Archive | October, 2012

FROM THE STANDS: Texas Tech

FTS logoRemember how I said the loss to ou three weeks ago was the worst of the Mack Brown era? Well, we were a great fourth down throw away from obliterating that. Texas was “this” close to losing to 1-6 Kansas on Saturday, “this” being my thumb and finger very close together. This Kansas team hasn’t beaten a Division I team since September of 2011, hasn’t beaten a conference opponent in two years and hasn’t had a halftime lead since the second game of the year, yet there they were, about to put Texas away…

But if any team should understand that the game isn’t over until the clock hits zero, it’s the Kansas Jayhawks. The Longhorns went to Lawrence in 2004 and the same thing happened. It was cold, Kansas was fired up, Texas was not, and a sleepwalking Longhorn team was pushed to the edge of the cliff before Vince Young’s historic run on 4th & 18 set up a game-winning touchdown pass to Tony Jeffery. This time it was Case McCoy with the heroics and it was DJ Grant with the game-winning touchdown catch. “Avoided disaster in the closing seconds” and the color of the uniforms are the only things the 2004 and 2012 Texas Longhorn teams have in common.

And disaster it would have been. I can’t even imagine what would have happened had that fourth down pass fallen incomplete. The fans are already… unsettled and unsatisfied… so who knows what sort of Walking Dead-type stuff we might have seen. The villagers with torches storming the castle are what I see in my head. Fortunately Texas avoided that and the ugly aftermath didn’t happen. The Horns are 6-2 and are going bowling again, which is nice. Isn’t it nice? It is. Nice. Let’s take a look at the (near) train wreck in Lawrence.

No.24 TEXAS 21  KANSAS 17

Every coach and every player needs to get Case McCoy a gift card to Chick-Fil-A or Starbucks, because he saved everyone from the most horrific week since the loss to Colorado in the Big 12 Title Game in 2001. There is still PLENTY of activity from disgruntled fans, but at least Texas can hang their hats on the fact they won and are bowl eligible. So nice, right? Nice. Let’s break it down, shall we?

Quarterbacks — David Ash was terrible. I remember last week he seemed to tweak his knee taking a knee to end the game and he was wearing a brace on that knee this week. It never seemed to come up last week, but it was there. I don’t know if that was bothering him, but if I were him I would say it was, because he was just off all day. He threw behind guys, made bad decisions and some really poor throws, going 8-16 for 63 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns. He got little help from the most conservative play calling since the 2001 ou game, and usually when things would going badly elsewhere Ash has shown the ability to put the team on his back, but he couldn’t do it on Saturday and was benched. When Case McCoy came in he was the benefit of an opened offense because Texas got desperate late— how else can you explain the little flip pass to DJ Monroe or the jet sweep to Marquis Goodwin (twice) that never came up in 50-plus minutes of football prior— but he moved the chains and the team responded. He finished the day 5-7 for 68 yards, but the numbers don’t tell the story. Texas tied the game at 14, KU drove the field and kicked a field goal with 1:28 to play and the Horns were looking fully cooked, down 17-14. That feeling only intensified as McCoy’s first 2 passes on the drive were TERRIBLE. The first was so bad the defender couldn’t even pick it off and the second wasn’t much better. On third down he hit Davis on a very short gain and Davis went down with an injury. I remember thinking “We are getting worse by the second.” 4th & 6, the crowd going nuts, McCoy dropped back to pass and had good protection and lasered a perfect pass through the coverage to Jaxon Shipley for 18 yards and a first down, and at that point the Kansas crowd had to start thinking “here we go again.” Two plays later McCoy hit Davis (missed one play after getting the wind knocked out of him) with a perfectly placed pass down the sideline for 39 yards to the Kansas 3-yard line. Three plays later, on 3rd & Goal, he executed the play-action flawlessly and found DJ Grant for the touchdown all alone and the 21-17 lead. Everyone say “whew.”

McCoy was terrific in relief and I expect he’s still the backup this week, but Ash will not be given much time if he struggles. Ash has to play better than last week, or he’s the backup. Well done, Mr. McCoy.

Running Backs —With Malcolm Brown still on the shelf it’s time to give the keys to Jonathan Gray (update: they did! He’s the starter now). He rushed for a career high 111 yards on 18 carries, both team highs, and looked terrific darting and cutting all over the Jayhawks. You know what you get with Joe B., which is red zone production, but Gray seems like the big play guy out of the backfield that can set up Bergeron at the goal line. Look for more of him this week at Tech.

