Top fuel, high octane offense has become almost the norm in college football. And nowhere is this truer than at Texas Tech, the school that blazed the trail toward ridiculous point totals and absurd total offense yardage.
So for a Red Raider offense to make eyebrows arch and mouths gasp, it must be and it must do things that are truly special. After the current Tech (4-2, 1-2 in the Big 12) offense hung a school record 776 yards and 66 points on a decent Iowa State (2-3, 1-1) defense, it is becoming readily apparent that this offense qualifies as special.
It is significant and indicative that the school record 776 yards eclipsed a mark established by the 2003 Tech offense—and against Iowa State, no less—insofar as that offensive unit, directed by B.J. Symons, is widely regarded as the best Tech has ever fielded. At this juncture Red Raider football fans with an eye for history have to begin considering the very real possibility that the current offense could be the school’s greatest.
“I think it's (breaking the record) huge, man. I think the sky's the limit,” said Texas Tech running back Deandre Washington after the game. “We've still got a bunch of football left, so I'm interested to see what else can be accomplished.”
But as good as this offense is right now, the scary thing is that it is an offense which is nowhere close to its maximum strength. Take, for instance the receiving corps. The Red Raiders trotted out Ja’Deion High, Zach Austin, Jakeem Grant Jakeem Grant and Tony Brown as the starters.
Are you kidding me?!
Two months ago your average Tech fan—and many others much better than average—had never even heard of High and Austin, and Brown is a true freshman! Injuries have deleted Devin Lauderdale, Ian Sadler, and Dylan Cantrell, three of the team’s top four receivers, from the lineup, and the losses hampered the offense to such an extent that it amassed a puny 515 passing yards and 776 yards of total offense. What might it have done with Lauderdale, Sadler and Cantrell in the lineup?
But that’s just the half of it. In addition to the rash of injuries among the receivers, Kliff Kingsbury did without phenomenal freshman guard Justin Murphy, replacing him with Tony Morales, who is clearly a couple of steps down from the big frosh.
No problem. The line allows one “sack” on an intentional grounding call and clears the way for 261 rushing yards and 8.4 yards per carry.
Then too, the trigger-man himself, Patrick Mahomes, is still not completely healthy after suffering a leg injury against TCU.
“He’s still not as fast as I’ve seen him the first three or four games,” Kingsbury said. “I thought he really had a burst.”Photo By Steven Chapman
Mahomes doesn’t have the burst, but he’s still got the magic. At this point in the college football narrative it sounds clichéd to speak of quarterbacks “extending plays,” but that is precisely what makes Mahomes a walking dagger. Just like Fran Tarkenton, Roger Staubach and Joe Theisman, Mahomes has an uncanny ability to evade certain sacks, elongate plays more than defensive backs can handle, and then whip the ball with accuracy to receivers who have gotten behind the coverage. What’s more—at least, when he’s got his burst—defenders have to worry about Mahomes scrambling.
It puts defensive backs in a brutal quandary play after play after play. Do you leave your receiver to prevent Mahomes scrambling, or do you stick with the receiver and give Mahomes open running lanes? As Mahomes’ bad leg continues to heal, future opponents will be confronted with the choice of hemlock or cyanide all the more frequently.
So the case is pretty much open-and-shut. Texas Tech’s 2015 offense is sheer murder and should only improve as injured players filter back into the lineup. Tech’s fate for the remainder of the season then hinges upon how much David Gibbs’ defense improves. With negligible improvement the Red Raider offense is still good enough to ensure at least a couple more wins. With significant improvement Tech finishes the regular season 10-2. That is the reality.