Quarterbacks: Nothing was surprising in the play of Patrick Mahomes and Vincent Testaverde. Both quarterbacks were inexperienced and facing one of the better defenses in the Big 12. That being the case, and with Kliff Kingsbury facing limitations in the plays he could call, the quarterbacks played it close to the vest, rarely making big mistakes, but also making few big plays. And Mahomaverde got very little help from their receivers.
Running backs: DeAndre Washington seems to get better with every game. No single Horn could bring him down in open space, and he ran with determination after contact. Washington also had a few very nice blocks both in pass protection and on a jet sweep. He carried the ball 16 times and should have toted it 25. Most of Justin Stockton’s touches came in garbage time, but nevertheless, his 56 yards on six carries does him credit. Kenny Williams powered for the offense’s lone touchdown.
Receivers: Pretty doggone terrible. The dropped passes--and there must have been close to 10--were the obvious problem, but equally bad was the fact that these guys couldn’t get open. On play after play the offensive line gave the quarterbacks ample time to scan the field, but they scanned in vain for an open receiver, eventually having to throw the ball away. Is play design part of the problem, too? One wonders. The only glimmer from this group was Devin Lauderdale, who deserves more touches. Dylan Cantrell and Reginald Davis were complete non-factors.
Offensive Line: Except for a few penalties—two of them on Jared Kaster—this unit played remarkably well against a very tough Texas front seven. As hard is it may have been to hoist in, Tech’s offensive line actually dominated UT on most running plays, and they gave the quarterbacks a clean pocket almost without fail. I saw Alfredo Morales miss a block on a screen, but otherwise, there can be little doubt that this united will grade highly when the film is examined. One wonders how much better this season would have been had Kliff Kingsbury committed strongly to the run early on rather than hanging on to the passing game even after its fecklessness became apparent.
Defensive Line: Texas’ offense is hardly the strongest in the Big 12, but even still, the defensive line deserves credit for playing well enough to win this game. Despite doing without Demetrius Alston and Keland McElrath, the line hung tough for most of the game, and, with Jackson Richard’s sack and forced fumble, which Branden Jackson recovered for a touchdown, was responsible for six of Tech’s 13 points. The Longhorns rushed for 241 yards, which is a high number, but held them to 4.7 yards per carry, which is borderline acceptable.
Linebackers: It is unlikely that regular starter Sam Eguavoen would have played any better than Micah Awe, who recorded 12 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, a sack, and two pass breakups, in his stead. In one position or another, Awe needs to start the remaining three games. V.J. Fehoko had a pretty good game with eight tackles, while Pete Robertson recorded a sack for the sixth straight game.
Secondary: J.J. Gaines recorded 12 tackles and a forced fumble, but that’s about the only good thing that can be said for the secondary. Gaines also whiffed badly on a few tackles, and along with Keenon Ward, was totally ineffectual in coverage. Indeed, deep pass defense, along with the offense’s passing game, is this team’s worst weakness. Nigel Bethel’s struggles in coverage contribute to this problem (Tevin Madison looks like the better option right now), while Justis Nelson does no better than hold his own. Jah’Shawn Johnson, who played often early in the season, seems to have disappeared completely.
Special Teams: With the exception of Ryan Bustin’s missed extra point and chip-shot field goal, special teams did well. Tech actually got something from its punt return game for a change. The Red Raiders covered a single kickoff very well, and punter Taylor Symmank continues to be one of the team’s unsung heroes.