With Texas Tech dishing out 44-6 and 58-10 whippings in its first two games, finding faults or areas for improvement might seem difficult.
Not to coaches, though.
For all the things the Red Raiders did well Saturday in a blowout win on the road, Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said he and his assistants made it a point in film review to show all the little things the Red Raiders did wrong.
“We’re not playing great football yet,” Tuberville said Tuesday during his weekly news conference. “We’re just playing good football, and good football is not going to win a lot of games this year. We’re going to have to play a lot better than good. We’re going to have to play, in some places, over our head.”
Such is the case for a team coming off a 5-7 season, picked ninth in a 10-team league.
The Red Raiders rank fourth in the nation in total defense and 12th in total offense, but at the expense of Northwestern State and Texas State.
Defensive coordinator Art Kaufman has watched his group give up no big plays in two games and score a defensive touchdown. On the other hand, Texas State’s 5-for-9 third-down conversion rate in the first half Saturday was nothing for the Tech defense to trumpet.
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown says his players are fulfilling three objectives he harps on all the time — play fast, play hard, play physical. Comparing game one to game two, Brown said, quarterback Seth Doege was more accurate, the offensive line played better and the Red Raiders had twice as many explosive plays. Their number of rushes and screen passes of 12-plus yards and other passes of 15-plus yards totaled seven against the Demons and 14 against the Bobcats.
But there’s more to it than that.
“This week, really over the next three weeks, we’ve got to improve in assignment and technique,” Brown said. “If we can keep playing fast, hard and physical and get our assignment and technique improved, then we’ve got a chance to be a very good offense.”
Defensively, the Red Raiders might not know just what they have until Big 12 Conference play starts with a game Sept. 29 at Iowa State.
The Tech defense has faced 110 plays so far, having given up no run longer than 16 yards and no pass longer than 25 yards.
Does that mean Tech defenders have been where they’re supposed to be every time or they’re leaving gaps that more skilled teams will expose?
“I think a lot of it’s we’re in pretty good position most of the time,” Kaufman said. “Probably the biggest thing that’s helped that is our effort in chasing the ball.”
Kaufman pointed to a screen pass in the first half of Saturday’s game that safety Cody Davis chased down while others were in pursuit.
“That wouldn’t have broken had we fitted up a little bit better, and that comes with learning to play the scheme,” Kaufman said. “We’ll get better as the year goes along of fitting up the scheme, but we’re going to have to, because with the people we’re facing, hey, one thing goes wrong, then it becomes a house call (touchdown).”
Tuberville said opposing receivers have been open a couple of times on deep routes, but the quarterback couldn’t get them the football.
Texas State’s only touchdown came when running back Terrence Franks circled out of the backfield and caught a 25-yard pass, going up the right sideline. The result left outside linebacker Sam Eguavoen holding his head in his hands.
“He had a problem with that all week,” Tuberville said. “(Scout-team quarterback) Keenon Ward completed it a couple of times in practice, and sure enough they ran it in the game and got it in the game. It’s just the recognition — just getting lined up and understanding what you’ve got to focus on.”
Even if coaches can detect flaws, safety Cody Davis said he and his teammates believe in what they’re doing.
“When Kaufman came in, it changed the whole attitude,” said Davis, who has been the team’s defensive player of the week each of the first two games. “I think you see that on the field. We’re having fun, flying around. The results are coming. We’ve just got to improve and keep that up.”
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