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November 13, 2012

Kansas Post-Mortem

Let's talk about the big picture first. This is the fourth Kansas game I've seen this year. In those games, they are 0-4 with the following losses: TCU 20-6, OSU 20-14, UT 21-17 and Tech 41-34. Not being the team that loses to them is somewhat of an accomplishment in itself. They've been competitive, they're hungry and they're playing for pride. Plus, they've got some good players on both sides of the ball and that makes them dangerous. I'll take any win over a loss.

This was the last home game for Cody Davis, D.J. Johnson, LaAdrian Waddle, Terry McDaniel, Deveric Gallington, Seth Doege, Eric Stephens, Alex Torres, Austin Zouzalik, Darrin Moore, Tyson Williams, Marcus Kennard, Leon Mackey, Eugene Neboh, Happiness Osunde, Cornelius Douglas (injured), Chris Yeakey and Andrew Bowman, so congratulations go out to them for finishing off their career at home with a win.

For those guys who got here back in 2008 and 2009, they are the first graduating class I have covered for their entire careers. You couldn't ask for a better group of guys and representatives of Texas Tech. After going 5-7, this was as critical a season as any in the last 30 years. New competition was threatening the Red Raiders' turf and it was imperative they put together a winning season. Despite what any of them can't do, they have done everything they could with their ability to get the team to 7-3 and a top 25 ranking. Much respect out to this group of seniors and I'll throw Eric Ward, Kerry Hyder and Terrance Bullitt in that group since they got to Lubbock in 2009.

Tech has two winnable games remaining in which the results will determine if this is a borderline magical season by Red Raider standards. That will be a substantial program turnaround for a group generally picked to finish ninth in the conference and one of historical proportions for Tech. There is still very much at stake in this season and opportunity awaits. Somewhere, I hope they can squeeze out their last bit of adrenaline to get two more wins. They certainly deserve it. Thank you.


OFFENSE

There are two sides to this coin. On the side with a unicorn farting a rainbow is the Kansas defense has allowed an average of 20 points per game and 400 total yards against a Casey Pachall/Waymon James TCU offense, the top ranked offense in the conference during a monsoon and a quarterback who has looked exceptional facing everyone but them and Oklahoma. Putting up 27 points and 521 yards at seven yards per play in regulation with less than ideal passing conditions would generally be translated as a positive by a casual, unbiased fan from the SEC. This might have been the game to settle for another field goal in the red zone.

On the side with Bill Snyder waterboarding a kitten is sloppy discipline and execution by the group previously mentioned. I would have much rather the clocked expired with the 45-20 margin of victory it should have been. I tend to keep flipping it to maintain a fairly balanced state of emotion and realize that the Red Raiders are capable of beating any team in the conference with this unit or losing to them. They're certainly going to need to play at a high level these last two weeks to help relieve a group that is running out of steam on the other side.


Quarterback

Doege made one bad decision that resulted in a 14-point swing in the ball game. Around that, he threw for 476 yards and three touchdowns on 45 of 58 attempts. That is insane. Doege is on schedule to throw for over 4,000 yards, an over 70 percent completion rate, 41 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. With Baylor's defense still on tap, look for Doege to surpass that projection.

Running Back

Tech attempted five runs in the first half and one of them was to the team's backup quarterback. In the second half, Kenny Williams and SaDale Foster both gained some critical yardage, ran better than their blocking at times and contributed in the passing game. Eric Stephens was responsible for both of Tech's overtime touchdowns. I wish they could get some more consistent blocking as I think they are all capable players.

Wide Receiver

Eric Ward had a career-high 12 catches for 180 yards and the Red Raiders wouldn't have won this game without him. Ward made amends for a key drop with a huge play in overtime. Darrin Moore was big as well and scored two touchdowns. The inside receivers were more involved this week with a 162 receiving yards on 17 catches and two touchdowns.

Offensive Line

Pass protection remained a strength, while the run blocking was laborious at best.

DEFENSE

The game of football sometimes comes down to a numbers game and this largely summarizes the Red Raiders' struggles against Kansas. In Tech's front seven, Tech has two guys, Hyder and Delvon Simmons, who win roughly nine out of every 10 snaps. That's winning football. Surrounding them, Tech has five guys on the field, who win roughly five out of every 10 snaps. That's a bit of a crapshoot.

So if you're Charlie Weis and suffering from a limited passing attack, a sound gameplan might be to test the law of averages on the Red Raider perimeter defense with two good running backs. While Tech did force seven punts, allowing 370 rushing yards is an unacceptable level of play unless the opponent is Oregon.

Just about everything bad happened that could. Whipped by blockers, missed assignments, over-pursuit, late pursuit, outflanked in the numbers game, etc. It's amazing that this is such an improvement over last season. Overall, the Red Raiders seem to be a group that has played over their heads during the first half of the season and are running out of steam.

Defensive Line

Hyder and Simmons continue to be a force that opponents gameplan around. Both spent the majority of the day behind the line of scrimmage and made some really great plays in pursuit. They are arguably Tech's best everything in the front seven.

When I look back on the 2008 defensive end unit, this group compares out equally in the two deep on Playstation. For instance, Brandon Williams and McKinner Dixon held a 90 power rating, while Jake Ratliff and Sandy Riley carried a 50 power rating for an average of 70. The Red Raiders current roster grades out at a 70 rating across the board, but they don't have any two options to put on the field at the same time that can do everything well consistently.

Dartwan Bush and Jackson Richards made some really nice plays throughout the game, but the coin landed on Snyder drowning a kitten too often. Kansas stayed committed to the gameplan and was able to exploit their lack of lateral quickness or get them blown off the ball in zone blocking. Branden Jackson got burned on a couple of option plays, but saw extensive action and gave a respectable performance given his lack of seasoning. I'm still a bit surprised Tech doesn't trust Pete Robertson for more snaps as his man strength has held up well in the run game and the lateral quickness allows him a better chance to make plays in space.

I'm not down on this group for next year as Bush and Richards will get better as Jackson and Robertson get bigger and stronger to provide more relief duty. For now, expect OSU and Baylor to continue to attack them in the run game as the team's last four opponents have.

Linebackers

Will Smith didn't have a very good day. He looked tentative at times engaging offensive linemen and his reads weren't very accurate. Blake Dees was a better option this week primarily because he was engaging in contact football and made one of the biggest plays of the day in overtime to secure victory. Sam Eguavoen made one of Tech's best true linebacker plays of the season at the 14:55 mark of the second quarter blowing up a lead blocker and stuffing the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage. He struggled with the second dimension of covering backs in the passing game. Still, Eguavoen has been the team's most consistent linebacker throughout the season and that's the primary reason he's receiving the most snaps. Although technically a defensive back, I feel it would be more appropriate to grade Tre' Porter as a member of the linebacker group this week, which consisted of him largely being tied up by blockers posing as slot receivers.

Secondary

D.J. Johnson and Cody Davis combined for 18 tackles in cleaning up the mess. Over pursuit became their enemy as the game wore on and Tech was burned by cutback lanes. Bruce Jones and Eugene Neboh weren't as active this week due to opponent playcalling, but neither really made much of an impact in the run game.





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