After eight months of build up, the 2013 season kicked off in Dallas and the dramatic was in full effect. From the starting quarterback, to President George W. Bush addressing to both teams, to the Friday night ESPN TV audience, this game had a flair for the dramatic. Texas Tech wins 41-23, and Coach Kingsbury finally got what he wanted: the shift of the focus of the fanbase going from him to the team on the field.
Game ball – Offense: Baker Mayfield. Having not seen a lot of Mayfield in the one practice that was open, no one knew what to expect from the true freshman walk-on quarterback. Mayfield met expectations and led his team to victory on the road. To put it in perspective, the Big 12 rolled out 6 new starting quarterbacks this weekend. All but one played at home, and two of them lost at home. There are probably several schools across the country about now that regret not offering Baker Mayfield a scholarship. The most impressive part of Mayfield's performance wasn't the yards (413 passing, 16 net rushing) or the touchdowns (5), it was the 0 in the turnover column and 8-10 passing on third down (3 third down pass attempts were sacks, so some may count that as 8-13.). Any quarterback does that, he wins games. Mayfield did that and it eases a lot of worries.
Honorable mention: Eric Ward. 13 catches for 150 yards. Might have gotten a game ball had he not been flagged twice for holding.
Game ball – Defense: Will Smith. The senior linebacker had 1.5 sacks and 5.5 total tackles as the Red Raider defense shut down the Mustangs' offense while the Tech offense was trying to find its way. Smith's strong first game may contribute to the words of his teammates that said he and fellow ILB Sam Eguavoen would have big seasons. This game may also put Smith on the track that will let him play up to the reputation that he arrived on campus with.
Biggest play: Mayfield's 33 yard TD strike to Jordan Davis just before halftime. The throw was as good as a throw any Tech QB has made the last several years. (Doege to Torres to beat TCU in 3OT comes to mind.) Mayfield threaded the needle to Davis on a play that Kingsbury said they missed on the previous drive. This TD put a little separation between the Red Raiders and Mustangs going into halftime and sparked a second half where the Red Raiders scored touchdowns on 4 of 6 drives.
Concerns: No team in the country played as well as they could play or played as well as the wanted to play on Saturday. And if they said they did, they are lying. That said, there are several concerns that need to be addressed before the Red Raiders take the field Thursday, Sept 12 vs. TCU.
1) Offensive Line. The OL allowed 4 sacks. 3 of the sacks were on 3rd down. Aside from LaRaven Clark, the line was inconsistent and allowed pressure on a night when SMU did a lot of rushing 4 and dropping 7 into coverage. This is conducive to running the football quite a bit and that didn't happen. The OL was the biggest reason why. We'll try to get an update on the status of Beau Carpenter on Monday. If Carpenter isn't back for TCU, then that means either James Polk or one of the two true freshmen that traveled to Dallas could start versus TCU. Gary Patterson is already licking his chops to face a freshman QB, now add in a freshman OL and his eyes get even bigger.
2) Lack of running game. Really this goes hand in hand with the OL. Again, SMU did very little to put pressure on the QB, and there was room to run on SMU. The line didn't get the job done.
3) Cushion/Completions on defense from 8-12 yards. I'll ask Coach Wallerstedt about this, but the defense seemed to have too much room between them and the receivers, which contributed to Garrett Gilbert completing 2 of every 3 passes he attempted. This may have been part of the game plan, as far as the cushion is concerned and the concentration to keep the receivers in front of the defenders. Other teams with better, more shifty wideouts will take advantage of this and the YAC yards will pile up.
4) Mayfield fumbles. Mayfield fumbled twice on third down which led to sacks, and just seemed to drop the ball. This may have been a product of a freshman trying to do too much on a key down, and after everything I've already said about Mayfield, this is probably nitpicking. But other teams will see the tape and now Mayfield will have to be more cognoscente of holding onto the football.
In all, a great night one of the 2013 season for Texas Tech football. The offense got on track in the second half, the defense had more sacks than nearly any time in the Tuberville era, and any time the special teams hits on all of their kicks, it's a good night.