for the last 4 or so minutes, 32:15 for Kansas State to 27:45 for Texas Tech.
- Texas Tech converted 2 of 4 third and shorts and was 0-2 on third and goals (was robbed of 1 of them by the refs, that Ez-E touchdown was a touchdown).
- Texas Tech lost the turnover battle again, Kansas State had 2 picks to just 1 for Texas Tech.
- Texas Tech had 31 rushing attempts to 50 passing attempts and averaged 6.3 yards per play, including a whopping 7.5 yards per play in the second half and 4.9 yards per play in the first half.
9. Looking Ahead
It’s a short week, game-day is Friday and it seems that two completely battered teams will face off on the day after Thanksgiving at 11:00 a.m. I have no doubt that I will not be ready with all of the things that I’m supposed to post.
10. The Final Word
Like I said to start, I’ve been doing this long enough to know that lots of times there are no universal truths. I’ve had to learn some of those. I told myself over-and-over that Kliff Kingsbury’s early arrivals to the facility and ridiculous work-ethic would eventually pay off. The problem was that this work was put into the team and the offense and not much else (which is fine, I’m past this and I’m not bring this up to dig at anyone or Kingsbury, he is who he is and that’s okay). But that idea of “if you work hard it will eventually pay off” was not true. I somewhat had to re-evaluate how I thought about things. And I think the same is true about these close losses. I think that certain things can help, like better players, a deeper roster, better coaching decisions, better plays on the field, etc., they all help pull in the right direction, but I can’t say with certainty that if the team loses close games in one year, they’ll be better the next. That’s not a correlation that I can guy into right now.
What has to get better is the offense needs to be a bit more inventive at times. The defense needs a significant upgrade in the defensive backfield, the special teams needs to be more consistent. Wells needs to learn not to be so conservative in how he calls plays. The staff needs to recruit their ass off in December. And the strength and conditioning coaches need to put their work in during the offseason. Do all of those things and sure, these losses could turn into wins.
I just can’t make the promise that they will.