The poles have reversed themselves in the Texas Tech football camp. For as long as most people can remember, the refrain has been glory in the highest to the offense, and woe unto the defense. But with two stellar defensive performances in a row, and back-to-back less than scintillating offensive performances, angst is shifting to the offense and praise to the defense.
There are very good reasons for believing in the validity of this reversal, but we should bear in mind one cautionary note. TCU under Gary Patterson has been one of the nation's best defensive programs while being fairly pedestrian on offense. Likewise, the strength of Texas State's current squad is very much on defense, while the Bobcats' offense is no great shakes. In other words, the opponents matter, too.
With the above out of the way, when grading units, it is the bottom line that matters most of all. And when you get right down to it, Tech's defense was far better than its offense against Texas State.
The reality of playing two true freshman quarterbacks is beginning to settle in. Initially, Baker Mayfield enjoyed great success, but the more he's played, the more a book on Mayfield is coming into existence. For Mayfield to break through and regain that earlier success, he will have to expand his skill set, and that means, among other things, being able to strike downfield more often. Davis Webb hit some big shots against the Bobcats, but also made a few terrible decisions, and missed several wide open receivers for big gains and potential touchdowns.
Here's a vignette that should tell you something. Very late in the first quarter a Texas Tech back took the hand off, jetted over the right side of the line, juked a defender, and finished a run for a 10-yard game. I said to myself, "Man! That looks like a completely different back!" And as the runner got up off of the ground, I saw the number 37. It was a different back. It was Quinton White. On that single run, White did what Kenny Williams, and to a lesser extent Deandre Washington have not. He exploded into the hole, made people miss, and finished a run with authority. And although Washington at least showed some life against Texas State, the running backs, sans White, failed to raise an eyebrow.
This was the worst game of the season for the receivers. There were several dropped passes—including two by Jace Amaro—and more worrisome still, the receivers had terrible difficulty getting open. Eric Ward, in particular, was blanketed all night. Fortunately, Tech got contributions from Derreck Edwards, Sadale Foster and Reginald Davis, while Amaro was a hoss and Bradley Marquez continued his fine season.
The error-plagued play of the offensive line continues. Aside from the overall execution, which was spotty, the line committed far too many penalties. There were holding penalties, false starts, and a late hit by Jared Kaster. Both tackles continue to play inconsistently in pass protection, while run blocking was average at best. On the positive side, Baylen Brown, who came in for an injured Alfredo Morales, was a beast. The Red Raiders had been running over Morales, and when Brown entered the game, continued running over left guard. If anything, run blocking improved with Brown in the game. He was Tech's most physical offensive lineman.
It was another outstanding effort by the defensive line. This group made life pretty miserable for the Texas State quarterbacks. Kerry Hyder created mayhem in the pocket, while Dartwan Bush and Jackson Richards were looping around and bringing heat from other angles. And Richards, in an excellent display of speed and hustle, actually tracked down Bobcat back Robert Lowe from behind for a tackle. Demetrius Alston is steadily emerging as a critical backup on defense. He hasn't made many plays yet, but he frequently beats his man and disrupts what the opponent is trying to do. Occasional missed gap assignments gave some life to TSU's ground game.
The defensive line does the dirty work and the linebackers continue to reap the rewards. Every one of these guys is making plays. If it's not Pete Robertson getting a pick, it's Will Smith recovering a fumble for a touchdown, or Terrance Bullitt getting a sack. And when Blake Dees, Andre Ross and Micah Awe get the chance to show their stuff, you almost wish Matt Wallerstedt would run a few seven-linebacker sets.
This group helped render the Texas State passing game a nullity. The Bobcats actually attempted to work on Bruce Jones, but the diminutive senior from California made ‘em pay. Ola Falemi had an extremely quiet night, but that is because TSU never threw at him. Tanner Jacobson, starting for an injured J. J. Gaines, played a whale of a ballgame. He missed a tackle on the Bobcats' long touchdown run, but otherwise was tough as nails.
Given Tech's offensive struggles in the red zone, it is fortunate they have Ryan Bustin. He is perfect so far on field goals of 40 yards and less. The coverage units were excellent, and they foiled an on-sides kick and a fake punt. SaDale Foster continues to take chances with those running fair catches, but has yet to turn the ball over and has saved the team a ton of field position. Punter Taylor Symmank was decent, but did have one poor punt.
Texas State Report Card
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