Anybody who cares about Texas Tech football had better hope the reason the Red Raiders played like the dog’s dinner against Kansas was because of the uninspiring opposition and not something inherent to the Tech team. Because if Tech uncorks another stink-bomb like the one they lobbed in slipping past the Jayhawks 30-20, they will not only lose but lose badly.
The remainder of Tech’s schedule reads thus: Oklahoma on the road, Oklahoma State in Lubbock, West Virginia on the road, Kansas State in Lubbock, and Texas on the road. As of this writing, Kansas State, who trails Oklahoma 45-0, looks like the most winnable of those games, but should the Red Raiders sleepwalk into that game as they did in Lawrence, even that game is no sure win.
When a good team such as Tech plays a poor and winless team such as Kansas, the possibility of a letdown is omnipresent. The Jayhawks, who had been outscored 227-95 by their opponents and were winless coming into the game against the Red Raiders, are arguably the worst team in the history of the Big 12. And if, as seems likely, Kansas finishes the season winless—their remaining schedule is not propitious—the 2015 Jayhawks will join the 1954 Jayhawks as the only teams to go 0-fer in Kansas’ 126-year football history. One can understand, therefore, why Tech might have taken the Jayhawks lightly.
Regardless, the out-of-kilter Red Raiders did not resemble the team that stomped UTEP and Iowa State, pounded Arkansas in Arkansas, and came within an eyelash of upsetting TCU. The litany of mistakes and failures is long. And amazingly enough, it begins and largely ends with Tech’s supercharged offense.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, while not awful, was not the wizardly flamethrower we’ve become accustomed to seeing. He was off-target on many of his throws, including an overthrow in the first half that would have resulted in a Devin Lauderdale touchdown. And while he managed to evade pressure on a few occasions, he was also sacked five times. The rest of the offense is partially to blame for those sacks, but so is Mahomes who too often failed to get rid of the ball.
Zach Austin, Deandre Washington and Reginald Davis all dropped passes, and the drops by Austin and Washington nullified what would have been explosive plays. But worse even than the drops was the inability of the receivers to get open against a mediocre-at-best KU secondary. Two or three of Kansas’ sacks were genuine coverage sacks. This was the first time in 2015 that Red Raider receivers were effectively plastered by opposing back sevens.
Offensive line play was spotty at best. Aside from the five sacks allowed, Jared Kaster picked up two 15-yard penalties, and Le'Raven Clark was flagged for holding. Clark ultimately went down with an injury, adding to the depletion caused by Justin Murphy’s injury against Baylor, and the line suffered as a result. But against Kansas, the suffering should not have been so apparent.
And we cannot spare censure of the play calling as well. Specifically, DeAndre Washington and the ground game really began heating up in the second half. More specifically still, with Tech nursing a precarious 23-20 lead and 6:20 showing on the game clock, Tech elected to hand the ball to Washington on a play over right tackle. Washington jetted 45 yards to the KU 32.
And on the heels of Washington’s success, what did Tech’s offensive brass decide to do? Dance with the one that brung them, right? Continue pounding the rock, right? Not a bit of it. Tech called three straight passes, with the third resulting in a sack. Consequently Tech punted the ball instead of scoring an almost certain field goal or quite possibly a touchdown that would have slammed the door on the Jayhawks.
Not good. Not good at all. It all added up to 23 offensive points, some 18 less than South Dakota State scored on the Jayhawks.
The emphasis on Tech’s offensive ineptitude is not meant to imply that the defense and special teams sparkled. They did not. And in particular, the defense, which pitched a shut out in the first half, allowed the Jayhawks to score 20 in the second. But Jah'Shawn Johnson's pick six, when Kansas had the ball and the chance to take the lead, redeems much of the weak second-half play.
So the Red Raiders got the bad game out of their system. Or did they? The upcoming trip to Norman will tell us just how tough and mature this Tech team really is. And it may tell us if what happened in Lawrence was a fluke or something more serious.