Archive for November, 2013

Texas – Texas Tech Football Postgame Reaction: Longhorns-41, Red Raiders-16

Posted by    |    November 29th, 2013 at 4:13 pm

The Texas OL and DL beat down the Red Raiders in Austin.

A satisfying throttling of a Texas Tech team that proved increasingly irritating and chippy as the game wore on, becoming tough guys after the whistle while getting worked over during game action.  If you can go through every one of your pre-game keys and check each of them with a thick crayon, the Longhorns probably just turned in a thorough ass whipping.  Given what Texas Tech brought into Austin at OL, DL, and CB – personnel that would have been more at home in the bottom half of the WAC – I’m actually amazed that they’ve only lost their last five in a row. That game told me more about Tuberville than Kingsbury.

These were my pre-game keys, posted on Ian’s excellent game preview and in the GameThread pre-kickoff.  Here’s the prose version:

Tech’s run defense is awful and they’re a tiny defense (atomic, in fact – 5-8, 160 pound cornerbacks, small DL, greyhound LBs) and I wonder if we might just run well anyway even if they load up the box. Our OL has proven pretty solid all year and anyone still caught in the “Dominic Espinosa is hurting us” groupthink hasn’t been watching. I don’t think a combined 55 carry, 270 yard rushing effort is out of the question for us – which means McCoy can throw the ball our preferred window of 18-22 attempts against single coverage, convert some third downs, and hit a big play downfield to Davis or Johnson against a Mighty Mite cornerback.

Tech’s competent O vs our D probably tells the tale. They have shown zero ability to run the ball against honest, much less loaded, fronts without using the QB position. That gives Gerg a shot at creating some diversity in our coverages and blitz schemes. Their OL gets zero push and their RBs are mediocrities. So we don’t need to load up and smother the run as we have been all year.

Or if you’re a bullet point type (post-game commentary in bold)

Keys to game:

1. Run the ball 50+ times. Find different sets and looks to repeat the same plays. The Tech D is tiny. Texas ran the ball 61 times.  85% of those runs were the same two plays.
2. Limit McCoy pass attempts to favorable situations. Tech’s cornerbacks are small and have trouble in pure bump and run. McCoy threw the ball only 19 times (within my 18-22 attempts target window) and most of those balls were to wide open wide receivers (see his two TDs).  He missed several gimmes, unfortunately.  Tech’s corners were atrocious.
3. Jace Amaro is going to get his. Limit his teammates. Amaro went 6-83-1td (13.8 yards per catch) with two drops and some excellent blocking on screens.  The rest of his teammates averaged an awful 8.8 yards per catch.
4. DL needs to dominate. Let’s put a check by that.
5. Safeties and corners have to challenge the Tech screen game.  Check.  Tech moved the ball out wide between the 20s in spurts, but never turned this crucial part of their offense into points.
6. Play honest numbers against the run and make Tech prove that they can run the ball. Check.  Tech’s leading rusher was their punter and we spent 90% of our snaps even or undermanned up front.

Techblock_medium_medium

The game’s most surreal moment featured the announcing team showing Tech WR Eric Ward blindsiding Steve Edmond on a devastating block on A PASS PLAY WHERE THE BALL WAS STILL IN THE QB’s HAND (and remained there for another three beats as Mayfield scrambled about looking downfield) with both announcers repeatedly pronouncing it a good, clean hit and hard-nosed football.  They had an official (Mike Pereira?) watching the game back in the studios offering call explanations.  Nary a glimmer of realization despite ten minutes discussing the replay. Note: Looks like this a legal play if the LB is behind the LOS, which raises some interesting questions if an offense wants to knock out a defense’s entire depth chart at LB.

Back to the game…

Defense

A dominating effort created by a strong game plan by Greg Robinson that exploited the talents of Jackson Jeffcoat as a free Bandit type rusher in a “Spinner package” with complementary nickel and dime personnel packages (last seen vs. Texas Tech in 2004, according to Robinson in the post-game presser, but we’ve used Jeffcoat in this role before under Diaz). The Texas Tech OL was horrid, Mayfield looked like a true freshman walk-on under withering pressure, and Tech’s inability or unwillingness to run the ball effectively decided the game by halftime.

