Wolf Diamonds Wrap: Texas AM

Texas Tech fell to in-state rival Texas A&M 45-40 on Saturday night. The Red
Raiders kept it close for most of the night, but were never able to close the
1. The Red Raiders' defense is improving week-by-week. Believe it or
not -- and I'm sure this will come as little consolation to fans at this point
-- but Texas Tech's defense is getting better.
Before I go any further, the Red Raiders' defense is clearly not where anyone --
players, coaches, fans -- would like it to be at this point. The statistics over
the last three weeks have not been pretty, and the opponents are just going to
get tougher as the season progresses.
"Our expectation is to go out and play perfect, and we're not going to settle
for anything less than that," defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow said.
"And we're going to continue to strive for that. Will we ever reach perfection?
I don't know, but it's not okay to go lose a football game."
Still, among the ugly stats, there are encouraging signs of progress.
Tech's defense over the last three games, despite facing more difficult
opponents each week, has consistently improved its numbers in key areas. The Red
Raiders have gone from allowing 562 yards against Nevada (eight per play) to 478
yards against Kansas (6.5 per play) to 393 yards against Texas A&M (5.5 yards
per play). Tech forced as many punts Saturday against the Aggies as they had
against the Wolf Pack and Jayhawks combined (5). Those numbers are far from
elite, to be sure, but Glasgow's defense is posting the kind of improvement
week-to-week that one would expect out of such a young group.
There's still room for improvement, of course. The Red Raiders can do a better
job of taking advantage of its opportunities in key situations -- whether you
want to call these missed tackles, execution mistakes or just being a step too
late. This hurt them early against Kansas, but Jayhawk turnovers lessened their
impact. Saturday, the Aggies didn't lose a fumble or throw an interception, made
Tech's margin for error razor thin.
For example, Tech allowed two third-and-long conversions Saturday that led to
Aggie touchdowns -- a 40-yard pass on 3rd and 14 on A&M's opening drive and a
35-yard pass on 3rd and 9 in the second quarter. Those two conversions,
considering the outcome of both drives, sting. But, even still, improvement can
be seen here as well. The Red Raiders had the Aggies facing 3rd and 7-plus seven
times on Saturday -- A&M converted two -- after forcing just eight similar
situations in the last two games combined.
Tech's defense will need to post similar improvement in the coming weeks, as the
team's offense took a major hit Saturday with the loss of Eric Stephens
to injury.
2. Aaron Crawford, other running backs will have to step up in Stephens'
absence. Everyone at Jones Stadium last night immediately recognized how
serious Stephens' injury was as the play happened in real time. The air was
sucked out of the stadium and there was a collective gasp in the press box.
Stephens has been the Red Raiders' best and most consistent offensive player
this season, and his loss could be disastrous for Tech's offense.
Ultimately, Seth Doege will have to shoulder the heaviest burden moving forward
-- more on that below -- but Tech's other available running backs will have to
step up in a big way moving forward. Aaron Crawford is arguably the team's most
complete back at this point and, based on the way snaps were divided last night,
clearly ahead of the others in blitz pickup and pass protection.
DeAndre Washington has more attempts (22) and yards (107) of any of the other running
backs, but is he ready for 20-plus carries a game? Kenny Williams probably fits
the mold of an every-down back better than Washington, but he has struggled in
his limited carries up to this point in the season.
Stephens' loss raises several questions about the offense that may not be
answered until next Saturday or beyond. Does Ben McRoy or start getting
reps at running back? Will Tech shift to more of a committee approach or invest
most of the reps on one guy? The Red Raiders have turned to the Wildcat
formation in several key situations this season, will they scrap that formation
without Stephens or turn to Washington or another player?
3. Smith picked up right where he left off. Welcome back,
Scott Smith. Following a 12-game suspension, Smith made his season debut Saturday
against Texas A&M and, frankly, made a bigger impact than I expected going into
the weekend. He finished with four solo tackles, two TFL, a sack and a forced
fumble, which is pretty consistent with his pre-suspension numbers from last
great numbers, hasn't made costly mistakes and hasn't shown a tendency to panic
or get flustered when pressured.
He will have to be even better moving forward.
In the next four weeks, the Red Raiders will face three top 30 defenses. They'll
place two undefeated teams. They'll play Oklahoma and Texas on the road. They'll
face three of the Big 12's four best scoring defenses. They'll face three
opponents that each beat them by double-digits in 2010.
Doege will have to put the offense on his back. He's passed every test he has
faced up to this point in the season, but the tests have just increased in
difficulty several-fold.
Darrin Moore's return next week should help Doege and boost a Tech
passing attack that hasn't missed much of a beat in his absence.
Eric Ward has continued to develop into a consistent weapon, and
Alex Torres is as reliable as ever.
Most Likely To Be Hypochondriacs - I can only assume that the Texas A&M
football program has an abnormally large number of hypochondriacs on its roster,
because I have a hard time believing that Aggies -- who, remember, don't lie,
cheat or steal -- would fake injuries in order to interrupt their opponent's
Best Troll - Bill Byrne wins the prize for the most successful troll of
the weekend. Byrne's tweet that the A&M buses had been "vandalized" with
excrement and "spray painted vulgarities." In reality, there was some dog feces
in one bus and the others had been defaced with -- wait for it -- shoe-polish.
Unsurprisingly, regional and national media jumped on Byrne's tweet and helped
propagate the notion that Tech fans broke into Aggie buses and left them
standing on cinderblocks.
• I wonder if Mack Brown looked around the locker room Saturday following Texas'
55-17 loss to Oklahoma and said, "Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that
really got out of hand fast." Oklahoma scored three defensive touchdowns in a
single game for the first time in its history -- OU's defense also outscored the
Longhorn offense -- and Landry Jones torched UT for 367 yards and three
• Baylor beat Iowa State in the Bounceback Bowl, and now heads to a key game
against Texas A&M in College Station. The Aggies opened as 9.5-point favorites,
which seems a little high given how A&M's defense has struggled this season.
Either way, the over/under on that game should start out at 85.
Brandon Weeden (33.2), Seth Doege (32.4) and Landry
Jones (28.4) lead the Big 12 in completions per game. Weeden also leads the
league in passing yards (1,880) and completion percentage (75.8); Jones is tops
in yards per attempt (8.85) and yards per completion (12.77); Doege leads in
touchdowns (17) and fewest interceptions (1).
• Kansas State is 5-0 for the first time since 2000 -- the Wildcats started 6-0
that season -- but have won four of their five games by a combined 15 points.
Bill Snyder's crew got after Kent State 37-0, but the other four games
have been decided by seven (Missouri), one (Baylor), four (Miami) and three
(Eastern Kentucky) points.
• Missouri is off to its worst start (2-3) since Gary Pinkel's first
Tiger team in 2001; MU finished 4-7 that season. Pinkel's program is also under
.500 for the first time since being 4-5 on Nov. 6, 2004 after a loss to Kansas
• Baylor's Kendall Wright and Tech's Eric Ward lead the country in
touchdown receptions (8).