That’s two games now that Bergeron has showed great feet and cut back ability, turning a run for loss into a big gain by reversing the field and using the stiff arm to get back to the sideline. This week it was a 17-yarder on the game-tying touchdown drive that put Texas at the KU 14-yard line and two plays later Texas tied it up.

It was a big day for Gray, who seems to be really coming on. Get healthy, Malcolm.

Wide Outs/Tight Ends —With David Ash struggling mightily, I don’t understand why it took so long for Texas to use their speed outside to make something happen and I don’t know why it happened AFTER the quarterback change. On the game-tying touchdown drive that went 84 yards on seven plays, DJ Monroe took a flip pass for 11 yards and Marquise Goodwin had two end arounds for 53 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown run. So of the 84 yards and seven plays in the drive, the wide outs touched the ball in the backfield three times for 64 yards including the score. Seems to me that was something that should have come up earlier in the game?

Mike Davis was awesome, catching four passes for 59 yards including the 39-yard bomb from McCoy to set up the game-winning touchdown. Also awesome, Jaxon Shipley. Without Shipley’s catch for 18 yards on 4th & 18, Davis never gets the chance to make that 39-yard catch. The tight ends were also good: DJ Grant had the game-winning touchdown catch, MJ McFarland should have had a big gain if the pass was better and Barrett Matthews was blocking very, very well. Back to Goodwin- his 41-yard to set up the game-tying touchdown was as important as the Shipley and Davis catches and his speed changed the game in the fourth quarter.

It was a good day from everyone, but it could have been great if David Ash had been on his game or the staff used them (Daje?) earlier.

Offensive Line — You HAVE to get a push on 4th & Goal. There is no try, there is only do. And STOP WATCHING THE PLAY CLOCK, Espy. Let the quarterback and sidelines worry about that. All in all I thought they played pretty well, but my big take away was the turnover on downs at the goal line. That can’t happen.

Defensive Line —It sure looked to me like Kansas said “Where’s the guy replacing Jackson Jeffcoat?” and ran right at him. A lot. I keep saying Alex Okafor needs to look the part and this week he was the All-American. He led the team in tackles with 13 including one for loss, had three qb pressures and forced a fumble. He was a beast and KU knew it, which is why they ran away from him. But the staff didn’t help the d-line much, twisting them and stunting them right out of running lanes and KU seemed more than happy to accept the gifts. The tackles suffered the most and their production was evidence, but while some of that is on the scheme, some of that is on them. Ashton Dorsey and Malcom Brown had four tackles each, which is twice as many for each of them as Brandon Moore and Desmond Jackson had combined. Where the hell is Chris Whaley? Malcom Brown needs to play more because he seems to be the best playmaker on the line right now. Awesome day from Okafor and very good days from Dorsey and Brown.

Linebackers — Tevin Jackson? Where did he go? How does the one linebacker who made a big play not get the chance to make more?

Secondary — At halftime it seemed Manny Diaz FINALLY saw that he was asking his defense to think far too much, twist and stunt too much, etc. and the result was chaotic nonsense, so he scrapped the exotic looks and pressures and asked his defense to get after some people out of more of a base defensive look. It worked. James Sims, running wild in the first half for 140 yards, was held to 38 second-half yards and KU had the ball five times (they had seven possessions in the first half). The new, more base look proved effective and it was embodied by Kenny Vaccaro. In the simpler scheme Vaccaro was allowed to address the running game and he was vicious, finishing second on the team in tackles with 11,  a few KO’s and a forced fumble that, to me, looked like the only reason it was recovered by the ball carrier was his semi-conscious body fell right on top of it. THAT’s the Tattooed Missile I want to see, the guy that can change games with big hits and control the middle of the field in coverage. If Diaz will let THAT guy play safety, I think the entire defense can change. Hey Kenny- please agitate on the field and not by riding a guy out of bounds for no reason. That’s a 15-yard penalty most of the time. Great second half.

Quandre Diggs played well at corner but his pass interference penalty late was nearly a back-breaker. As for the rest of the secondary, whoever wants to tackle and likes to tackle please see Duane Akina. More Josh Turner, please

Special Teams — The specials created some opportunities for the offense and the defense but both failed to convert them. The punt team did their job by pinning Kansas deep and also by recovering a fumble, but the punt return team could not break anything as Kansas was shanking kicks right and left. A big return or a block could have ignited a route, but it didn’t happen.