Best defensive effort since OU.  If an opponent has only one dimension on offense, The Gerg is probably going to do some work.

DL

Please evaluate the entire Tech OL for post-traumatic stress disorder.  Nine sacks, countless pressures, ball tips, and several QB hits later, Baker Mayfield probably slept Saturday night slathered in Tiger Balm. Malcom Brown singlehandedly stopped Tech’s run game from guard to guard while sealing off interior scrambling lanes and Cedric Reed (4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 3 QB hits) held down the fundamental fort while Jeffcoat freelanced his way to three sacks and a number of pressures lining up anywhere from standup 3-4 style OLB to 0 gap late blitzer.  Even Caleb Blueitt got into the act late, rushing Michael Brewer as if he were the punter.  Throw in a sprinkling of cornerback and zone blitzes and it looked like a game of tag where the Tech QB was home base.

LB

Dalton Santos has developed into an average LB.  Which is a steep improvement.  And he still has upside to fulfill. He’s delivering at least two bone rattling hits a game and getting out to the sideline better as he learns to cheat on offensive cues. His role model should be OSU’s Caleb Lavey, a similar body type who logged improvement every year he played in Stillwater and will earn 1st team all-conference this year (at least from me).  LB was hugely de-emphasized in this contest with our formational use of Jeffcoat and our nickel/dime heavy packages and it’s probably no coincidence that meant a dominating performance.

DB

I will not let the good work turned in by Carrington Byndom go unappreciated.  He lost one close 50/50 ball early, but then spent the rest of the game dominating whoever Texas Tech put on the field side of the formation in single coverage without safety help.  I don’t think people appreciate how tough an assignment that is, but I saw you Carrington.  Our other senior DB Adrian Phillips quietly led the team in tackles last night, doing a very nice job of keeping the Tech screen game from running amok and playing an effective de facto LB role when asked to do so. Very proud of how AP and Byndom closed out their college careers at DKR.

Diggs was solid, primarily because Tech did little to challenge his deficiencies – so capably illustrated by Ian B in his OSU post-game review.

Duke Thomas had a nice game, getting an easy sack and a deflection interception – he nows leads the team on INTs for the year.  As he should, since he also leads the team in targets.

Josh Turner and Leroy Scott got extended looks in our DB heavy packages and I appreciate Scott’s willingness to mix it up in the run and screen game.  Turner had four tackles over 35 or so snaps.  Mykkele Thompson even turned in a physical sideline double leg tackle/slam.

Offense

We had the right pieces against a Tech defense as lacking in upfront strength and overall physicality as any team I’ve seen in the Big 12 this year.  Better players at QB and RB would have accentuated our WR and OL dominance to the tune of a 56 point effort, but I’ll take a 25 point win.

There were some easy yards out there.

QB

The perfect Case McCoy game plan – lots of handoffs, a few throws to open receivers, < 22 attempts overall. His solid if modest statistics don't illustrate the fact that he actually played poorly when measured vs. opportunities available and left several medium to big plays on the field.  His scrambling was good for a smile, though his ball security got a frown. Nonetheless, he was the QB for a Longhorn win.  Let's add that to the faint praise lexicon.

So Tyrone Swoopes is a nifty runner?  Okey dokey.  (Pencils in Jerrod Heard on depth chart above him for 2014) Annnnd…we’ll just keep that there for now.

WR/TE

Mike Davis dominated the Tech Shetland Pony CBs (4-112-2 TDs, appeared ridiculously open on 90% of his targets) and throws down a 200+ yard effort with more reasonable throws.  Jaxon Shipley threw the prettiest pass of the evening. Marcus Johnson demonstrated poor ball control as frequently as his underrated speed.  A crew that could have easily had a 350 yard receiving effort with a different game plan and QB, but whatchagonnado?

Geoff Swaim killed Tech’s LBs for four quarters and his penalty was bogus.  Great addition to the team.

OL

Dominating effort.  All they can do is maul the guy in front of them.  The backs have to add value. Joe Bergeron added a good bit, Malcolm Brown, much less.  In pass protection, they’re not responsible for the extra man.  Or Case self-pressuring and deciding to demonstrate his Michael Vick if he had two broken legs act.  When evaluated under what they can actually control, this was their best effort of the year, despite Tech outnumbering the box on nearly every play and our run game more or less declaring on every down what our intentions were.  61 carries for 281 yards and 3 touchdowns running the same 2-3 plays with no QB in the run mix tells the tale.  Nice to see Kennedy Estelle growing by leaps and bounds (though he had a couple of regrettable moments) and the Hopkins/Espinosa duo is the strength of the line.

