While watching the Texas Tech’s fourth-quarter implosion en route to a 70-53 loss to Oklahoma State, this observer felt a sickening sensation in his gut. And the feeling was all too familiar.
Texas Tech (5-4, 2-4 in the Big 12), three games into the back half of the season, once again appears to be disintegrating, particularly on defense. And therein lies the familiarity.
Going back to the 2011 season, and including the last three games the Red Raiders have played in 2015, Texas Tech is 7-20 in the final six games of those seasons. And points allowed in these games tell a harrowing tale fully appropriate to the night especially designated for witches, vampires and goblins.
- In those 27 games, Tech has surrendered 30 points or more 24 times.
- In those 27 games, Tech as surrendered 40 points or more on 16 occasions.
- In those 27 games, Tech has allowed 50 points or more 11 times.
- In those 27 games, Tech has surrendered 60 or more points 6 times.
With the 70 points scored by Oklahoma State in the most recent game, Tech has allowed 70 or more points twice—the other instance being the 82 points TCU hung on Tech last year.
During this 27-game sample, the Red Raiders have held opponents to less than 30 points only thrice.
And in the last two games Tech has played, the opponents have combined for 133 points.
We, of course, live in an era of supercharged offenses, the Big 12 conference has the greatest offenses of them all, and historically Texas Tech’s schedule has been back-loaded with quality teams. Even still, however, the legacy of defensive collapse leading to a winning percentage of only 26 is stark and undeniable. The pattern is there. It is etched in slate and illuminated by the most garish neon. Only the willfully blind could fail to grasp it.
Now, alas, it is becoming painfully apparent that the current Tech football team is continuing the pattern.
When the Red Raiders gave up 63 points and over 400 rushing yards to an Oklahoma offense whose ground game had hitherto been punchless, the alarm bells could be heard faintly in the distance. And now, following the defensive debacle against Oklahoma State, those bells are klaxons shrieking in one’s ears.
There are a few salient points to make regarding what transpired against the Cowboys.
First is the ease with which the visitors scored in the fourth quarter. Excluding the interception return for the final touchdown, OSU required exactly 7 plays to score 21 points. The Cowboys covered a combined 233 yards on those “drives” averaging 33 yards per play. Total time elapsed en route to these door-slamming touchdowns was 162 seconds. Frankly, it is difficult to imagine a defense playing more poorly than Tech’s did in that fatal fourth quarter.
Second is the fact that the Red Raider defense created only one turnover in this game. In addition to Dakota Allen’s interception, Tech forced three fumbles but recovered nary a one. Against Oklahoma last week the Red Raiders forced two turnovers. During the first half of the season turnover-creation was the one peg this defense could hang its hat on. Without turnovers, this defense wasn’t stopping anybody. And if this defense continues to average only 1.5 turnovers created per game, which is what it has done the last two games, it will not do well enough to win more games.
Finally, entering the game with Oklahoma State, Texas Tech was No. 127 nationally in total defense. The only team in all of FBS college football with a statistically worse defense was Kansas, which was one yard per game inferior to Tech. With the outcome of the Tech-OSU and Kansas-Oklahoma games baked into the equation, Tech will probably remain at No. 127.
This is historically bad defense, calling to mind the dreadful unit of 2003. And if Kliff Kingsbury and David Gibbs cannot find the magic formula to elevate the defense’s performance over the final three games, it is entirely possible that Tech will finish the season at 5-7.
But over the longer term, there is nothing much that Kingsbury can do. The discontinuity springing from the revolving door of defensive coordinators over the last several seasons is one reason for the defensive misery. The very last thing Kingsbury would want to do is get rid of yet another defensive coordinator. Patience and continued effort are the only hopes for improvement. But with Kingsbury approaching the fourth season in what has been an undistinguished tenure thus far, patience looks to be a rapidly dwindling commodity in Red Raiderland.