Well, how about that game… Not at all how I expected game 3 to go, but I think Tech fans everywhere will gladly take a 2 two touchdown win over Houston. We’ll do the usual here, break down both sides of the ball, then talk about what it means going forward.
If you had told me a week ago that Tech would be missing starting RB Da’leon Ward, backup RB Tre King, and lose both offensive lineman on the left side (Madison Akamnonu and Travis Bruffey), I would have predicted a tough day in Lubbock. But that’s exactly what happened, and the red Raiders put up 63 points against a talented Houston defense. It all started with true freshman QB Alan Bowman. A guy who many (including myself) questioned whether or not he should even be on the field, now looks like a future star. The kid put up over 600 yards and 5 touchdowns while completing 70% of his passes… In his SECOND career start! Every question I had about Bowman was answered. Through the first two games, Kingsbury kept a tight leash on Bowman. Other than a couple red zone fades, most throws were short. A lot of screens and short patterns. Against Houston, that all changed. Kliff let the kid sling the ball around and the results could not have been better. Maybe the most impressive part about Bowman’s performance so far this season… Zero interceptions, one sack! The kid simply hasn’t made a mistake yet. Any questions about who should be the starting QB for this team should be answered. This is his offense.
He wasn’t without help though. Tech’s inexperienced WR corps stepped up big time. TJ Vasher (shout out Wichita Falls) caught a handful of passes for close to 100 yards and two big touchdowns. Ja’Deon High caught 7 passes for 120 yards. And Antoine Wesley, take a bow young man. The junior caught 13 passes for a Texas Tech record 261(!!) yards and 3 TDs. Keep in mind some of the receivers that have passed through Lubbock… Crabtree, Welker, Jakeem Grant, Amandola, Keke Coutee, Eric Ward (shout out Wichita Falls again), Robert Johnson, Jerrett Hicks, Joel Falani, and Jace Amaro. None of them ever did what Antoine Wesley did this past Saturday. It seems this WR group has developed some nice chemistry with their new QB.
As I mentioned above, Tech was missing their top 2 running backs for the second strait week. It wasn’t a problem against Lamar, but I was concerned about that position going into game 3. But true freshman Ta’Zhawn Henry stepped up big time with 111 yards and 4 TDs on 24 carries. Credit the offensive line as well. Not only did the render all-american DL Ed Oliver ineffective, but they did so with two backups for most of the game. I feel like more should be made by the fact that this Oline has shut down the best defensive player in the nation for two years in a row.
This is complicated… I honestly have no real feel for if this defense is good or not. Coming off of a shutout vs Lamar, they allowed 49 points to Houston. Some context might help to explain such a high point total. For starters, just like last season the Cougs scored on their final drive of the game when the outcome was already decided. They also scored quickly after Dequan Bowman muffed a punt and they took over in the red zone. AND they benefited from the most baffling missed call I have ever seen in a football game when the Houston offense threw 2 forward passes in the same play. They got about 30 yards on the play. Had a flag been thrown, I believe it would have been 3rd and like 30-something. If you take those 3 away, thats 28 points…
However, the pass defense is clearly an issue. Ja’Shawn Johnson has still not played a snap of football this season and it shows. Until he comes back, the pass defense will be the biggest weakness on this team. But the run defense, especially in the second half, was very good. The LBs played great, big Joe Wallace and Preston Wilson made some big plays inside, and Tony Jones got a sack for the 3rd consecutive game. Overall, I am optimistic about this defenses ability hold their ground enough to give the Red Raiders a chance to win most of these games. Especially if the offense continues what they have shown the past two weeks.
The Red Raiders finished up their non-con schedule at 2-1. Obviously, everyone would prefer 3-0 (and I would love to see Ole Miss again with the current stability now at QB). But considering how the Ole Miss game went, 2-1 ain’t bad. Beating Houston was absolutely essential to any hopes at a Bowl game, and they did that. They open up Big12 play this week against Oklahoma State, who they have not beat sense 2008(!!). OSU is 3-0 and coming off of a nice win over Boise State, they’ll for sure be favored at home (night game) against Tech. I haven’t seen much of them so far so I will save my prediction for the weekly Pick’Em blog. But I will say, I’m extremely encouraged about what Kliff has been able to do sense the opening loss to Ole Miss. Saturday night is an opportunity to take a huge step forward and get people in Lubbock excited about this team for the first time in at least a few years. It should be common knowledge at this point, but I’ll say it again… This is a game Kliff needs to win. Doing so could swing the momentum for his job status after this season.
To wrap up… I have seen some scoff at beating Houston, acting as if Houston is some push over. Well, The Cougs have won 8 out of their last 10 games vs Power 5 opponents. Those two losses came to Texas Tech the past two years. And I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing Coug fans reminded that they would be a door mat in the Big12. I look forward to reminding them again in a few years when these teams matchup again.