No help from the offense and defense, but I thought the special teams would make a real difference and they just didn’t.

GAME NINE
No. 23 TEXAS (6-2/3-2) @ No.18 TEXAS TECH (6-2/3-2)
Saturday, November 3
rd
2:30 pm
ABC

You can be sure that the kids at Tech will be fully displaying their Tech-ness this weekend: They will be there early, they will be lit up like thousands of hateful little Christmas trees, painted black, holding “Mack Brown Farewell Tour” signs and they will be in your face if you encounter them, so be warned if you haven’t been there before. And they are pretty good on the field to boot. That’s the bad news. The good news is this game isn’t at night, so they will not be as lit as they would be for a 7 pm kick and for the first time in many, many years, they won’t be playing the unappreciated underdog card to fire up their team and fans for Texas. Tech is the favorite and, frankly, the pressure is on them to show the people in the stands and the TV audience that they are as good as anyone not named K-State in the Big 12. This is a monster game at Tech because they hate Texas and with A&M in the SEC, they only see someone they truly hate at home once every two years. This is their shot and the pressure of making it count is on them. They certainly could do just that, but like I always say they have to actually do it. Let’s take a look.

Tortillas

I’m sure a lot of people haven’t really been paying attention to what Tech is doing, but this is a solid, fundamentally sound football team that has shown the ability to play offense AND defense, which is a new thing out there. Tommy Tuberville is doing good things on the plains, let’s see what that means.

Offense

They might have a good ole boy from the SEC coaching the team, but this is the same offense. They want to throw and push tempo and run the other team off the field. That will not change this week, but they might change how they try and do it. The ringmaster is Seth Doege. The 6-foot-1, 197-pound senior quarterback is pretty mobile but not really a runner and likes to buy himself time to the throw it. And throw it he will. He is third in the conference with 317.5 yards passing per game. He leads the Big 12 with 30 touchdown passes, but he also is tied for second with eight interceptions. What that means is he will force balls into very tight coverage; sometimes it’s a touchdown and sometimes it’s a pick. Completing 70% of his passes tells me he’s successful for more than he is not.

Eric Ward, the 6-foot, 204-pound junior, leads the team in touchdown receptions (10) and yards receiving per game (73.9) while 6-foot-4 Darrin Moore leads the team with 43 catches and is second on the team with eight touchdown receptions. Tech is going to spread it around between Ward, Moore, tight end Jace Amaro (394 yards, 4 touchdowns) and sooner killer Alex Torres. Moore is a match up problem due to his size, but Tech schemes by moving their wide outs all over the field and at times it looks like someone dropped a box of marbles on the floor when the ball snaps. Except Doege knows where those marbles are going to be and usually finds them.

Tech is ranked 78th in rushing yards per game at 149, but that is as much by design as anything else. They throw screens and quick slants and use their short passing game like the running game and just don’t line up and run it too often. But that doesn’t mean they can’t. Tailbacks Kenny Williams and Eric Stephens average 6.1 and 5.3 yards respectively and have three touchdowns each. Williams gets more of the work, averaging 63 yards per game, but Stephens will sub in quite a bit. They don’t throw it to them like they have in the past, but that is certainly an option. Both are 5-foot-9 and can gash a defense committed to stopping the pass and I expect to see them trying to do that A LOT.

Up front they have a guy named LaAdrian and another named Le’Raven. That’s pretty cool. This a very big offensive line and, at times, they struggle to protect Doege with faster pass rushers, but for the most part they do a good job of keeping the O moving along, averaging 619 yards and 40.5 points per game.

We all know what’s coming. They are going to do what every other Big 12 team has done: run the ball and make Texas tackle while taking measured shots down field when the Horns commit everyone to stopping the run. I see the WVA offensive game plan coming again with screens and slants to Ward, running off-tackle after spreading Texas out and there cannot possibly be much concern that Texas will be able to stop that. My question is I wonder if Tech is patient enough to use the ground game all day? It isn’t something they do a lot, so I am curious to see if they change up their offense to attack what Texas does poorly. I just don’t know.

