This was a special win for Texas Tech. It was special inasmuch as it suggests that Kliff Kingsbury may indeed be all he's cracked up to be. He may be a special coach. For a coach as young as Kingsbury to score a win against the veteran Gary Patterson, arguably one of the best college football coaches in America, is a real feather in the cap. But Kingsbury would reject everything I've said. He would say that the players got the win. And indeed, it is the players that we now grade.
Quarterbacks: Baker Mayfield finally returned to earth. The fairytale start to his collegiate career had to end sometime, and it's no huge surprise that it happened against the Horned Frog defensive wizardry. Not that Mayfield was terrible. Two of his three interceptions were really not his fault, and for most of the game Tech's only running threat was Mayfield. But on the whole Mayfield's accuracy was only so-so, and he was unable to adjust to TCU's second half defensive adjustments. And then came Davis Webb. He was just the tonic Tech's offense needed. He saw the game differently from Mayfield, and pulled Tech's chestnuts out of the fire. If Webb ends his career as a legendary Red Raider, that legend will have begun tonight.
Running Backs: For three and a half quarters, Deandre Washington and Kenny Williams contributed nothing to the ground game. Not that they got many opportunities! But very late in the game, when it seemed Washington and Williams had been entirely forgotten, the duo got it together and made some tough, critical runs. Additionally, both Williams and Washington made huge plays in the passing game, although Washington's voluntary fumble while about to score a touchdown could easily have cost Tech the game. It was a mental lapse of monumental proportions.
Receivers: Eric Ward could do nothing with Jason Verrett, which is no great surprise—Verrett is a future All Pro and may be the best cover corner ever to play in the Big 12. Ward also had a holding penalty, which has been a problem for him all season. The other receivers, however, picked up some of the slack. Jace Amaro was basically unstoppable in the first half, although the Frogs erased him in the second. Jakeem Grant made a circus catch, had a couple of mind-boggling runs after the catch, and blocked like a miniature demon. And then Bradley Marquez, master of the go route, caught the game winner from Davis Webb. As has been the case all season, dropped passes were practically nonexistent.
Offensive Line: TCU recorded four sacks, but most of those were on receivers for not uncovering and Baker Mayfield for not getting rid of the pill. In reality, the line protected as well as could reasonably be expected considering the caliber of the competition. Rashad Fortenberry did whiff one of those sacks, however, and there was not much push in the running game. Hopefully the return of Beau Carpenter will fortify this group.
Defensive Line: There were contributions all up and down the line from this group. Kerry Hyder had his best game of the year by being a very disruptive force in the center of the line. Jackson Richards, who quietly is having a good season, recorded an interception and also pressured the quarterback a time or two. And Dartwan Bush, who didn't start the game, was like a 255-pound necklace draped around Trevone Boykin's shoulders. In general, the line kept the TCU ground game in check, too.
Linebackers: The defensive line kept the offensive line from getting to the second level until late in the game, and this enabled the linebackers to come up huge. Will Smith's nine tackles were the most of his career. Terrance Bullitt was a complete terror along the line of scrimmage and in the passing game where he recorded four pass breakups. This may have been his best game as a Red Raider. And Sam Eguavoen got better as the game wore on.
Secondary: Trevone Boykin scrambled a great deal, and the reason he did was because nobody was open. He simply had to take off and run with it. This was as good a coverage game as I've seen from a Tech secondary in a long, long time. Heck, Bruce Jones was almost as good as Jason Verrett tonight. And Tre Porter played like the player we all expected when he signed with Texas Tech all those years ago. He tackled brilliantly, and his mates in the secondary followed suit. And let's not forget J. J. Gaines' interception.
Special Teams: Ryan Bustin connected on two of three field goals, including a 37-yarder that put the game on ice. That was a pressure kick. Taylor Symmank, Tech's surprise punter, boomed his punts at a whopping 47.2 yard average, and got excellent hangtime to boot, so to speak. Kickoff coverage was absolutely amazing, and Kramer Fyfe's kickoffs were almost as good as the coverage. Carlos Thompson almost made a colossal mistake in attempting to field a punt late, but was bailed out after touching the ball by a fair catch interference penalty. Tech is also fortunate that the refs called an illegal fair catch signal which negated a Brandon Carter return for a touchdown. But, if the refs overrule plays, they never happened.