A Look Back at Texas Tech's Offense in 2014

Quarterback play, receiver struggles and questionable play calling plagued the Red Raiders for much of the season, but there were some bright spots and reasons for hope moving forward.

Texas Tech’s offense experienced many a difficulty in 2014. The travails of Davis Webb at quarterback, and the transition to Patrick Mahomes at the position are well documented. Likewise, the totally unexpected contretemps of the Red Raider receiving corps have been thoroughly discussed. Dropped passes were legion, and Jakeem Grant and Bradley Marquez, preseason honors candidates, had inexplicably average seasons.

The overall unreliability of Tech’s passing game was the primary reason the offense experienced its worst scoring output in at least seven seasons. The Red Raiders averaged 30.5 points per game, which ranked No. 55 nationally among 128 FBS teams. Going back to 2008, that scoring average is far and away Tech’s worst. The 2013 and 2010 offenses were next least prolific, and they still finished No.23 nationally, 32 positions better than last year’s offense.

But did Tech’s mediocre passing attack doom the offense to a mediocre season? Was there any other option or strategy that could have produced better results? Well, my friends, we need look no further than the Red Raider rushing attack, and more important, its relative neglect by those crafting game-plans and calling plays.

As we are well aware, running back Deandre Washington had an outstanding season. His 1,103 rushing yards were the most by a Tech back since 1998. What’s more, he was the first Red Raider ball-carrier to crack the thousand-yard mark since Ricky Williams pulled it off in that 1998 season.

Washington’s success would seem to suggest that he and the other backs (Justin Stockton, Kenny Williams and Quinton White) were used appropriately. But a closer look at the national statistics strongly suggests otherwise.

The Red Raider ground game averaged 5.2 rushing yards per attempt, which ranked a highly respectable No. 26 in the nation. However, Tech’s 153 rushing yards per contest ranked No. 80, which is the 63rd percentile. The disparity between the ground game’s effectiveness and its utilization is stark, to say the very least.

And when we compare that disparity to the teams whose yards-per-carry average was better than Tech’s, the gap appears all the more damning.

Fourteen of the 25 offenses whose yards-per-carry average bettered Tech’s also ranked lower, nationally, in total rushing yardage than they did in yards per carry. However, the disparity was very minimal suggesting that those rushing attacks were utilized appropriately. The ranking differential between Tech’s yards per carry (No. 26) and its overall rushing offense (No. 80) was 54 spots. The second largest gap was 30—some 24 less than Tech—by the Miami (Fla.) offense. North Carolina State’s 20 comes in third, and TCU’s 17 comes in fourth. The following are much more typical: Oregon (8), Toledo (7), Marshall (5), Nebraska and Georgia (4), Oklahoma and Arkansas (3), Ohio State, Indiana, New Mexico and Wisconsin (1).

Total rushing touchdowns is another baffling statistic for the Red Raider offense. Despite the ground attack’s potency, Tech rushed for only eight touchdowns, which ranks No. 123 nationally. To find another ground game that rushed for five yards per carry or more, yet didn’t score many rushing touchdowns, one has to slide up a full 46 positions, where one will find the Miami Hurricanes. Despite averaging more than five yards per tote, Miami scored a modest 18 rushing touchdowns, which ranked No. 77 nationally. But 18 rushing touchdowns still more than doubles what Tech scored on the ground!

We all know that the identity of Texas Tech football is the “Air Raid” passing attack. And we all know that Kliff Kingsbury, as both player and coach, is central to that identity. Nevertheless, ultimately, the name of the game is winning, not putting up gaudy passing stats. And it is quite clear that running the football much more would have given the Red Raiders a better chance at winning more games last season.

With the tremendous DeAndre Washington returning to the fold, along with Stockton, White, and four fifths of the offensive line (not to mention the addition highly touted back Corey Daupine), one hopes Tech’s ground attack gets its due in 2015. Better to win eight games looking like Wisconsin than to lose eight bearing a passing resemblance—so to speak--to the Red Raiders of 2008.

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