Texas Tech expected to feel the loss of Eric Ward this season. Not only did he catch more than 80 passes three years in a row, but he played a rough, physical style when a teammate had the football.
The Red Raiders felt his absence right away Saturday.
Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday the outside receivers were “pretty nonexistent” and didn’t perform in the game the way they had in practice. Starting flanker Reginald Davis led that group with five catches for 54 yards and a touchdown, and split ends D.J. Polite-Bray and Devin Lauderdale were a composite seven catches for 78 yards.
Offensive coordinator Eric Morris said he probably kept starting Davis in the game for too many snaps and his technique and footwork got sloppy.
He said he needs to use second-string flanker Dylan Cantrell more and will put freshman Cameron Batson into the mix at both outside receiver spots.
“There should be a lot of competition this week,” Morris said. “Maybe some guys get their job taken. We’re going to give people opportunities to do that.”
Morris seemed more upset by a lack of consistent effort blocking than anything else. Inside receiver Bradley Marquez was a notable exception. Morris said Marquez “graded out better than any receiver I’ve ever graded on tape,” for more than just his 11-catch, 184-yard performance.
Otherwise, Morris said, the receivers’ blocking was “feast or famine.”
Tech figured to take a step back in that department with the loss of Ward, who had a reputation as a strong blocker.
“My thing I was more upset with was the lack of effort,” Morris said. “There’s going to be times D.J. Polite-Bray isn’t going to manhandle a guy like Eric Ward did, just because of (the difference in) physicality and strength on the outside. If he’s giving it everything he’s got and putting his body out there every time and putting out the effort, then I don’t mind it.
“But when they don’t do that, that’s when we have a problem.”