Tech Takes Kansas' Best Shot

The Red Raiders were a team Kansas felt it could beat. And it showed. The Jayhawks were absolutely ready to play. Coming off a bye week, and playing before a homecoming crowd, if not exactly a throng, Kansas was well prepared, fully energized, and anticipating their first Big 12 victory in a coon's age.

Tech Takes Kansas' Best Shot: The Red Raiders were a team Kansas felt it could beat. And it showed. The Jayhawks were absolutely ready to play. Coming off a bye week, and playing before a homecoming crowd, if not exactly a throng, Kansas was well prepared, fully energized, and anticipating their first Big 12 victory in a coon's age.

And for one quarter of play it looked as though the Jayhawks' dreams might come true. On offense, Kansas substituted a passing game, and in short yardage situations, an option package, for their customary power ground attack. They did so quite successfully, as the Jayhawks made some plays through the air that powered the home team to 10 first-quarter points. (Yours truly didn't think KU would score 10 points the entire afternoon.)

On defense, Kansas was simply dialed in to what Tech was doing. The Red Raider offense came in as a one-dimensional passing unit and Kansas exploited this monomania by pressuring Baker Mayfield and trusting their talented secondary to blanket Tech's receivers. The plan and the preparation worked perfectly as the Jayhawks intercepted Mayfield on Tech's first possession and shut the Red Raiders out for the first 19 minutes of the game.

Then the roof fell in.

Reality settled in.

Tech's coaches and players adjusted. Matt Wallerstedt dialed up pressure and took KU quarterback Jake Heaps out of his game. Kliff Kingsbury finally went to the running game and gouged Kansas severely, changing the Jayhawks' mindset from certainty to hesitancy. And he called the number of Eric Ward who responded with seven receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown.

The final score was 54-16, an impressive margin of victory by any standard. But what was most impressive was the fact that the Red Raiders took Kansas' very best, got up off the deck, and throttled the Jayhawks. These coaches know their stuff, and the players are mentally tough.

Maligned Skill Position Players Respond: Kenny Williams and Eric Ward have come under fire from certain quarters. Williams, Tech's starting running back, had been a toothless gear in the Red Raiders' faltering ground game. Ward, a preseason All Conference pick and possible All American, was simply a shadow of his old self. One could make the argument that if Williams and Ward didn't get their act together against Kansas, it would be time for Kingsbury to make some personnel moves.

Well, after the leveling of Lawrence, we can probably put that notion to bed.

Ward's day started slowly. He caught nothing early on, and when Mayfield looked his way early in the second quarter, was flagged for offensive interference, and was absolutely blanketed on a 3rd-and-six. But Mayfield kept going to him and Ward responded with his most impressive game of the season.

Williams' numbers were not that impressive. He rushed 12 times for only 42 yards, but made some critical runs when the Red Raiders first decided to give the running game a chance, and it was this embrace of the ground attack that arguably put Tech's overall offense back in the groove. Had Williams failed to respond to his opportunities, this game's final score would have been much tighter.

Righting It in the Red Zone? Ringing the bell for touchdowns was a point of emphasis for Tech coming into the Kansas game. The Red Raiders were doing this only 50 percent of the time. So how did Tech do? The Red Raiders ventured into the red zone 10 times, attempted five field goals and scored five touchdowns. Tech scored plenty, but the red zone production was still not good enough.

Practice Makes Mayfield Perfect? Earlier in the week Kliff Kingsbury remarked that Baker Mayfield had been very sharp in practice and that he was excited to see him play against the Jayhawks. Kingsbury clearly expected Mayfield to play well. And the coach was right. Before going out with a knee injury Mayfield was having his most impressive game of the season. Sometimes practice performance has no bearing on how a player will do in a game, but this time it did. It will be a shame if injury prevents Mayfield from capitalizing on this excellent outing.

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