To say it was a bad week 1 for of college football in the state of Texas would be a strong understatement. The only wins came against teams that are not at the level that allows much to be taken away from the game. We talked about A&M’s win over NW State here. TCU blew out Southern, Baylor smashed ACU, Houston beat Rice, and perhaps the most impressive performance came from North Texas beating SMU. Side note: UNT Head Coach Seth Litrell will be a household name very soon.
For insight on the UT loss to Maryland, click here.
Now for the debacle we witnessed at NRG Stadium… The supposedly defensive minded Texas Tech allowed 47 points and 200+ rushing yards in their 20 point loss to Ole Miss. To make things worse, McLane Carter left the game after what looked like a pretty bad ankle sprain early in the first quarter. So let’s break this game down, then we’ll talk about what it means.
First lets look at the offense. As soon as McLane Carter went down, I couldn’t help but just feel queasy about the situation. For starters, the kid earned the starting job in fall camp and you just hate to see his season take this turn so quickly. Not even to mention the fact that he was starting to find a pretty nice rhythm and the offense was moving along nicely. Once he went down, true freshman Alan Bowman was the next man up. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I was a little disappointed to see Bowman get the opportunity over Jett Duffey. But all things considered, Bowman played about as well as could be expected. It’s important to remember that Bowman, as talented as he is/could be, was not a blue chip 5 star recruit ready to step in and lead a Big12 offense right out of High School. This was clear on Saturday. Kliff simplified the offense quite a bit for Bowman. Most pass plays consisted of screens and check downs. Obviously, the confidence in Bowman’s ability to test a defense down field is not yet there. But Bowman does deserve credit for taking care of the football, which will be a huge key to this offense all year. On a more positive note, I thought the running game looked great. It’s just unfortunate that Tech fell behind so quickly, forcing them to have to go to the air more often. The offensive line was getting a consistent push up front, and Da’leon Ward looked like a premier Big12 running back.
Defensively, week 1 was a gut punch for Tech fans. All off season we have heard about how good this experienced group will be. However, the inability to stop the big plays of Ole Miss, and the infuriatingly stupid targeting penalties forced Tech fans to go full cynic. A couple things here… 1. Obviously Ole Miss is extremely talented offensively, so fans shouldn’t have expected a shut out. But 47 points and countless big plays simply isn’t going to cut it. 2. I understand that playing DB in modern college (or pro) football is likely one of the more frustrating positions in sports right now due to the targeting rules. And I thought the call against Des Smith was a drastic example of over officiating. The targeting rule was not implemented to take plays like that out of the game and I’m not sure what they expect Des to do in that situation. Having said that, the call against Vaughnte Dorsey was 100% the correct call, and showed yet again that Tech often plays undisciplined football. Now, there’s only so many ways I can say that the defense allowed too many big plays and made too many mental mistakes… So lets talk about some positives. For starters I think Ole Miss was not only underrated going into this game, but I think they are likely more talented, offensively, than anyone else on Techs schedule outside of OU. In addition, I thought the defensive line showed glimpses of a potentially consistent pass rush. Broderick Washington and Tony Jones got to the QB a couple of times, resulting in either a sack or a hurry. The defense also stood their ground in the red zone on a couple of occasions. To summarize, the defense shot themselves in the foot too much too soon in order to have a good showing in week 1. It didn’t matter how improved they are, they were playing behind the 8-ball and could never fully recover.
So moving forward, what should we expect from Texas Tech this season?
Well first of all, I think it’s important to take a step back and contextualize what happened. Texas Tech was only a 2 point favorite, and they lost to a team that was clearly more talented than them. This honestly should not change expectations THAT much. This is and always was an average team at best. Tech fans can still hope for a couple of surprise wins this year that could lead to a 7 or 8 win season. I’m not predicting that, but this was just one game folks. Now is not the time to panic. Going forward, it will be interesting to see what decisions Kliff makes for this offense until McLane Carter is healthy. With a seemingly cupcake matchup in week 2 (Lamar), I would love to see both Bowman and Duffey get an opportunity at QB. Again, Bowman did as well as you could hope for against Ole Miss. But I think with Duffey, there’s a little more to hope for. I obviously could be wrong, and I don’t have the privilege of seeing how each guy practices. But I see no harm in seeing what he can do in game situations against a far inferior opponent. Defensively, just cut down on the mental mistakes. There are still playmakers up and down the 2-deep. They just need to stop targeting offensive players and getting kicked out of games. I expect the defense to be much better than what we saw last week. However, I am concerned with the offenses ability to test secondary’s down field. My fear is that they rely too heavily on Ward and the run game, and any time they have to play from behind the offense will be stagnate. We’ll hope that’s not the case. But assuming it is, I would advise Tech fans to keep tabs on North Texas this season. I have a feeling Seth Litrell is someone we will want to get to know.
Stay tuned for week 2 predictions…