Defense

The big difference between this team and the ones of the Pirate are the defense. It isn’t an afterthought at Tech anymore. The Red Raiders are the No.12 defense nationally, allowing just 300 yards per game. They are 27th in rush defense (121.25 ypg) and 15th in passing defense at 178.75 ypg. At times they struggle to keep teams from scoring, allowing 25.75 points per game and that is due in part to a poor turnover margin, which is 89th nationally at -.50 per game.

There are no superstars on this defense, but they get it done. They are very small up front, going 256, 281, 290 and 248 pounds across the board, but they are extremely active. Led by Austin native Kerry Hyder inside at tackle, the starting four have 22.5 tackles for loss including eight sacks which is nearly all of their tackles for loss and sacks on the defense. They use their speed and quickness to disrupt plays at and behind the line of scrimmage and are reasonably effective when they need to pin their ears back, especially Hyder, who has four sacks. I like what they do, despite their size, and they do it fairly well.

The linebackers do an excellent job of cleaning up what gets by the front four as Will Smith, Sam Eguavoen and Terrence Bullitt rank third, fifth and eighth in tackles on the team. They usually don’t blitz a lot, but rather play at the line of scrimmage to defend the run. You will see them drop into coverage occasionally as well, but their primary job is to support the run. None are giants, but they all do a good job and know where to be.

I don’t see anything sensational or sexy about the secondary, but like the front four they just get it done, ranking 20th nationally in pass efficiency defense with a 111.17 rating. They tackle well and are usually in the right spot. Showoffs.

There isn’t really anything on paper about this defense that stands out that makes me say “that’s why they are so good.” The active front seven isn’t really even that active, ranking 97th in sacks and 71st in tackles for loss; however, they are the embodiment of team. They pick each other up, make plays when they need to and get off the field. I expect they plan to stack the line of scrimmage and try and stop the Texas run that devastated them last year in Austin. They will probably bring those linebackers to get pressure and see if the wrist is still bothering David Ash (I think it has been) and force poor throws and picks like last week. This is one of the better defenses Texas has played and, after watching the ou film, they have to feel like they can do the same sorts of things.

Special Teams

They are middle-of-the-pack in almost all phases of special teams: 9-13 on field goals with one blocked, 16 touchbacks on 49 kickoffs, a 21-yard kickoff return average with no scores and one touchdown allowed and 9.2 yards-per-return average on punts but 9.5 allowed. Punter Ryan Erxleben (yes he’s related) is excellent, averaging 42 yards per punt, but they give up way too many yards per return.

Tubs likes to gamble, so a fake punt to extend a drive and ignite the fans wouldn’t surprise me, but the Tech specials are not as good as Texas’ and they will need to work to not lose this phase.

Texas

No one asked me to address the team, but I will anyway:

You guys lost the ou game before the coin flip. The sooners came out jacked and were ready to fight. Literally. Everyone of them was ready to go. I didn’t see that on the Texas sideline. I saw a team that looked a bit flat. Unless you are far and away superior to your opponent, you aren’t going to beat them if they are sky high and you are flat.

So don’t be flat. There are only five more of these until next September, so bring your crazy to the field. I want energy, fire, intensity and some cockiness. I want to see Texas come out and talk to the crowd like the sooners did. I want to see referees pushing Texas guys back to their sideline/huddle and telling them to shut their mouths. I want to see fearless swagger. Sure Tech is favored, but they have the same record, including a blowout loss. I want to see a travel squad ready to fight. Sorry if that’s not a nice thing to say or something people want to hear, but I want to see a squad of likes-to-fight guys that will not only take on the Tech football team, but the kids in the stands and the residents of Lubbock as well. Bring that attitude and t’s see if Texas Tech responds in kind.

And I want to see that from the staff, too. Texas went to Lubbock and won in 2006 and Gene Chizik barely changed out of his 4-3 set. I’ve been calling for a simplified defense, and last week we got it and it worked. Line up and punch them in the mouth and see what they do. If they drive it down your throat repeatedly, then adjust. But what if they don’t? What if they can’t? Let’s find out. No fear.

No fear from the offense, either. Spread these guys out and make that anemic pass rush come get you and don’t be scared to score in two plays and give them the ball. Throw over the top and make Tech adjust, and then hit them with the running game. I want to see the Harsin Way, which is 100 different formations and jet sweeps and all the exotics. Mack Brown, you have to trust your guys to do their job on offense and let the play makers make plays, because if Texas lines up Joe Bergeron and runs out of the Power I every first and second down they will not move the ball enough or score enough to account for what Tech will do. They are going to score points, so let’s score some points, too, and cut the o loose and let Harsin wear these guys out with formations and great play calling.

