Key Stat: quarterback rating of 139, No.43 in the nation
Coping with immense pressure is a big part of being a successful quarterback at Texas Tech. To an extent, that is true of playing the position at any FBS school, but it is particularly true at Texas Tech.
There are two reasons the burden is so heavy for Red Raider quarterbacks. First, Texas Tech throws the football as much as any team in the nation and the offense's success depends heavily on the ability of the quarterback to complete passes, execute the offense, and lead touchdown drives.
Second, the Red Raiders, at least over the last decade or so, play poor defense. It is as much a Tech tradition as throwing the football. This being the case, the offense must score a huge number of points if Tech is to win.
And what all the above means is that being good isn't good enough if you're a Red Raider quarterback. You must be excellent.
In 2011, Seth Doege was good, not excellent. Combine Doege's level of play with a defense that dropped to new historical lows, and you've got Tech's first losing season since 1992.
As noted, Doege played some solid football. His quarterback rating of 139 is almost identical with that of his predecessor, Taylor Potts, who had a rating of 137 his junior year and 142 during his senior campaign.
But that is good quarterback play, not great. For great quarterbacking we need only look at Graham Harrell, who had a passer rating of 157 during his junior season and 160 as a senior, when the Red Raiders rose as high as No.2 in the national rankings. Graham Harrell-level proficiency is the benchmark at which all future Tech quarterbacks are shooting.
Now Doege rang up some rather impressive stats in 2011. He completed 68 percent of his passes, threw for 3,999 yards and 28 touchdowns. One of his problems, however, was that he averaged only 6.9 yards per pass attempt, which was No.70 in the nation.
What that stat tells us, first and foremost, is that Doege completed very few deep balls. And I'm inclined to believe that this failure was not primarily Doege's fault. When Darrin Moore went down with an injury in the first quarter of the Nevada game, with him went Doege's primary, and practically only deep threat. Nobody stepped up to replace Moore as Doege's go-to guy deep down the field.
After Moore went to the sideline, Tech's deep passing game withered and died. Doege took some shots down the field, but in the vast majority of cases, the receivers were blanketed. They simply could not get open deep. Consequently, there were interceptions and incompletions that put the Red Raider offense behind schedule on down-and-distance.
Other interesting figures contained in Doege's performance are his passer rating of 151 in road games and only 125 in home tilts, and that his rating declined dramatically as the season progressed. In September his quarterback rating was 178. In October it was 132. And in November it was 125.
Obviously, the competition improved in October and November, but nevertheless, Doege's play clearly deteriorated. It is possible, just possible, that lost confidence stemming from mounting losses, contributed to the downturn in Doege's play.
Regardless of the whys and wherefores, however, if Tech's offense is to return to the level required for the Red Raiders to go bowling, it will all start with Seth Doege. He will have to play more like Graham Harrell and less like Taylor Potts.