The second-best matchup in the Big 12 last week proved by far to be the game of the week in the conference. It was one of those games you wished neither team had to lose, but, after three overtimes, Texas Tech ran out of Fort Worth as the Big 12’s second bowl-eligible team.
The Texas Tech Pessimist
Although Texas Tech came away with a win on Saturday, Tommy Tuberville has a lot to be concerned about with his defense. TCU was able to do pretty much whatever it wanted against a revamped Texas Tech defense.
Tech came into the game being applauded for the job it had done on defense prior to TCU. Last week, it gave up over 400 yards to a good West Virginia offense, but still crushed the Mountaineers so no one took a second look. A week later, however, TCU does one better — putting up over 500 yards of offense. The past two weeks are not a trend Tuberville wants to continue. Had the Red Raiders not been +3 in turnovers, TCU might have run away with this game.
On offense, this team is starting to resemble last year’s with each passing week: lean on the offense and hope to at least stand in the way of the other team’s offense long enough that they use a little bit of clock before scoring. This is much different than the more balanced team Tech appeared to be through most of September and first part of this month.
Summary: Tech fans have seen this type of win many times over the last 10 years with Mike Leach and now Tommy Tuberville at the helm. But, when Tuberville was brought in to replace Leach, he brought with him the reputation of building hardnosed defenses. It has taken a little longer then he himself would admit, but it looked as though his defense was turning a corner at the beginning of this season. Over the last few weeks, though, it seems like the unit has backpedaled to the point of barely peeking around that same corner. If Tech continues to hope it has enough fire power on offense to win a shootout every time out, losses won’t be too far behind.
The TCU Pessimist
Gary Patterson’s teams are known for a few things year-in and year-out, including solid defense and taking care of the football. Both areas were a huge factor on Saturday. Two interceptions and a lost fumble in a three-point contest will kill you every time.
Patterson can live with his redshirt freshman quarterback (who only three weeks ago was seeing time sparingly and carrying a clipboard) throwing two picks as he learns his way through his first Big 12 season. But, if he doesn’t gradually get better of taking care of the football, Patterson knows the Big 12 is not near as lenient as the Mountain West.
For Patterson, the bigger concern may be the play of his defensive backfield. A defensive-minded coach never wants to see the opposing quarterback have seven touchdown passes, let alone in only 27 minutes of T.O.P (that said, 3 scores came in the overtimes). Unlike a lot of the teams in the Big 12, TCU brings a “defense first” mentality to the field, one that got ripped apart by Seth Doege.
Summary: TCU played another hard-fought game, which it is quickly learning is the norm in the Big 12. Turnover margin is key in terms of wins and losses in this league. Giving high-powered offenses more opportunities is not something you want to make a habit of. Patterson knows it and now must program his promising redshirt freshman to understand and live by the concept of taking care of the football.
The Texas Tech Optimist
Texas Tech did exactly what it needed to do when playing a game on the road in a tough environment. In a game in which it scored 56 points, the Red Raiders didn’t have one turnover. While Tuberville would like a more balanced attack offensively, he promised Tech nation when he took the job that they weren’t going to give up the “pass happy” style his predecessor Mike Leach introduced to the people of Lubbock.
In that regard, the Tech offense did nothing to disappoint. Seth Doege led the charge with a 30-of-42, 318 yards and 7 TD performance. It was clear in the second half and overtimes that Doege didn’t want to or need to hand the ball off, and Tech was even more creative in how it got the ball to its playmaking leader throughout the game.
In the second overtime, Doege lined up as a wide receiver when Tech came out in the “Wildcat.” Two players touched the ball before it made it to Doege’s hands, a play that resulted in a 25-yard touchdown pass.
Summary: Texas Tech proved, in a game in that didn’t have a lot of defense toward the end, that it has enough fire power to play with anyone in any environment. Having the confidence (and ability) to score on anyone from anywhere is a must in this league, and that will be tested again this week when the Red Raiders head to Manhattan for a showdown with the undefeated Wildcats.
The TCU Optimist
No one likes to lose. But, if you find your quarterback for possibly the next 3 ½ years in the process, you’ll take it. TCU could be looking at a potential star in redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin. Thrown into the fire a few weeks ago Boykin has produced more than even his coaches could have predicted at this point in his development. Against Tech, Boykin was 26-of-44 for 332 yards, 4 TD and 2 INT. At 5-2 in TCU’s inaugural Big 12, Boykin is breaking in at the right time. Gaining precious experience in a league that is top heavy with senior quarterbacks, TCU is ahead of the overall curve in breaking in the next wave of signal callers.
Summary: You never want to say the “season is lost” (at 5-2 it’s clearly not) and look to the next one, but the remainder of this season isn’t about championships for this team, obviously. It’s about gaining vital experience for its young players like Boykin so when the “new” wears off after this season, TCU will be prepared to challenge for a conference championship and possibly more in the near future. For TCU, Boykin and a young, improving defense is a great place to start.
The Texas Tech Realist
No matter how you get it done, it’s the “W” that counts. Texas Tech has shown the ability to get stops when needed, find turnovers when needed and has the ability to make a big play offensively when needed so far this season.
As with every team, however, there are holes to be worried about. Playing on the road and giving up over 500 yards almost always results in a loss. In fact, that is certainly not recommended against K-State. However, for this particular game, the offense played the hero and Tech moved to 6-1 and a tie for second place in the Big 12. The defense must regain some form, at least a little, especially against the run. Tech gave up 181 yards rushing to TCU and won’t be able to get its high-powered offense on the field if it can’t figure out a way to stop K-State from running the football.
Summary: For the first time in a while, Texas Tech controls its own fate when it comes to the top of the conference rankings halfway through the Big 12 season. Winning on the road against TCU set up a huge matchup with undefeated Kansas State for top-of-the-league honors. Though this season specifically has turned out to be surprise, this was the position many thought Tech would be in a few years ago when hiring Tommy Tuberville to take over.
The TCU Realist
There are no moral victories in the game of football. However, if the Horned Frogs needed any convincing that they could play in this conference, Saturday should have answered all of those questions.
Against a 5-1 Texas Tech team that featured one of the top defenses nationally, TCU tallied 513 yards of total offense to only 388 for Tech. Turnovers proved to be fatal, which actually is a good thing for this team to learn from. Take care of the football, play this style of football and TCU will find itself in almost every game in this conference, with a chance to win it in the fourth quarter. At 5-2, TCU could still be a pain to teams that have yet to face the Frogs.
Summary: Not that anyone was doubting the talent that Gary Patterson had on his football team, but to show they can play with the big boys even before their Big 12-level recruiting fully develops is huge. Keeping the state of Texas in mind, gaining regional respect is actually more important at this point for TCU than national respect in terms of recruiting. As long as TCU shows it can compete with those in the Big 12, the higher-profiled local recruits will come calling (see Baylor of the past few seasons) and help improve on what is already a solid product.
PAST HEAD GAMES
- New to Head Games? Check out the first edition, where we offer a primer in addition to the column itself: Kansas State at Oklahoma