I hope that something like that is going on, because if Texas doesn’t match the intensity of the Red Raiders and their crowd I don’t know how they win this game. They can win this game if the bring a team-wide energy and I think it will take about 45 points to do that. Throw early and get Tech chasing you and play simple, uncomplicated defense and GET AFTER Doege. Tech has shown they struggle to protect him at times and they have trouble hanging on to the ball with six fumbles lost and eight interceptions. Hands and hats on the ball and get Doege on the ground. Tackling is nice, too, so let’s try that. Come on, Manny, trust the base. Come on Mack, trust Harsin. Let’s do this, just like in 2004 when Texas struggled at KU and then went to Tech the following week and whipped the Red Raiders, 52-20.

45 points gets this done and I see Texas, if the offense opens up, being able to get there and Manny Diaz and his guys doing enough to slow down Tech… But you have to bring the right attitude. Bring the crazy, fellas, and let the tortillas fall where they may.

In Conclusion…

I have said my peace. Bring attitude and a fearless mentality and let’s see what happens.

Last Week in the Big 12

BAYLOR 21 IOWA STATE 35
I don’t remember anything other than Baylor’s Cyril Richardson lifting an Iowa State defender off the ground by kicking him the crotch. He was ejected, but I cannot eject that from my mind. Baylor has lost four straight and Iowa State is a win away from bowl eligibility.

No.14 TEXAS TECH 24 KANSAS STATE 55
Tech made this a game for a while, but K-State knocked them out in the second half with 42-14 run. What the heck was the jump pass thing? I bet they don’t do that again.

No.5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 30  No.8 oklahoma 13
What brings you around?
Did you lose something the last time you were here?
You’ll never find it now, It’s buried deep with your identity
So stand aside and let the next one pass
Don’t let the door kick you in the a**

There’s no return from 86
There’s no return from 86
There’s no return from 86
There’s no return from 86
Don’t even try…

Exit out the back. And never show your head around again
Purchase your ticket. And quickly take the last train out of town

So stand aside and let the next one pass
Don’t let the door kick you in the a**

There’s no return from 86
There’s no return from 86
There’s no return from 86

There’s no return from 86
Don’t even try…

There’s no return from 86
There’s no return from 86
There’s no return from 86
There’s no return from 86
Don’t even try…..

This Week in the Big 12

TCU 14 OKLAHOMA STATE 36
Yeah, yeah, Wes Lunt came back and looked good and they won, but that’s not the big news. The BIG news is they wore black helmets with their Cowboy guy on them. SOOO exciting! Looked a bit formal for something outdoors, but still!

KANSAS (1-7/0-5) @ BAYLOR (3-4/0-4) 2:30 pm FSN
Wow, if KU were to find a way to win this game, Baylor would be in last place and 0-5 in the league… Well that won’t happen. The only thing worse than Baylor’s defense is Kansas’ offense. I think. Texas and Tech play at the same time, so I won’t be watching. I’m pretty sure most of the fans at the game will be at George O’s tent doing the same thing.

No.24 OKLAHOMA STATE (5-2/3-1) @ No. 2 KANSAS STATE (8-0/5-0) 7 pm  ABC
This should be fun. OSU will score some points, but I think Klein makes a statement on the network for his Heisman campaign and Midwest cruises after setting down to Oklahoma State’s quick start. The Wildcat defense forces turnovers and gets sacks. Wildcats go to 9-0.

No.12 oklahoma (5-2/3-1) @ IOWA STATE (5-3/2-3) 11 am ABC
A guy walks into a doctor’s office and says “Hey Doc! I gotta a problem. In the morning I feel like a wigwam and in the afternoon I feel like a teepee.” The doctor says “I see your problem. You’re two tense.” Get it? It’s killing in third grade in suburban Austin.

TCU (5-3/2-3) @ No. 21 WEST VIRGINIA (5-2/2-2) 2 pm FOX
Gone from the public eye is WVA, as is Geno Smith’s Heisman campaign. TCU is struggling right now and gave up some big numbers to OSU. That’s going to happen again on the road in Morgantown as the Mountaineers throttle Southwest Purple.

That’s it for this week. You can reach me FromTheStands@gmail.com or on Twitter @TreyMcLean.

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