Coming off the inglorious performance against Arkansas, who would have predicted that the defensive line and linebackers would lead the Honor Roll against Oklahoma State? Not this Joe. Yet that is exactly what happened. But there were enough trouble spots elsewhere to spoil the efforts of the D-line and the ‘backers to cost Tech a victory.
Quarterbacks: The quarterback position has yet to fire on all cylinders in 2014, and that is the primary reason the offense has yet to really take off. Davis Webb had his moments against Oklahoma State—good moments and bad moments. On the whole, he played well in the first quarter and the second half before bowing out with a shoulder injury, but he also had a nasty second quarter. Webb threw a pair of interceptions, one of which cost Tech points and the other of which handed the Cowboys a touchdown. Not good enough. Definitely not good enough.
Running Backs: With the exception of Justin Stockton’s touchdown catch, it was essentially the Deandre Washington show. And he did everything he could to see Tech win, rushing for 85 yards on only 13 carries and contributing a key block in pass protection that allowed Webb to hit Reg Davis for a TD in the third quarter. Washington looks far better than he ever has as a Red Raider, and if he keeps it up, will push for All Big 12 honors. As an aside, Patrick Mahomes’ interception came on a pass that could possibly have been caught by Quinton White.
Receivers: Frankly, it was a pretty awful night for these guys. Dropped passes—there were at least six—were as plentiful as they were critical. And hardly anybody was immune, even the usually sure-handed Bradley Marquez. Jakeem Grant made some very big plays, but also had at least a couple of the drops. Dylan Cantrell, who had a spectacular grab and blocked very well, may have been Tech’s best receiver. Perhaps he will feature more prominently in the gameplan against KSU.
Offensive Line: Excepting the odd penalty, this unit played well until Davis Webb left the game. Run blocking—and here Alfredo Morales really shone—was very good, as was pass protection. Rashad Fortenberry, however, did have a bit of trouble blocking Jimmy Bean, and the problem was greatly exacerbated with the raw Mahomes in the game late. Tech wound up surrendering three sacks, but one of those was clearly a coverage sack that falls on Mahomes’ shoulders. Still, this line is a real Tech strength, and in the words of Jesse Palmer, Kliff Kingsbury should “lean on it.”
Defensive Line: To begin with, 14 of the points OSU scored were given to the Cowboys by Tech’s offense. Once you’ve hoisted in that fact, it becomes clear that the Red Raider defense actually held up pretty well. And it all started up front. The OSU line got little push against Tech’s front, and what little success the Cowboys had on the ground came around left tackle where containment was lost on a couple of occasions. But on the whole, the big boys clamped off the run and put good heat on OSU quarterback Daxx Garman. Branden Jackson, in particular, gave the Cowboys fits in the first half.
Linebackers: Like the defensive line, the linebackers were much improved. Pete Robertson recorded a couple of sacks, but was also flagged for a critical roughing penalty. Sam Eguavoen was a stalwart against the run, and Micah Awe chased down the fleet Tyreek Hill from behind. Austin Stewart got the start in place of Kenny Williams and played a solid game. One got the impression that new defensive coordinator Mike Smith turned the linebackers loose, and it paid some dividends.
Secondary: Every silver cloud has a touch of gray, and for the defense in this game it was the secondary. Or more specifically, Justis Nelson and J.J. Gaines, who were repeatedly victimized on go routes. Sadly, both were often in position to make plays yet simply misjudged the ball and were outfought by the Cowboy receivers. Gaines was a liability as a tackler as well. One suspects we will begin to see much more of Josh Keys starting this week against Kansas State. Tevin Madison gave up one touchdown but otherwise played okay. Keenon Ward had a quiet game, which is easily explained by the fact that the front seven cleaned up running backs before Ward had the chance. Jah’Shawn had a huge interception in the end zone.
Special teams: Good grief! Penalties have been a plague upon the Red Raiders this season, but never was this more in evidence than on special teams against OSU. Jakeem Grant’s 100-yard TD return was called back, as was a superb punt return by Cameron Batson. Simply inexcusable. Then there was Taylor Symmank’s bobbled snap on a punt and subsequent incomplete pass. On the plus side, Symmanks’s kickoffs were pretty good, and coverage of both punts and kickoffs was above average. Still, the special teams are in need of redemption against Kansas State, and that’s putting it mildly.
Oklahoma State Report Card
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