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November 6, 2012

Texas Post-Mortem

I don't write these to try to change the narrative or dictate emotions, but only to serve as a reconciliation of what really happened on the field. It's not something you can capture in live action, which is why I believe coaches rely on film before answering many questions about what specifically happened in games. It stinks losing to your biggest rival no matter how I slice and the opportunities to win were there. I thought Texas Tech played their guts out, but in the end, one too many self-inflicted wounds cost them the game.

OFFENSE

I'm mildly amused as the criticism of Neal Brown's play-calling because the Red Raiders didn't score nine touchdowns, when Texas' plan was to burn Tech early with big pass plays then shorten the game with the ground attack while forcing Seth Doege and Co. to drive the length of the field on offense. Of those nine drives -- excluding the shortened right before half series -- the Red Raiders scored points on five of them and had a blocked field goal. I'm not even going to be critical of Brown's red zone play-calling as player execution was the primary aspect of the offense bogging down. I've noted the three playcalls that were suspect:

- Second Quarter, 3rd and 10 from UT 16 - Run to Eric Stephens. This seems like a head coach call to play for a field goal. Tough to say if that's Brown's fault.

- Second Quarter, 3rd and 2 from UT 47 - Run to Kenny Williams. Don't get the point of calling a timeout before that to try and get points on the board, then calling a run. Plus, that was a bizarro waste of timeout to ice the kicker if Tech was going to try and score. Then, Tech goes for it on fourth down, Doege makes a great throw and Ward drops the ball.

- Third Quarter, two-point attempt - Try a low percentage fade route to a backup player against the Longhorns' No. 1 cornerback.

So, really we're down to one play in which the Red Raiders' clock management had made the call irrelevant anyway. On the other 69 plays, Tech managed 437 total yards for an average of 6.33 yards per play, which would rank 25th in the country. The Red Raiders' biggest issue was that Mack Brown fired Manny Diaz at halftime of the Kansas game and they didn't get the same junk unit Texas has been rolling out the rest of the season.

This was an offense that consistently drove the ball up and down the field, continually burned the blitz and suffered three three-and-outs due to a dropped pass, a sack and a lucky tipped pass by a linebacker on a would-be big play to a wide open receiver. Washington State would beg for this offense right now.

Now, if you want to criticize the head coach for not rolling the dice a couple of times in the red zone of a big rival game, I completely understand.

Tech also had four touchdowns (or likely) taken away by a phantom chop block call and a non-reviewed completion, and then a dropped pass by the team's best receiver and a holding call on a senior lineman. Like you, I would have felt a little better about 42 points, but sometimes you don't get all the breaks.

Complain about Brown all you want, I guess, but if you're not considering the factors above into your rationale, then you're largely suffering from group-think. Maybe dock him for gaining a little too much confidence in some of the zone running plays the Red Raiders burned them with, but also give him credit for how many incredible passing calls he had on blitzes.

Quarterback

I thought Seth Doege played great live, but he played even better than I remembered on film. He hung in the pocket in the face of blitzes and fired strikes to the correct read for four quarters. And, on top of that, protected the football. Great game by Seth and I just wish the scoreboard would have worked out for him.

Running Back

Kennimack Williams did everything he could, while Eric Stephens and SaDale Foster chipped in with some key plays. I warned last week that the UT defensive front still had talent and, when playing base fronts, are actually a formidable unit. The Red Raiders weren't always setting them up with the best blocking, but they left it all out there.

Wide Receiver

The game wouldn't have been as close as it was without Eric Ward on the field, but when your quarterback lays a perfect ball up for you in a big time game, you've got to make that play in this league if you've got the responsibility of go-to guy. I know Carrington Byndom did a good job on defense, but Ward has made much tougher plays than that in his career. Otherwise, another good outing.

Darrin Moore was solid as well in the passing game, but less than willing in blocking duties on a couple of the team's stalled run plays in the red zone. Tyson Williams caught three balls and knocked someone into the Iowa State game the remaining time. Love the way this guy plays football.

Offensive Line

As far as pass protection goes, this was the best Tech has played against a Texas team since I can remember. The Longhorns threw the kitchen sink at them and there's no shame in Terry McDaniel getting beat for one sack by Alex Okafor. The run blocking continues to be an inconsistent endeavor that prevents the team from beating a conference opponent with it. They had some highlights in spots, but nothing reliable.

Le'Raven Clark is the exception and he has developed into the best underclassman guard in the conference. I am somewhat excited for the Jared Kaster Era to begin and I hope Tech gives him an opportunity for more reps. It's amazing for a true freshman center to step in and look like he belongs. His quickness and technique will provide us with an element Deveric Gallington hasn't ever quite delivered. That's probably the number one piece of the puzzle to improving the run game.

DEFENSE

I've actually got a few more issues with the play-calling on this side of the ball. Here is an excerpt from a preview I wrote for a Texas site:

"I suspect the power sweeps to Gray with Espinosa and a guard pulling should be the bread and butter this week, if the UT staff has been watching the same film I have. The key will be Barrett Matthews' ability to secure a hook block on the Tech ends. A good gameplan would call for a minimum 10-15 reps of this play and a solid play action/rollout package off it to take advantage of the run biased defense Tech will most likely be playing on early downs. A heavy dose of jet sweeps should also be in the cards to continually test the perimeter pursuit."

In summary, that is exactly how the Red Raiders got burned. The first play from scrimmage and Johnathan Gray burns Tech with a sweep play for 26 yards. Texas botches an end-around and the Red Raiders end up with a nice chance to get them off the field in a 3rd and 14. The Longhorns are going to run one of two plays: draw or screen. My neighbor agrees with me. It's a screen. Art Kaufman calls a two linebacker blitz to bail UT out in what was arguably as critical as any play the home team didn't make in the game.

I recognize that Tech doesn't have the option of stopping everything, but you would think they could spare one safety to protect the team's depleted corners. If you take out Gray's first run, the Red Raiders did a respectable job in run defense until the last two drives holding him to 11 carries for 27 yards over that stretch. The Longhorns had the same amount of punts as touchdowns, which should still serve as recognition for the strides he has made with this unit. Tech just looked worn down in the fourth quarter, but as a whole, I was pleased with the physicality they showed.

Defensive Line

Kerry Hyder and Delvon Simmons have done their part throughout the season and taking away the middle and this game was no different. The Longhorns got to the Red Raiders a little on the last drive, but they were still disruptive forces that limited offensive options.

Dartwan Bush and Jackson Richards struggled again on the edge, especially in the first and fourth quarters. Branden Jackson was out there, but didn't see much action. I don't recall Pete Robertson seeing the field this week and the pass rush was non-existent.

Linebackers

The linebackers were either really good or really bad this week and there didn't seem to be much in between. I thought Will Smith and Terrance Bullitt both had some stretches of good football, but pulling linemen got to their legs or blocked them out of UT's sweep play for the most part. I noted Sam Eguavoen and Zach Winbush each on one good play, but didn't see much past that.

Secondary

Tech didn't get any turnovers out of Cody Davis or D.J. Johnson and both have had better tackling performances. Eugene Neboh, Bruce Jones and Derrick Mays each gave up at least one big play.





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