Oklahoma was the first time, Kansas State was the second, and now Texas is the third. In all three of those defeats, Texas Tech's only losses of the year, the Red Raiders fought the opposition to a physical draw.
Against the Sooners and Wildcats, Tech matched the enemy yard for yard, and they did the same with the Longhorns, actually outgaining them by 14 steps. So clearly there are some good things happening with this football team. The raw talent is there.
But good is not good enough in the Big 12. Against the caliber of competition Tech faces on a weekly basis, mistakes, be they turnovers or penalties or tactical errors, will send you into the Abyss of Eternal Peril. And those mistakes also figure into the grades.
Quarterback: Full credit to Seth Doege for not turning the ball over. In previous losses, Doege's interceptions and fumbles were contributing factors. Against the Horns he did a great job of protecting the ball. Doege also threw some beautiful balls in this one.
Still, Doege was just a bit off. He missed open receivers on four or five occasions, and was bailed out by receivers on a couple of low passes. Interestingly, Doege has had problems throwing the ball too high in the past, but against Texas, he was throwing it a bit low. Low passes, however, are far less likely to be tipped and picked than high throws.
Running Backs: It was a decent day for the running backs but could have been quite a bit better. Kenny Williams was the horse, plowing for 71 tough yards. He made several exceptional runs, but also ran tentatively at times, and failed to get yardage in the open field because he couldn't make one man miss. There were also too many running plays for negative yardage. SaDale had one big play on the wildcat reverse (a great call, incidentally), but otherwise was dormant. Both Kenny Williams and Eric Stephens dropped a pass.
Receivers: Not many serious complaints about this group. Just like last season, Eric Ward is getting better as the season wears on. His hands are above reproach and his acrobaticism is off the charts. I'm not sure there's a better all-around receiver in the Big 12. Darrin Moore was not as spectacular as Ward, but was similarly effective. Tyson Williams had possibly his best game as a Red Raider, and the entire receiving corps blocked well. But how much is Jace Amaro missed in the red zone? Incalculably. Jakeem Grant, Austin Zouzalik and Alex Torres were non-factors as receivers.
Offensive Line: If any unit was a microcosm of Tech's performance against the Longhorns it was the offensive line. Deveric Gallington and Beau Carpenter often did great work blowing holes through the center of Texas' defense, but then there were times when the interior linemen were shoved into the backfield. LaAdrian Waddle blocked like a man possessed but also drew a personal foul for pummeling a prone Alex Okafor. He was lucky not to have been ejected. Terry McDaniel continues a trend of committing holding penalties, and Le'Raven Clark was called for a costly chop block. Pass protection, on the other hand, was very good. Seth Doege didn't feel much heat.
Defensive Line: The Longhorns silenced this group better than any team Tech has faced up to this point. For once, Kerry Hyder was not particularly disruptive. Dartwan Bush didn't get after David Ash, although to be fair, he only dropped back to pass 19 times. On Texas' final drive, a drained and disheartened defensive line failed to prevent Johnathan Gray from going over 100 rushing yards. Much of Texas' success running the ball came against Tech's defensive ends. Still, the performance was parsecs better than what we saw last year in Austin.
Linebackers: Will Smith and Sam Eguavoen were reasonably active, combining for nine tackles. Smith had the hit of the season for Tech, laying a wicked block to help spring Austin Zouzalik for a long punt return. Blake Dees made one tackle and missed another. Other than that, little was heard from the Red Raider linebackers. When a Tech linebacker makes a truly game-changing play, it will be a first.
Secondary: The Red Raider defensive backfield was without Cornelius Douglas, Tre' Porter and Derrick Mays, and it showed. David Ash and Mike Davis bombed Tech's raw cornerbacks into submission, and Tech's safeties, creeping up to help against the run, were nowhere to be seen. Cody Davis had a typical Davis day, pitching in with several tough, explosive play-preventing tackles.
Special Teams: Two crushing mistakes (Daniel Cobb's fair catch interference, and allowing Ryan Bustin's 23-yard field goal to be blocked) severely undermined an otherwise very good performance. Kramer Fyfe's kickoffs were excellent—deep and high. Austin Zouzalik turned in two terrific punt returns, and Ryan Bustin banged home three field goals. But oh those two mistakes…