If you have a healthy disdain for Kool-Aid, then I'll warn you ahead of time
that this probably isn't the article for you. I'm going to be a bit exaggerative
in places because, well, it's been a long time since I've been able to write a
feature in which I can shower the Texas Tech players and coaches with so much
praise. And, they deserve every bit of it.
This team is starting to develop an identity. It's one that knows how well they
are capable of playing and that they let one slip away from them last week when
they played their C-game and lost to the top team in the conference. They were
ready to brutally punish whoever they played this week and that's the way good
I will say that I felt West Virginia was just as exposed as it was a statement
game from the Red Raiders. Kansas State will drill them in Morgantown this week
and, so will any team in the conference that can appropriately drop into sound
zone coverage. Definitely the Sooners. I won't be surprised if they lose in
Stillwater and Ames as well, but none the less, they were ranked No. 5 in the
country and everyone consensually agreed they were a good football team before
this game so let's not cheapen it any at this juncture.
West Virginia is still a solid bowl team at worst and this dismantling by
chainsaw warrants praise. The only bad news is the injuries. Tech has a lot of
guys on the roster that have played good football in every game, the Oklahoma
game included, and this was the fruits of their labor. They just need to play
well and they'll be fine.
I couldn't have been happier for Neal Brown and his staff. They needed
this game as badly as anyone in front of a home crowd. The Red Raiders'
preparation and gameplanning for West Virginia's deficiencies showed up from the
first drive of the game and never let up.
I like seeing things on the field that were successful for other teams and just
copying them since everyone has the same playbook. Brown obviously noticed in
the Baylor and Texas games that West Virginia cannot, for the life of them,
cover a slot receiver on a wheel route from the twins set in zone. They also
can't cover a 6-foot-5, 260-pound tight end who runs a 4.5. Tech's offense
skipped the process of picking at a scab until it bleeds and just punched
straight through the sternum creating a sucking chest wound.
This was easily my favorite Neal Brown moment to date. Outstanding work of
dissecting a questionable outfit in a game where good offense was a key
ingredient for good defense. The Red Raiders got touchdowns.
I'm even more happy for Seth Doege today. He had to have this game.
This was his first victory over a Big 12 opponent at home as the team's
full-time starter. If he plays like that every week, it surely won't be his
last. We saw a fiery side of Doege that played with a killer instinct. There
were a lot of people watching this game on a national scale and bringing your
A-game to an expected shootout reflects a bit of mental toughness. A
well-deserved Offensive MVP award for him. We saw improved decision making and
he climbed the pocket into pressure much better this week allowing him better
field vision and form on his throws.
SaDale Foster stole the show with the electric touchdown run right
before the half to all but seal the game. I knew Foster was quick, but I didn't
realize his top end speed was that good. Four defenders had an angle on him and
he blew past all of them. Just as impressive was his vision in setting up all
the blocks down field. Kenny Williams has more of a bull in a china
shop style and was brutally effective until he fumbled. Those were some monster
plays in the passing game. Hopefully he can get the ball security issues
resolved. Eric Stephens has always been an underrated short yardage
back and he's finding a critical post-injury role as a specialist.
The identity that is being developed by the Red Raiders' receiving corps is one
that screams you-better-enjoy-playing-contact-football-when-you-line-up-with-us.
A lot of the damage they inflict, not only physically, but psychologically
occurs on plays where they don't have the ball. Eric Ward,
Tyson Williams and Jace Amaro catch a few balls each game and spend the
rest of their time kicking someone's ass. The officials threw a
playing-football-too-mean penalty on Ward in the first half.
On any given run or pass play you typically see a defensive back getting a
swirlie in the Gatorade cooler on the sideline or being pinned down on the turf
getting punched in the chest until forced to say uncle, if not simultaneously.
Williams' value is not gained in the amount of yards and catches he has as much
as the fact that you have to cover him with a linebacker in the run game.
