football Edit

The Juice: Lamborghini to a Volvo

Volvo S90
Volvo S90

So much of Red Raiders' 2016-17 offseason was spent discussing Kliff Kingsbury's growth as a head coach and his increased focus on the team's defense.

Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt told RRS.com's Will McKay in August that he has watched Kingsbury "grow over the course of his time" leading the university's football program and cited his involvement with the defense as an example of that growth.

In the wake of Saturday's 56-10 win over Eastern Washington, perhaps not enough was made of how much the Red Raider offense would benefit from Kingsbury's evolution.

Texas Tech's 2016 offense was amazing. Full stop. It was a red and black Lamborghini: flashy, fast and somewhat impractical. Led by quarterback Pat Mahomes, a once-in-a-generation talent, the Red Raiders topped the FBS in total offense, averaged more than 43 points per game and set a number of records.

Yet, for as productive as it was, there was a faint element of anxiety in the air whenever that unit was on the field. The Red Raiders were so reliant on Mahomes' wizardry, that it was almost as if Texas Tech fans held their breath before each drive and wondered if, finally, this was where the magic would run out.

The magic never ran out, of course, but it has moved to Kansas City.

If the 2017 Red Raiders' debut performance is any indication, Kingsbury traded in the Lamborghini for a reliable and surprisingly sporty Volvo.

It's not an upgrade in the traditional sense - I doubt even Martin Lundstedt would disagree - but maybe a Volvo is a better, more practical fit for this Texas Tech team.

Nic Shimonek's 86.7 percent completion rate was the third-best ever for a Texas Tech QB in the Air Raid era.
Nic Shimonek's 86.7 percent completion rate was the third-best ever for a Texas Tech QB in the Air Raid era. (USA Today)

Consider the following: Nic Shimonek attempted just 30 passes on Saturday, the fewest of any Red Raider quarterback in a season-opener in the Air Raid era; Texas Tech's 75 offensive snaps were its fifth-fewest* in a win under Kingsbury; the team had more rushing attempts (40) than passes (35), just the fifth time^ that has happened in Kingsbury's 51 games as head coach.

The Red Raiders were balanced and precise against the Eagles. Shimonek targeted both of his starting inside receivers six times and both of his starting outside receivers five times. Starting running back Justin Stockton had nine touches, and the three players behind him on the depth chart each had at least six touches.

There were none of the spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime plays that Mahomes seemed to make on a weekly basis, but there were also no real misfires. The Red Raiders protected the ball, the offensive line kept Shimonek upright after giving up two early sacks and the offense scored on eight consecutive drives. The numbers may not have been quite Lamborghini-esque, but the Volvo Raiders got a similar result in a more conventional and, most importantly, replicable fashion.

When Mahomes struggled, as he did last season against Iowa State and West Virginia, Texas Tech's offense disappeared. That may not be the case if Shimonek struggles in 2017, as long as the team's running game proves to be as effective against FBS opponents as it was against Eastern Washington.

The 2017 Texas Tech season is all of four quarters old; only time will tell if the Red Raiders' offensive balance in Game 1 will hold through Game 12. But if Saturday is a sign of things to come, it will mark a notable shift in Kingsbury's approach.

* Texas Tech ran 72 plays against UTEP in 2015, 71 against TCU in 2013, 59 against UTEP in 2014 and 58 against Arkansas in 2015.

^ 2016 La. Tech, 2016 TCU, 2015 West Virginia, 2015 Texas and 2014 Iowa State.