Texas Tech looking like a good team….so far
By Mike Kravik
Texas Tech is 3-0 (again) and I don’t know what to think of them which is another way of saying I still haven’t gotten over what happened in 2011. That Tech team started 3-0 as well before a fart and fall down finish that saw them lose 7 of their last 9 games. I want to believe in this year’s Tech team but Charlie Brown also wanted to kick the football every time Lucy held it for him
When you look back and study those first three wins from 2011, there were obvious signs that a bad moon was risin’. Tech trailed Texas State 10-9 at home before blowing them out (50-10) in the second half and also needed a furious fourth quarter rally (also at home) to defeat Nevada 35-34. One week later, they trailed Kansas (yes, Kansas, the same team that went 0-9 in the Big 12) 20-0 in the first quarter.
When Tommy Tuberville replaced Mike Leach, he said he came to Lubbock “to win championships” and made it known that the quickest way to do that was to have a more balanced offense and a much better defense. With Tuberville as coach, Tech did run the ball more and still lit up the scoreboard but the defense went from mediocre to historically bad. Tech gave up 45 points to Texas A&M, 41 to Iowa State, 52 to Texas, 66 to Oklahoma State and 66 to Baylor. The road to any improvement in 2012 started with the defense.
So how does a Red Raider fan evaluate what they’ve seen in the first three games of 2012? Most of the data from the 44-6 blowout win against Northwestern State game was dirty because it came against such a weak opponent. They’re an FCS team that squeaked by something called Arkansas Monticello (31-24) in their second game although they did play Nevada tough (lost 45-34). My big take away from that game is that it was nice to see Eric Stephens and Alex Torres (coming off serious knee injuries) healthy again and nothing more.
The data from the Texas State game held a little more meaning because the game was played on the road in front of a hostile crowd (opening night for new stadium) and because they had thrashed Houston (30-13) in their first game. Tech hit Texas State in the mouth early when Cody Davis took a pick to the house and then bolted to a 38-10 lead at half before coasting home to a 58-10 victory. While the scores from both years were very similar, Tech’s defense was far more dominant in 2012, permitting only 6 first downs as opposed to 21 first downs.
Tech’s third non-conference game was played at home against New Mexico. In 2011, New Mexico went 1-10 and was one of the worst teams in Division 1 college football. The Lobos have started over in 2012. They brought in Bob Davie to coach, installed the triple-option offense and have a new starting quarterback. When trying to pull anything of substance from last Saturday’s 49-14 win I looked at how another perceived elite Big 12 team (Texas) had fared against them. Texas played New Mexico the week before in Austin and rolled to 45-0 win. Against Texas, New Mexico had the ball for 34 minutes, picked up 16 first downs and 229 total yards. Against Texas Tech, New Mexico had the ball for 26 minutes, picked up 8 first downs and 127 total yards – all good sign posts.
Beating your chest about Tech going undefeated over three teams that couldn’t win a game in the Big 12 is silly – anything less than a 3-0 record at this point would have been a disaster – but based on what we’ve seen so far, the defense does appear to be much improved.
The Tech offense was expected to be good once again and hasn’t disappointed. Quarterback Seth Doege has been outstanding, picking up 8.50 yards per pass attempt while completing 74.8% of his passes. Doege has made mostly good decisions (one interception) and has been very adept at touch passes or throwing downfield. The wide receivers come at you in waves. Eric Ward and Darrin Moore are clearly Batman & Robin but there are several worker bees (Alex Torres, Bradley Marquez, Javon Bell, Jakeem Grant, Tyson Williams) in the mix as well. If defenses decide to double either Ward or Moore, Doege has shown that he’s very comfortable getting the ball to somebody else.
Tight end Jace Amaro has taken several steps forward as a sophomore and is starting to live up to the four star recruit hype. Amaro is a Gronkowski starter kit and his 6’5 257 lbs. frame along with 4.5 speed make him a match-up nightmare that’s nearly impossible to cover. Through three games, Amaro has 11 receptions (14.6 yard per) and 3 TDs.
Against New Mexico, both Eric Stephens and Kenny Williams had more than 100 yards rushing which is the first time Tech has had two running backs do that since 1998. Sadale Foster has also chipped in with 31 carries and 160 yards.
The opening act has shown promise but there’s still room for improvement before conference play starts. Tech had turnovers in the first half of each game (Doege interception, Bell fumble, Williams fumble). They’ve committed too many penalties and special teams took a hit when New Mexico scored on a kick-off return.
In SportspageWeekly’s Big 12 preview, I went out on a limb and said Tech would go 8-4 and finish fourth in the Big 12 with a 5-4 record. I liked Tech’s chances to improve if the defense could become simply mediocre. If the defense can become simply average, 10 wins is not out of the question with this offense.
Considering the gauntlet Tech faces in October (Oklahoma, West Virginia, at TCU, at Kansas State) the September 29 game at Iowa State becomes huge. Tuberville is 0-2 against Iowa State and 2011’s trail of tears five game losing streak began when Iowa State went to Lubbock as a 21 point underdog and humiliated them 41-7. Given the results of the last two years, there is no way Tech could be looking past Iowa State. If anything, they should be highly motivated for revenge.
My guess is that the Cyclones will be a 4-6 point favorites against the Red Raiders, quite confident they can handle them at home and possibly looking forward to their October 6 game against TCU. Why would they have reason to think otherwise?
Prediction – Texas Tech 45 Iowa State 27