This was a breakout game for Amaro in more ways than his five catches for 157
yards and a touchdown indicated. This is the first week we've really seen Amaro
start to handle defensive ends in the run game without tackle help and he
becomes a whole different level of weapon at that point. He's mauling defensive
backs in Tech's screen game and downfield blocking. I hope he recovers quickly
because the lightbulb seemed to come on for him in this game and he's capable of
changing the way football is played in this conference. It takes a special type
of talent to do that from the tight end position.
This duo of Amaro and Williams gives me some confidence that the Red Raiders
give teams some of the same problems the Missouri offense did a few years back
with Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman, but Amaro is taking it to the next level
in the passing game. That 62-yard catch would have been an amazing play for
Michael Crabtree. I'm honestly still not sure what his ceiling is and this is
the first time in his career that he really showed the game had slowed down for
him. Tech's offense can hit a whole different level if they can start forcing
teams to put an extra linebacker on the field and then try to cover those two
Williams is my kind of football player and his value with only increase the
further the Red Raiders get into conference play. Foster's play won't be the
last 50-yard plus touchdown the team houses in the run game if they play like
this every week.
Tech won the physical game in this contest and tapped WVU out with three minutes
left in the first quarter. The team's inside receivers averaged over 22 yards a
catch on 13 receptions and got a big play from the run game as a result of their
downfield blocking. These guys were getting it done. They were probably a
28-point swing in quality of talent between what their counterparts produced.
This facilitates even more space on the outside for their teammates and Ward and
Darrin Moore took every advantage outplaying Stedman Bailey
and Tavon Austin. I would have never predicted that. Moore ran great
routes and showed no fear going over the middle proving to be a serious red zone
threat with three touchdowns. Marcus Kennard showed up big once
Bradley Marquez went down.
Much better play this weekend and the Red Raiders showed that, if they avoid our
own mental mistakes, they can physically handle someone. We're past the point of
talking about Le'Raven Clark becoming a good player and recognize that
he already is. Terry McDaniel is playing the best football of his
career and together they performed well.
Tech seems to be molding something consistent here with their zone blocking
behind those two guys. West Virginia was a team that thrives on blitzes, sacks
and negative run plays and you would have never guessed that from watching the
game. I think that's the best complement I can give them. We'll move on.
I've had a chance to watch most of the defenses in the Big 12 now. The Red
Raiders don't anything fancy or exotic and there is no secret. They've got 11
guys playing with great leverage on each play as consistently as anyone in this
conference. That's their secret. Leverage. And, I'm not just referencing the run
game, where they are going to be a bit susceptible to off tackle zone/power
plays against their nickel package, but have shown the ability to scheme around
it. Tech is playing with as good of leverage in their zone drops as any defense
I've watched. The team has gone stretches at a time against every opponent on
the schedule where it appears they are playing with 13 guys in coverage.
Art Kaufman chose not to blitz as much this game, playing coverage and
letting his pass rushers work to the quarterback and the Red Raiders looked the
best they have all season. In fact, they looked better than LSU did against WVU
last year. It's organized. It's disciplined. It's focused. And, I like it.
Creating chaos is often a product of not having it yourself.
This is where Tech is succeeding while others around them fail at attempting
similar basic concepts. Kaufman had Dana Holgorsen frustrated by the
second quarter and blaming the wind by halftime. The team's goals were obvious
through their level of play. Tackle well in front of you and don't let anything
The Red Raiders have found a perfect spot for Tre' Porter and it allows
the defense to accomplish things from their nickel package that they couldn't
accomplish with a base nickel defense.
Mark this date down right here: Oct. 6, 2012. That's the day
Delvon Simmons arrived. He was a bright spot last week against a solid Sooner
offensive line, but he was really more of a difference maker this week. I'm not
sure how he'll project for the rest of the schedule, but he's making some of the
same plays those really good guys from the big name programs make on the
Kerry Hyder was back wrecking shop this week finishing second on the
team with six tackles. Tech is largely playing Hyder as the team's one-tech and
Simmons at the three-tech, which could be some kind of brilliant strategic move
that I haven't quite thought of the answer for.
