Texas Tech had a significant advantage over LSU at one position on the field. The most important position on the field. Quarterback. But a quarterback alone, no matter how good he may be, cannot make up for deficiencies at every other position.
It all started up front with the Texas Tech offensive line versus LSU’s defensive front seven. The Red Raiders saw excellent front sevens when they played Baylor and Oklahoma, and inexplicably, fell to pieces against Kansas’ inferior front seven, but never were they so overmatched as when facing the Tigers.
Tech’s interior trio of Jared Kaster, Alfredo Morales, and Baylen Brown were utterly dominated. Rarely did Pat Mahomes have a clean pocket, because rarely was a pocket allowed to even form, such was the push that LSU got against Tech’s interior line.
Heck, even All American left tackle Le’Raven Clark struggled at times, and for the first time this season, makeshift right tackle Emeka Okafor was exposed.
Naturally, the mismatch in the trenches hurt the passing game inasmuch as Mahomes was scrambling virtually every time he dropped back to pass, when he wasn’t being sacked, that is. And he was sacked six times.
But the troubles up front were even more deleterious for Tech’s previously potent ground game. DeAndre Washington, arguably the best running back in the Big 12 this season, carried the ball only 10 times for 37 yards.
In any healthy Texas Tech game-plan, Washington carries the ball at least twice that many times. But LSU’s fearsomeness up front seemingly intimidated Kliff Kingsbury from even calling Washington’s name. Heck, Washington carried the ball only four times in the second half.
But perhaps Kingsbury was right not to give Washington the rock more often, and to at least try to make LSU respect the run, thus taking some of the heat off of Mahomes. Perhaps more Washington carries would have been mere wasted snaps. We will never know. But we do know that the Tigers were much better than the Red Raiders up front.
On defense, the case was not so crystal clear. At least not for a while.
As we saw fairly often in the second half of the season, the Red Raider defense competed well for about two-and-a-half quarters. Tech did a reasonably good job on Adrian Peterson II, otherwise known as Leonard Fournette. And they kept the Tiger offense in check well enough that a typical Red Raider offensive performance may well have netted a win.
But Tech’s offense didn’t face a typical defense. And when the offense again and again failed to ring the bell in the second half, predictably, the Red Raider defense fell apart and the rout was on.
Even still, however, the defense was just a few plays away from keeping this game competitive throughout. David Gibbs loaded up against Fournette and the run, daring LSU to beat Tech with Brandon Harris and the pass. Unfortunately, at key moments, often on third-and-long, cornerbacks Justis Nelson and Tevin Madison weren’t up to the job. LSU repeatedly victimized that duo in crucial situations, extending drives to lengths beyond which the beleaguered Tech front seven could withstand.
And in the end the snowball turned into a snowplow, which ground the Red Raiders into the permafrost, and the result was a disappointing 56-27 loss.
As ever, the situation confronting the Texas Tech football program as it moves toward next season is obvious—Kliff Kingsbury and his defensive coaches must find a way to build a defense that is competent. The Red Raiders will score enough points to win most games; but can they stop decent opponents from scoring even more?