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October 23, 2012

TCU Post-Mortem

While you would have preferred walking away in regulation with a 36-26 win, I'm having a hard time recalling a more entertaining Texas Tech victory. TCU is quality football program with legit Big 12 talent and a road win by any margin is something you take under any circumstances. I warned that the Horned Frogs would be playing over their heads and had recruited some of the best players in the state over the last couple of classes -- requiring three overtimes to beat them was not a surprise to me.

The resolve and character shown by the Red Raiders to pull out the win was a quality I didn't see in last year's team.

I wasn't lying to you when I said that Trevone Boykin and Devonte Fields were two of the more impressive DFW high school talents I've seen in the last decade. It's good to get your licks in while you can. They are going to be handful for the next three years and have all the early makings of a Big 12 contender.

OFFENSE

I was attending a wedding in California this weekend and only caught live action of the first and fourth quarters along with the overtimes. I wasn't even in 'cool' California, just Bakersfield or the Midland of the Left Coast. In retrospect, that was probably the best action to catch.

I read a lot of Neal Brown complaints from the third quarter and, after re-watching the game, I surmised that it was largely standard football fan ignorance.

TCU has one of the top four defenses in the Big 12. The primary reasons are because they possess solid talent and capable coaching, much like Tech. If your expectations were for the Red Raiders to mudhole them for four quarters on offense, then you're simply being unreasonable. Brown not only called a great game, but appropriately planned around the physical mismatches TCU was exploiting during the contest to get touchdowns on the board.

Tech's abandonment of the run game was a good call as the team struggled blocking up front. If anything, Brown's playcalling was a big factor in the victory and the Red Raiders not blowing this game. Shame on you, if guilty of knee-jerk thinking otherwise.

Quarterback

I have a new favorite Seth Doege game. He willed his team to victory and any hiccup would affected the outcome. The offensive line blew numerous protection assignments and couldn't establish a run game. Despite that, Doege only threw 12 incompletions on 42 attemps with seven touchdowns and no turnovers. That's unbelievable quarterback play and a good sign heading into another game in which Tech will need a similar performance. Obvious MVP.

Running Back

The Red Raiders had trouble up front getting hats on linebackers and I thought the running backs made the most of their opportunities. Eric Stephens and Sadale Foster had some huge third down conversion out of the wildcat. The prediction that Kenny Williams would house a long touchdown came to fruition and it couldn't have come at a better time.

Wide Receiver

While Tech certainly seems less dynamic without Bradley Marquez, Jace Amaro or Javon Bell on the sideline, the remaining cast isn't short on big game experience. You're a communist if it didn't warm your heart to see Alex Torres play the role of hero. Austin Zouzalik made plays when it counted most, while Eric Ward, Darrin Moore, Jakeem Grant and Tyson Williams carried the weight early. They weren't always open, but batted better than .500 on jump balls and that's winning football.

Offensive Line

To their credit, Chuck Hunter and Devonte Fields are really good at football. Deveric Gallington struggled with Hunter in the run game, which limited the Red Raiders' options in that capacity. Beau Carpenter had a mostly forgetful afternoon missing assignments on two Fields' stunts and struggling to get on linebackers in the run game. Carpenter did have one of the key blocks of the game in checking out of a fold block to pick up a blitzing linebacker, which allowed Foster to convert a critical 3rd and 7. Next play, Williams' houses it from 47 out.

You don't rack up 318 yards passing without some pretty good protection for stretches and they were able to string enough good plays together for the win. However, the team's playbook was severely crunched with the lack of time in the pocket and ineffectiveness in run blocking. Le'Raven Clark was again the most consistent and physical player in the group. LaAdrian Waddle did a nice job against Fields on the outside and Terry McDaniel was solid as well.

DEFENSE

The Red Raiders came out in a three-man front for the first two drives and TCU carved them up like a Christmas turkey in the run game. Art Kaufman abandoned that policy and things improved with the team's four-man base fronts. Tech was mostly ineffective with the blitz and TCUs' yards per play seemed to quadruple in those scenarios. The Red Raiders did force a couple of bad throws, but never really got home and the risk-reward ratio wasn't in their favor.

Tech's strategy was largely to contain Boykin and force him to throw the ball. It worked great up to the 4:00 mark of the fourth quarter, at which point he was 15-of-29 for 160 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Boykin would finish regulation and overtime 11-of-18 for 172 yards and three touchdowns.

But, at the end of the day, it was what happened before that point which kept the Red Raiders in the ball game. They yielded some yardage between the 20's, but got key stops to limit the Frogs to field goals and give the team a chance to win. Tech did a good job of taking away Josh Boyce and Brandon Carter forcing the Frogs to beat them with Skye Dawson, which they sure tried to do. Last season, there is no way the Red Raiders win this ball game.

Defensive Line

Despite the big offensive numbers, the defensive line was the unit keeping Tech in the game. Kerry Hyder had another dominant performance and served as the team's primary option for run defense. Delvon Simmons has rounded into a quality player and put up another solid game. Dennell Wesley and Leon Mackey provided some nice relief duty. Dartwan Bush had some key quarterback pressure late in the game that forced field goals and allowed victory. Jackson Richards has become a really solid run defender and he'll see the most minutes against Kansas State this week at end. Pete Robertson and Branden Jackson weren't necessarily a strength or a weak spot and did a good job with containment duties. Overall, this unit executed their game plan better than any group on defense.

Linebackers

This was not a highlight game for this unit. I can only recall three or four good run fits and the rest of the time found them out of position. The group lost leverage to linemen, took bad angles and got mauled by blockers. They were mostly ineffective blitzing, which left the Red Raiders hanging out to dry on several first down conversions.

I'm at a impasse between Will Smith and Blake Dees. Smith had a couple of nice plays and showed more range, but I expect both to struggle against Kansas State. Contrary to popular belief, Bill Snyder is one of the best offensive minds in college football and his Collin Klein offense puts more stress on linebackers than any other unit this year besides Oregon and possibly Georgia Tech. Tech has to have one of these two guys play above their heads this week or it will be a long day in Manhattan.

Terrance Bullitt fought admirably, but he's mismatched when forced to play between the tackles. I assume we'll see less of Tech's nickel package and more of Sam Eguavoen. Zach Winbush was MIA and I'm not sure of the reason for his absence. This group needs to play much better to give the Red Raiders a chance against Klein and Snyder's option attack.

Secondary

Cody Davis has done nothing this year except make play after play. Given that his current performance level doesn't drop off, he's a shoe-in for first team All-Big 12. I can't think of any guy making more positive plays on defense in this league. D.J. Johnson was solid and had a huge pick early in the game to turn the momentum. Tre' Porter did an outstanding job again of eliminating a big play guy in Brandon Carter. Porter got banged up a bit and Jarvis Phillips was decent in relief. Bruce Jones gave up a couple of balls, but wasn't bad overall. Eugene Neboh was as good as he's been all year until he took a peak in the backfield with 4:00 minutes left and let LaDarius Brown run by him to facilitate overtime. They were generally outstanding up to that point and kept some big runs from being even bigger. Just that one pass play served as a hickey on an overall good performance.





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