Against a pass happy offense the Red Raiders relied on Pete Robertson
more to facilitate a better pass rush. They also left him in long enough to
where it was cleary that they trust him a little more against the run and
Robertson responded. He's got really long arms with man strength and uses that
asset well to separate from blockers. Nobody has manhandled him yet despite his
size deficiency. I'm guessing Tech will start to rely on him more as the season
progresses if he continues to do a nice job setting the edge on run plays while
giving the team a guy on the field that can juke around a tackle. Robertson
plays much bigger than he is. Dartwan Bush can't hold up too many
series against a committed off tackle game, so developing fresh depth here will
be critical in the weeks to come.
Jackson Richards is having a great season and does everything that his
coaches ask of him pretty well. It's good to have those kind of guys on the
field. When you throw Branden Jackson in the mix, I can't remember
feeling better about Tech's defensive end two-deep.
Overall, the defensive line had 17 tackles between four positions and that
usually means you were getting run plays on the ground for minimal damage. The
Red Raiders can be had with the aforementioned off-tackle zone plays using lead
blockers against nickel personnel, but that's not an unusual weakness of any
defense. Tech rotates its defensive ends appropriately and will eventually
answer with a linebacker if they really need to stop you, but they're not going
to fall for play-action in the process.
Smart football feels good.
Blake Dees seemed to play more than Will Smith --
understandable given how Smith battled illness all week -- and was great in
coverage and cleaned up a few plays. Terrance Bullitt ran around and
did some good things. I can't stress enough how good they all were at filling
their passing lanes and denying the ball. There is a difference in how Jim
Boeheim and Pat Knight play zone defense. It's not meant to be a passivist
approach to guarding an opponent.
Geno Smith started the game 7-of-9 for 81 yards and a touchdown. He
finished 19-of-46 for 194 yards and no touchdowns. I'm not sure there is an end
point to writing good things about them.
You hate to see Cornelius Douglas go down but Bruce Jones
answered the call more than admirably. That's two weeks in a row that
Eugene Neboh has made big play after big play on a national platform against top
10 opponents. How do you define big time player again?
This is another great example of how well the Red Raiders understand the
concepts of leverage. Watch their cornerbacks cover a go route. They do a text
book job of using the sideline as a third defender denying back shoulder throws.
Teams generally complete deep balls to their outside receivers three yards out
of bounds if Tech doesn't swat it out of their hands in a six-inch window on the
field of play.
Porter has been a luxury the last two weeks in neutralizing the two preseason
first-team All-Big 12 wide receivers out of the slot position. He's probably the
one guy who is still making more mistakes than anyone, but Porter's also the
only one on the roster capable of executing the assignments he has been given
and he's been great at playing the next play. He gets a little tied up by
blockers at times, but he serves as an asset over the course of four quarters.
While I was happy for Tuberville, Brown and Doege, no one more deserved this
game than Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson. These two guys have
been through the most in the defense debauchery of the last two years and, like
most safeties, when they have been asked to over-compensated for other areas of
deficiency, they have been made to look at bad football players. Those days
seems like years ago at the mid-way point of the Red Raiders' schedule and no
other safety in the Big 12 will be spoken of more highly than Cody Davis.
In the last two weeks, Davis has missed one open field tackle, which is two less
than Texas averages every play. He has played like a star. Davis reads plays
fast, runs to the football and gets people on the ground. It's much harder to do
than he's making it look. Johnson has been a calming force, who has done a great
job protecting the deep ball. He appears to be the most vocal leader on the
defense and is demanding high standards from those around him and keeping them
focused. It was definitely the best Tech's secondary has played in the modern
passing era of the last 10 years.