Texas Tech didn't play their best game of the season by any means on Saturday, but the Red Raiders did enough and made enough plays to find a way to win. That may be the biggest observation that can be brought to the table after the 56-53 win over TCU. It's not glamorous, by any means, but they did it and clinched a bowl berth in the process.
Who's out: Most of us know Tech went to Fort Worth without the services of Bradley Marquez, Javon Bell, Jace Amaro and Cornelius Douglas. Tre Porter went out for a period of time with a leg injury, but returned. Doege took a shot to his jaw in the second overtime, but they bandaged it up and he went back out there to throw the game winner to Alex Torres.
Who's in: Bruce Jones started for Douglas and didn't have as good of game as he did the week before. Austin Zouzalik started for Amaro and Torres started at receiver as well. Carpenter started at LG for the third straight week. Branden Jackson started at defensive end.
Game Ball – Offense: Alex Torres and Austin Zouzalik. Seth Doege is again a candidate for Big 12 offensive player of the week with his performance. (My official prediction is that he'll split it with Colin Klein.) That's not possible without the performance of Alex Torres. In addition to the winning TD catch, he made some key catches that moved the chains for the Red Raiders including a 13 yard catch in the 4th quarter that was overturned by a review. Torres and Austin Zouzalik were two receivers that hadn't gotten a lot of press or playing time up to the TCU game, but with the injuries on the receiving corps, they answered the call and turned in a great performance.
Game Ball – Defense: D.J. Johnson. His interception set up the first score, which in retrospect, kept the Red Raiders in the game until the offense got going in the second qtr. He also tipped the pass that Cody Davis intercepted. Johnson was physical with the TCU receivers and had 8 tackles.
Running game: Until Kenny Williams' 47 yard TD run in the 4th quarter, the running game was very ineffective. After 3 quarters, Tech had 11 yards rushing. A lot of that was because of the gameplan of the TCU defensive line. (And that was without Stansly Moponga) You're going to have to live with Clark and Carpenter/Morales inside, so they are going to have to be challenged to perform better in the run game. The Wildcat did what it needed to do, which is help move the chains for the offense in short yardage. We can debate all afternoon long about the call to run the Wildcat on 3rd and 7 with under two minutes to play in regulation. I don't have a problem with that as much as I do with playing the prevent defense which allowed TCU to get in position for the game tying field goal that sent the game to overtime. Let me also remind folks that the wildcat is what setup the touchdown from Doege to Jakeem Grant in the second overtime.
Passing game: Up and down, but great when it needed to be. After 3 quarters, Tech had 6 three and outs, which equaled to about half of their possessions. Most of that was caused by the pressure TCU was getting on Doege. Because the running game wasn't helping your passing game, you had to find a way to keep throwing and guys like Torres, Ward and Moore made enough plays. In OT, the passing game and Doege's resiliency is what won the game for them.
Run defense: For the first time this season, the Texas Tech run defense gave up multiple big plays between the tackles. There are a couple of concerns here. First, TCU is pretty depleted at running back, and from what I saw, it was mostly their o-line being physical and creating holes for Tucker and Catalon. IMO, this is more on the linebackers than the defensive line because when the line was able to shed those blocks, they made plays at or near the line of scrimmage. As far as the linebackers go, Will Smith is doing his part. I thought he might have played his best game yet. Blake Dees had some nice plays, but was also caught on his heels a little bit. I don't know what's happened to Terrance Bullitt. Credited with only 2 assists on the tackle chart, it looked like he got turned around quite a bit, and he hardly looks like the intense, physical player we saw last year. I don't know if you can afford to have Smith move over and have Dees play as consistently as you need to, but if I am the coaching staff, I might consider it.
The other main concern on the run defense is that it wasn't a secret that TCU would try to do a lot of zone read with Trevone Boykin, which was probably the most effective package of plays for TCU. K-State is more talented and runs that part of their offense better than TCU, so maybe it's a blessing in disguise that they saw it a week ahead of time, But if improvements aren't made this week, K-State is going to have a field day.
Pass defense: The secondary didn't let Boykin beat them with his arm and picked him twice early, but the frogs kept trying to throw. Cody Davis made as many plays as anyone on the field in addition to his interception. Kerry Hyder and company kept the pressure coming, even when they didn't get there. The 3 and out for TCU after Tech took the lead 29-26 was the momentum that this team needed, but they also gave up the big pass play that let TCU get back into the game at 36-33. Again, kind of a resounding theme, it wasn't pretty at times, but they made enough plays to win.
Special Teams: Ryan Erxleben earned his money, averaging over 47 yards per punt. There were a couple of punts that TCU got close to, and there might have been a low snap or two, but he did his job when the offense didn't do theirs. The onside kick was a good place to steal a possession from TCU and gave you momentum to take a 21-17 lead. Jordan Davis replaced Marquez on kick returns. No field goal attempts. A solid ST effort.
Again, not to be too repetitive, but on a day when things didn't always go to plan, this team found a way to win. That says a lot about their resiliency and as critical as some of us can be sometimes, it was good to see Texas Tech pull together for a win and clinch a bowl berth in the middle of October. I think what scares some folks is that knowing had Tech played the way they played last week against West Virginia, the score would have been similar to the West Virginia score. Tech fans also know if this team plays this inconsistently against K-State, the Wildcats will probably roll against the Red Raiders.