What a Difference a Turnover Makes: Going into what proved to be Texas Tech's final defensive series of the 2012 football season, the Red Raider defense had gone 25 quarters (over six games) and six overtime periods without creating a single turnover. And for all the world it looked as though this lack of opportunism might cost Tech a bowl game against a mediocre-at-best Minnesota team.
Then, when the Red Raiders just had to have it, up popped Tre' Porter to tip a pass, and up popped senior D. J. Johnson to snare the pigskin and tote it into field goal range for the home team. Ryan Bustin whiffled through a 28-yard boot and Tech pulled out another nutty bowl victory over Minnesota.
Has there ever been clearer evidence for the need to generate turnovers in the game of football? Something to ponder as Texas Tech begins a new football era under Kliff Kingsbury and co-defensive coordinator Mike Smith.
Bad Blood: The Red Raiders and Golden Gophers have only met twice on the gridiron, but this game was as nasty as any ever played between Tech and Texas A&M. The two teams combined for 20 penalties, nine of which were of the personal foul/unsportsmanlike conduct variety, and one ejection. These teams did not like one another, which is a bit odd given their lack of history.
So why all the malice? Raiderpower capo di tutti capi may have given us the answer when he reported on some sort of goofy rodeo competition that was staged between U Minne and the Red Raiders. Surprisingly, the northerners who have never wrangled anything friskier than a bowl of oaten porridge, bested the Texans by a 5-2 count and then proceeded to rub it in on the Red Raiders.
Silly though it may sound, I believe an embarrassed Tech team saw scarlet because of their bovine failure and came out with a grudge-face for the Gophers when the game kicked off. Minnesota, in turn, saw themselves as the bigger, more physical team, and sought to bully the Red Raiders. Put it all together and you've got a Texas cage match more than a football game.
Dumbest Drive in History? The Red Raiders escaped with the victory, but based on their bumbling and buffoonish play on their final drive of the third quarter, may not have deserved to.
With the score tied at 24, Tech drove from its own 44 to the Minnesota 19 where Seth Doege hit Darrin Moore on the bubble screen for an apparent touchdown. But hold everything. Tyson Williams was flagged for a flagrant and entirely unnecessary holding penalty. Touchdown negated.
Still, Tech persevered. The Red Raiders got to the Minnesota one, whereupon Jakeem Grant got the ball on a fly sweep and scored an apparent touchdown. But not so fast, my friends! Instant replay showed Grant fumbling the ball out of bounds before crossing the goal line, and compounding matters, Jace Amaro was flagged for mugging a Gopher in the end zone. So instead of the score being 31-24 Tech, the Red Raiders were faced with 3rd-and-15 from the 15.
Following an incomplete pass, Ryan Bustin was hauled out to boot home a chip shot, which he did. 27-24, right? Not on your Nelly. Jackson Richards jumped early, and the ball was moved back another five yards for what still should have been an easy field goal.
With chants of "Block that kick!" echoing in the background, the Gophers did just that as a Minnesota defender came Scott free through the line and swatted Bustin's second offering aside.
In this drive, Tech had two touchdowns and a field goal wiped off the board. And all because of their own lack of discipline, composure and ball security.
The Cumbie Report: Current and future Tech coach Sonny Cumbie called the plays in this one, thanks to Neil Brown's move to the University of Kentucky. The results were mixed.
The first half was an almost total success as the Red Raiders scored two touchdowns and a field goal on three possessions. The mix of run and pass was good, and Cumbie kept the Gophers off balance. However, the Fumble Rooskie call at the Minnesota two which resulted in a three-yard loss was atrocious. The Red Raiders were mauling the Gophers up front and a simple handoff to Kenny Williams or Eric Stephens would have resulted in a touchdown. Instead, Cumbie forgot he was coaching a real game rather than playing a videogame, and it cost the Red Raiders a touchdown.
Second half play calling was worse. The Gophers had been unable to remotely slow Williams and Stephens down the entire game (they averaged 9.3 yards per carry!), yet Cumbie rarely called their number in the third and fourth quarters (they combined for a mere 12 carries the entire game). Instead, Cumbie put everything on Seth Doege's shoulders, and the burden was almost too much to bear.
One of Kliff Kingsbury's greatest strengths as a play caller is his tendency to stick with what works, whether it be the run or pass. That is a trait few offensive coordinators possess. And it is one area in which Cumbie would do well to learn from his new boss.