Coaching for his Job

Joe Yeager shares his thoughts on the Red Raiders double overtime victory on Saturday.

Coaching for His Job: Tommy Tuberville escaped. Just barely. Following a devastating loss to Texas, a loss that embittered a significant portion of Tech's fan-base, Tuberville was arguably coaching for his job against Kansas. A loss to the Jayhawks could well have cooked Tuberville's goose. But the Jayhawks, losers of 18 straight Big 12 games, didn't look like much of a threat and nobody seriously contemplated a loss to the visitors from Lawrence.


But such a loss very nearly became a reality. Tech could never pull away from Kansas, were forced into overtime, and following a Jayhawk touchdown in the first overtime, was feeling the icy breath of defeat. A turnover or failure to convert on fourth down would have sent the Red Raiders to an unthinkable loss, and quite possibly, Tuberville and his staff on a plane out of Lubbock bound for Anywhere, USA.


Perhaps Tuberville knew this, because he was certainly a tightly coiled nucleus of energy on the sideline. He always coaches emotionally, but the intensity was heightened as the Jayhawks pressed the Red Raiders ever closer to the wall. Fortunately for Tuberville, his team pulled this one out, and even if Tech loses two straight against Oklahoma State and Baylor, will likely get another year to, as he requested at Big 12 Media Days, "get the chance to coach the players he recruited."


Disturbing Flashbacks: Kansas' 390-yard rushing performance recalled the horrid days of yore when teams didn't bother passing against Tech because they didn't need to. Why pass when you can routinely bludgeon a defense for seven yards and periodically rip off jaunts of 40, 50 and 60 yards? That was certainly the case for the Jayhawks who threw the ball only 15 times.


Why was Kansas so successful on the ground? Several reasons.


First, as Art Kaufman pointed out in the post-game press conference, the Jayhawks ran the speed option far more often then they had earlier in the year, and the Red Raiders were surprised. How many times did you see a Tech defensive end—and Branden Jackson was a frequent victim—trapped in space, unable to decide whether to go after the quarterback or the pitch man? That is just what the speed option seeks to do.


But it wasn't just scheme. Tech's defense, at almost every position, simply played the run poorly. I lost track of the number of times a Red Raider defender overran the play. Missed tackles were equally plentiful. Combine those two factors with a defense confronted with something it didn't expect and you wind up surrendering 206 yards to Tony Pierson and 129 to James Sims. Both of those guys are nice backs, but they won't ever be confused with Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard.


Ground Game Gone Bad: Until three minutes left to play in the third quarter, backup quarterback Michael Brewer, who had one rush for seven yards, was Tech's leading rusher. Kenny Williams recorded consecutive runs of nine and eight yards to wrest the rushing honors from Brewer. It was very fortunate for the Red Raiders that Seth Doege was on his game.


Win, Lose or Draw: It has been noted that the draw play, a good performer for Tech for much of the season, has lost much of its effectiveness as of late. A play in the middle of the second quarter illustrates this fact perfectly. The draw works best when the defense, anticipating pass, rushes hard and runs past the back who takes a delayed handoff. Starting at the beginning of the second quarter, Tech passed the ball eight straight times, which seemingly should have set the draw play up perfectly. Yet when Eric Stephens' name was called on a draw, he lost a yard.


Giving Up the Explosive Play: 162 of Kansas' 390 rushing yards came on three plays. Who needs to throw the ball down the field when you can rip off runs of 49, 69 and 44 yards? By way of comparison, Tech's longest pass play was 31 yards to Eric Ward in the second quarter.

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