The worst team in the Big 12 Conference ought to be better than the best team on Texas Tech’s non-conference schedule. OK, even if you come back with “but, but ... Kansas,” then I’ll say the second-worst team in the Big 12 should be three or four touchdowns better than anyone on Texas Tech’s non-conference plate.
That being the case, I’d be careful not to draw too many conclusions from the Red Raiders’ easy wins so far against Northwestern State and Texas State. Enjoy, but wait to extrapolate.
The Red Raiders have done all they can to convince everyone this year will be different from last, which it should, but by how much?
Like most seasons lately, the defense holds the keys. Missed tackles are down, and the volume of players getting on their horse to get to the ball is up. Two games in, Tech’s yet to give up a play longer than 25 yards, so there’s some hustle going on.
In Saturday night’s 58-10 blowout at Texas State, the Red Raiders gave up too many rushing yards for my liking — 129, but that was half the 256 they allowed the same team last year.
It was Tech’s second go-round with the Texas State option.
“I feel like we did a real good job at it,” linebacker Terrance Bullitt said. “What did they score, 10 points total? That’s all that matters. They got into a set where they were unbalanced and we had to make a check at halftime. But overall, we adjusted, rotated players, everybody knew what they were doing and we played assignment football.”
That’s something, something that shouldn’t be taken for granted.
That didn’t happen all the time last year or the year before.
On Saturday, the Red Raiders got better as the game went along.
Defensive coordinator Art Kaufman didn’t like some of the numbers he saw at halftime, such as Texas State’s 192 yards and its 5-for-9 conversion rate on third down. After halftime, the Bobcats went 1 of 6 on third down and added 78 yards.
“The second half, we kind of settled down, talked about blocking schemes and did a good job of getting off the field,” Kaufman said. “An offense like that, you leave them on the field, keep giving them more opportunities, it makes it hard on you. We were finally able to adjust to it.”
That’s good to hear, particularly for defensive players whose will seemed to ebb from week to week or series to series last year, beaten down as they were. Kaufman says the Red Raiders are soaking up what he’s dispensing.
“The one thing about our players is they listen to what we’re coaching,” he said, “and when we go through an adjustment they get it and they’re able to execute it.”
What the economy is to the election, defense is to Tech’s turnaround — or hoped-for turnaround. It’s the big issue.
No major trouble spots have surfaced with special teams, though Tech didn’t get to return a kickoff in the first game and didn’t get to cover a punt in the second. Ryan Bustin has made every kick he’s lined up.
Tech looks good so far on offense, but it’s hard to determine how good going against the first two opponents. Will Eric Stephens have enough giddy-up to dodge Big 12 defenders? Will Kenny Williams progress quickly into a feature back who wears down opponents? SaDale Foster seems quick; does that mean quick enough to annoy the likes of Oklahoma and Texas?
No unit on the team lacks depth more than the offensive line, so can that group have enough good luck to stick together through 12 games?
Some of those questions, we’ll learn the answers to only after several more weeks.
For now, the Red Raiders have done all they can to convince everyone this season will be different.