Raider Power senior writer Joe Yeager gives his take on Texas Tech's season opening 69-17 win over Stephen F. Austin.
- Perhaps the most obvious takeaway from Texas Tech’s 69-17 demolition of Stephen F. Austin is the fact that Tech’s defensive line appears dramatically better than last year’s defensive line. But this fact is tempered by those who note that Stephen F. Austin isn’t particularly good compared to most of the teams on Tech’s remaining schedule. The caveat is a wise one; we cannot know how good the Red Raider D-line really is until it faces a respectable FBS offensive attack. It will get the chance this coming Saturday at Arizona State.
- In the meantime note that in 2015 SFA lost to Sam Houston State in a close 34-28 game. And that very Sam Houston team gave Texas Tech all it wanted in the season opener before dropping a 59-45 decision to the Red Raiders. In that game, SHSU rushed for 317 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 6.9 yards per carry. SFA, on the other hand, managed only 58 rushing yards against the Red Raiders on 35 attempts for a 1.7 yards per carry average. And the vast majority of those yards came after Tech called off the dogs and inserted second- and third-teamers. In other words, there is real reason to believe the front four of Gary Moore, Kolin Hill, Breiden Fehoko and Ondre Pipkins is very much legit. And if that is the case, Texas Tech will be the surprise team of the Big 12 this season.
- While we’re on the subject of the defensive line, it is with great pleasure that I report the presence of genuine depth in that unit. Interior backups Mychaelon Thomas, Joe Wallace and Broderick Washington all did some good things, while Zach Barnes and Kris Williams made their presence felt at the end positions. This depth will allow the starters to stay fresher and play better.
- Quarterback Pat Mahomes put up the expected crazy numbers and dominated the game whenever he was on the field. And he didn’t control the game entirely with his arm, but with his legs as well. Mahomes led Tech in rushing with 57 yards, and proved truly difficult to tackle. He seemed too big and strong for most of SFA’s defenders to handle in the open field, and compounded the difficulty by deploying an array of sneaky pump and pitch fakes. He wasn’t quite Thomas Lott or Dee Dowis, but he did a pretty fair imitation of Bret Favre. That said, I got a bit of a queasy gizzard watching Mahomes tuck it and run the ball into the teeth of the defense.
- In the passing department, Mahomes threw for 483 yards and four touchdowns with zero interceptions. As good as those numbers are, they could have been much better. Mahomes was not at his most accurate, overshooting open receivers on a few occasions. I wouldn’t be shocked if he plays even better against Arizona State.
- Except for a few penalties, the starting offensive line looked very good indeed. The freshman tackles—Terence Steele and Madison Akamnonu—kept SFA’s quality defensive ends at bay, while interior starters Tony Morales, Baylen Brown and Justin Murphy completely controlled the interior. Murphy mashed his man whenever I singled him out for observation, and Akamnonu showed his athleticism by getting far downfield to block on a couple of intermediate passing plays. This group can be very good.
- Speaking of blocking, Dylan Cantrell was a complete force against the Lumberjacks. Again and again he completely neutralized defensive backs, paving the way for his fellow receivers to gain much extra yardage.
- Cameron Batson had a big night returning punts, with four returns for 75 yards. He also saved Tech valuable field position on one occasion tracking down a very deep punt and fair catching it. Had Batson not done so, that punt likely would have gone out of bounds inside the 10-yard line. Instead, the Red Raiders set up shop around their own 30.
- As great as Batson was in the return game, I would like to see him and Justin Stockton make people miss in the open field more. I’m doubtless spoiled by having watched Jakeem Grant and DeAndre Washington, but when Batson and Stockton are in space—as they frequently were against SFA—they need to show some wiggle rather than simply trying to outrun everybody.
- Michael Barden was the only disappointment on special teams. He had a pretty bad night punting the ball, averaging only 33 yards per boot, and shanking one punt for about 15 yards. This was not the real Barden, in my opinion. I truly believe he has all conference capability.
- Tech’s lack of traditional running plays was quite glaring in this game, and Kliff Kingsbury acknowledged in the postgame presser that he probably should have dialed up more runs. Running backs Stockton, Demarcus Felton, Corey Dauphine and Caleb Woodward netted a combined 14 totes in this game. Kingsbury stated that SFA was showing run boxes most of the night, yet whenever Tech ran traditional runs they were quite successful. In my opinion, Tech’s offensive line was dominant enough that the Red Raiders could have had a huge game on the ground even running against a stacked box.
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