How’d he do it?
Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury credited defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt for making sound adjustments on the fly during the Red Raiders’ 37-27 victory Saturday at West Virginia.
Tech went from giving up 27 points in five possessions in the second and third quarters to giving up one first down in the last five series of the game. That gave the offense a chance to rally from a 27-16 deficit.
So how much did Wallerstedt chalk up to tactical changes and how much to the players simply executing calls better?
“I think we probably started looking at the menu a little bit,” Wallerstedt said Monday. “We didn’t stray away from our game plan, but probably scratched some stuff out that might have hurt us, and some things that helped us early in the game, we went back to.”
That was his contribution, and Wallerstedt said the players did the rest with some timely stops at key junctures. The Mountaineers’ 27-3 run comprised three touchdowns and two field goals. One of the field goals came after the Red Raiders were jolted by Austin Stewart fumbling a kickoff return, giving West Virginia possession at the Tech 17-yard line with 1:55 left in the second quarter.
“Execution, I think above all else, and tackling and finishing, just mentality down the stretch, was the key,” Wallerstedt said. “I think the red-zone play, with the two field goal-block opportunities instead of touchdowns, that was big for us. Also, the sudden change, when we fumbled on the kickoff return, to come out and really run violent to the ball for three snaps and hold them to a field goal right before half, I think that was huge for our guys.”
One of Texas Tech’s bright spots in the comeback victory Saturday was the play of cornerback Derrick Mays, who was terrific after he replaced struggling starter Olaoluwa Falemi midway through the third quarter.
Falemi was flagged three times for pass-interference penalties, the last nullifying an interception by teammate Austin Stewart. The series after that, Bruce Jones moved from boundary (tight-side) cornerback to Falemi’s spot at field (wide-side) cornerback, and Mays took Jones’ spot.
Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury and defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt both backed Falemi on Monday, but were non-committal about who will start this week opposite Jones.
“I was proud of Derrick stepping in and making some plays, but Ola has been solid for us all year,” Kingsbury said. “He had some tough calls on some of those PIs, and that happens. If you play that position long enough, you’re going to have situations like that. He’s done a great job and I’m sure you’ll see him out there again.”
Mays is a senior with 10 career starts scattered over three seasons, but had barely played on defense in the first six games of this year. He played like gangbusters, though, when he got his chance Saturday.
In a quarter and a half, Mays had five tackles, all significant. He stopped running back Charles Sims for 1 yard, blew up a wide-receiver screen for no gain and made two stops on a three-and-out including tackling the quarterback for 2 yards on third-and-8. And on West Virginia’s last possession, he stopped Sims for a 2-yard loss on third-and-2.
Wallerstedt admittedly has a decision to make as the Red Raiders prepare to visit No. 17 Oklahoma at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
“We’ll just see how practice goes this week,” he said. “Ola, we’ve won six ballgames with him, really seven with him being part of that one on Saturday. He’s a guy that’s played with a lot of confidence. ... We’ll evaluate it this week and see who has the best practice, whether that’s D. Mays, whether that’s Ola or Jeremy Reynolds.”
Many assume that freshman Davis Webb will remain the starting quarterback after back-to-back 400-yard passing performances, but Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury isn’t ready to give that assurance — at least not publicly.
“We’ll see,” Kingsbury said when asked if Webb had earned the start for this week’s game at Oklahoma. “We’ll see how Baker (Mayfield) feels and take it from there.”
Mayfield, who suffered a knee injury Oct. 5 at Kansas, suited up Saturday and went through pre-game warmups with the second-team offense. He started the first five games.
The two have each passed for more than 1,400 yards.
“They know they’ve got to go into practice and bring it each and every day,” Kingsbury said, “because they’re pushing each other. With that being said, they’re each other’s biggest fans in that room. They support each other. They help each other out. On the sideline, there is great camaraderie. It’s been a cool process to watch them grow together.”
Tight end Jace Amaro on Monday was named the Big 12 Conference offensive player of the week for his performace in the Red Raiders’ win Saturday at West Virginia.
Amaro caught nine passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
The junior from San Antonio MacArthur now has caught a career-high nine passes in each of the last five games and eight passes in the game before that.
Tech-OSU under lights
Texas Tech’s Nov. 2 home game against Oklahoma State has been set for a 6 p.m. kickoff. The game between the No. 10 Red Raiders and No. 19 Cowboys will be televised by Fox (Suddenlink Cable channel 10).
The team played Saturday’s game without inside receivers Jakeem Grant (head) and Carlos Thompson (undisclosed injury) and defensive lineman Dartwan Bush (knee) and played the second half without running back-inside receiver Sadale Foster (hip). Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said Saturday that Grant will be back this week.
Foster and Bush apparently remain questionable, though Kingsbury rarely gives detailed information about injuries or projected time frames for a player’s return.
Bush got hurt in the Oct. 12 win over Iowa State and didn’t travel to the game at West Virginia.
“He said he was pacing on Saturday, being cooped up, not being with us,” defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt said. “That was tough on him especially for his senior year with limited games left. He’s trying everything he can. He’s day to day.”
The team got inside receiver Jordan Davis back to health at an ideal time. The Red Raiders were dangerously thin at “H” inside receiver and punt return against West Virginia with Jakeem Grant, Sadale Foster and Carlos Thompson all sidelined by injuries. When Foster got hurt Saturday and missed the second half, that left Davis — already returning punts — to take nearly all the snaps at “H” inside receiver.
Walk-on Brent Mitcham, who spot played, was the next option at “H”.
Davis, a junior from Arlington, caught a 27-yard pass on third down to set up the game-clinching touchdown. Equally important, he brought some stability to the punt-return game, an area in which Foster and Thompson had been inconsistent.
“That’s huge,” Kingsbury said. “If you can catch it confidently back there for us right now, that’s a big step.”
Davis returned punts each of his last three years in high school.
“I haven’t caught a punt since my senior year, live in a game,” Davis said, “but it was fun. It felt good and natural.”
After having a career-best five receptions for 70 yards in the season opener at SMU, Davis was nagged the next five games by hamstring and ankle injuries.
“Saturday I felt well. I felt really good,” he said. “It didn’t bother me. I had a little adrenaline going. I felt a lot better.”
Compiled by Don Williams