Could A&M coaches have written a better opening scenario to this game? Force Tech to punt on the game's opening drive and drive the length of the field for a touchdown on 10 straight runs.
After a second straight Tech punt, A&M started from their own 7-yard line and go on what I thought started off as their best drive of the year. After a 5-yard run by Lane, McGee play-actioned, looked exclusively left and then quickly turned right and hit a wide open Martellus Bennett on a very simple pass. However, the play and execution created space for Bennett who took it down the sideline for an 18 yard gain. Arguably the best executed pass play of the year and something that's been rare with this offense...a play that CREATES an open receiver.
McGee followed that up with a successful swing pass to Lane for 8 yards that was not telegraphed, and I'm starting to think McGee and this offense is finally starting to get it. Basically, use play-action and good execution to create short, easy throws that can go for 7-10 yards with the opportunity for yards after catch.
Throw in a well-executed reverse to speedster Roger Holland and A&M looked on top of the world looking to stake a 14-0 lead. Tech hadn't stopped the run, and the few times A&M mixed in a safe, easy pass it was executed well that created space for receivers to make positive yardage.
After a 4-yard run by Goodson to the Tech 23 yard-line, the biggest mistake of the game was made by the staff. They tried to go deep to the end zone, a pass that is not a high percentage play for this offense especially on a short field. That forced the A&M offense into 3rd and long, a situation that the Aggies are not comfortable with at all.
Not surprisingly, A&M failed to complete a pass in a passing situation, and the missed field goal was the exclamation point that officially turned the game's momentum around just as the quarter ended that gave Tech the wind.
Frankly, it was nothing but downhill from there as Tech scored two straight touchdowns to take a 14-7 lead. However, the Aggie offense tried to keep the team in the game near the end of the half, driving all the way down inside Tech's 20 yard-line, but an illegal substitution infraction put the Aggies in a 3rd and 12 situation, and we know how that down and distance went for the offense.
Once again, Szymanski missed the field goal and gave the ball to Tech with under two minutes. That was too much time, especially for a defense that struggles with screen passes, and Crabtree takes a screen pass 54 yards that leads to another TD. Basically, the game was over at that point.
The second half was really meaningless in the outcome of the game. There was no way A&M 's offense could overcome a 14-point deficit in Lubbock against the Red Raider offense after what happened at the end of the half.
The first five drives of the second half resulted in 58 total yards, with four punts and a interception while Tech piled on two more touchdowns for a 35-7 final score. This offense just isn't built to come from behind, which makes last week's OSU 17-point comeback remarkable.
McGee actually did some nice things early on, most notably that second drive when he executed a couple of nice pass plays that created room for both Martellus Bennett and Jorvorskie Lane on big plays that netted first downs. I really thought McGee played a decent game under the circumstances completing 57% of his passes. He did have one bad interception, but by that time the game as all but decided.
I don't think the running backs, particularly Michael Goodson, had a very good day against a susceptible Texas Tech defensive front. Goodson has developed some bad habits in recent weeks. He cuts too much, and strings his runs to the outside and misses some cutback lanes in the process. He just seems to be a little tentative in his decision-making when he gets the ball, and that will always cause trouble. Lane and Goodson combined for 118 yards, which isn't very impressive against the Red Raiders.
Again, the wide receivers didn't produce much yardage, managing six catches for just 41 total yards. Yeah, part of that is by design of the offense, but some of it falls on the players as well. It's hard to be a multi-dimensional team when the playmakers on the outside put up 41 yards on the day.
Bennett had the big pass play for 18 yards to dig the Aggies out of a field position hole on that second drive. At the time, that was a huge play. Joey Thomas also had a nice catch near the sideline for 15 yards, and he had a great block on one of McGee's bootleg runs. Tight end has always been a strong position for the Aggies.
I thought the offensive line gave McGee a decent amount of time in the pocket. I think most A&M fans expected better domination up-front in rush blocking, but how can you argue the success they had in those first two series? And once they fell behind 21-7, that was all she wrote.
OFFENSE OVERALL GRADE: C-
The defensive line was tasked to hold its own with a three-man line at first to stop the pass. Thus, Tech made the proper reads and tried to run the ball, and the defensive line along with the linebackers had success stopping it on Tech's first two drives. It was the first time all season Tech punted on consecutive drives. However, things fell apart late in the second quarter. Harrell had a lot of time to throw, and A&M was forced to blitz and were badly burned.
I thought linebackers Mark Dodge and Msi Tupe came out with an attitude and playing hard. Both made some great stops early in the game that forced those two punts. I thought they did a good job tackling and minimizing yards after catch early. As with the rest of the defense, they put up a good fight early, but just couldn't hold the rope for 60 minutes.
Same story as above. In the first quarter, A&M gave up only 34 yards through the air to an explosive Texas Tech passing offense. Tech did not complete a pass over 10 yards until the final play of the first quarter. But things got out of control quickly in the second quarter as the Red Raiders threw for 175 yards and scored 21 unanswered points to close out the half, and basically put away the game. Danny Gorrer missed a golden opportunity to return an interception for a possible touchdown when he stepped in front of a Harrell pass near the far sideline. Instead, the pass went through his wicket and found Danny Amendola. It's been that kind of decade for the secondary.
DEFENSE OVERALL GRADE: C-
Yuck. What in the world has happened to Matt Szymanski in the past 2-3 weeks. I think we can all agree that bringing in a high school senior last year was probably premature and his struggles could be excused in 2006. However, his kickoffs were greatly improved and he was accurate on his field goals in the opening weeks of the season. Clearly, something has gone wrong recently. Whatever it is, it definitely cost A&M any realistic chance of winning that game on Saturday with the two first half misses.
Justin Brantly had some shanks in inopportune times, which is rare for him. Then there was the strange miscommunication on Tech's second punt that allowed the ball to hit and roll down to the 7-yard line when it looked like the Aggies would set up shop around the 20-25 yard line. Bottom line, A&M needed mistakes from the Tech special teams to win the game. Instead, it was the Aggies making critical mistakes in special teams and it cost them dearly.
SPECIAL TEAMS OVERALL GRADE: F
Hop's Report Card - Texas Tech
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