RB

Brown’s 27 carry, 128 yard effort was underwhelming considering several of the holes he had, and he pretty much just ran the play for what it was blocked for all evening (his longest run went for 14 yards).  He’s workmanlike. Anyone else think he was actually a bit more athletic making cuts and eluding tackles as a freshman?  And is that a good commentary on our S&C? Joe Bergeron was the better back last night, averaging 6 yards a carry on his 17 totes, trucking several Tech defenders, and making a few nifty cuts once he found his game legs.

Jalen Overstreet short circuited the STARTZ OVERSTREETZ fan movement by demonstrating a gift for running to darkness.  Seriously, I like him.  But our best RBs are playing.

Special Teams

Didn’t lose the game?  The punt run by Erxleben is a good illustration of staff inattention to detail.  Hear me out before you just chock it up to flukiness in an otherwise dominating win.  Given the field position, there’s no chance for a return (Tech was punting at exactly mid-field). So don’t call for a hard return where everyone bails out, right?  Nor should you attempt a block, given that’s it’s 4th and 17 and you don’t want to gift a new set of downs and a near guarantee of Tech points.  So you go neutral punt (no quick release, no heavy rush), tell your guys to contain, and play out the percentages.  Instead, we combine a hard return call (so Shipley is going to field it inside the 10? Really?) and an open lane to the chains (and eventually the end zone) while one rogue rusher meant to contain attempts to block the kick.  He flushes the punter, startled to see wide open grass.  The worst possible combination of a dumb call mixed with blowing an assignment. In fact, the only combination that can allow that play to occur.

And then there’s the Blueitt roughing penalty – our fourth of the year.

Lightning strikes are flukes.  They’re not flukes if you’re hiking on a ridge line with a flagpole during a thunderstorm. Basic football IQ stuff and I’m loathe to mention it in a game that I enjoyed, but c’mon.  This is getting absurd.

Overall

The Big 12 is wanting if Tech represents the solid middle of the league, but we can only play who is on the schedule, and should always Give Our Thanks for a thorough crushing of an in-state opponent.  Fun game.

On to Baylor…

Hook ’em.

Texas Football Postgame Reaction: Longhorns-41, Red Raiders-16

Posted by    |    November 29th, 2013 at 4:13 pm

The Texas OL and DL beat down the Red Raiders in Austin.

A satisfying throttling of a Texas Tech team that proved increasingly irritating and chippy as the game wore on, becoming tough guys after the whistle while getting worked over during game action.  If you can go through every one of your pre-game keys and check each of them with a thick crayon, the Longhorns probably just turned in a thorough ass whipping.  Given what Texas Tech brought into Austin at OL, DL, and CB – personnel that would have been more at home in the bottom half of the WAC – I’m actually amazed that they’ve only lost their last five in a row. That game told me more about Tuberville than Kingsbury.

These were my pre-game keys, posted on Ian’s excellent game preview and in the GameThread pre-kickoff.  Here’s the prose version:

Tech’s run defense is awful and they’re a tiny defense (atomic, in fact – 5-8, 160 pound cornerbacks, small DL, greyhound LBs) and I wonder if we might just run well anyway even if they load up the box. Our OL has proven pretty solid all year and anyone still caught in the “Dominic Espinosa is hurting us” groupthink hasn’t been watching. I don’t think a combined 55 carry, 270 yard rushing effort is out of the question for us – which means McCoy can throw the ball our preferred window of 18-22 attempts against single coverage, convert some third downs, and hit a big play downfield to Davis or Johnson against a Mighty Mite cornerback.

Tech’s competent O vs our D probably tells the tale. They have shown zero ability to run the ball against honest, much less loaded, fronts without using the QB position. That gives Gerg a shot at creating some diversity in our coverages and blitz schemes. Their OL gets zero push and their RBs are mediocrities. So we don’t need to load up and smother the run as we have been all year.

Or if you’re a bullet point type (post-game commentary in bold)

Keys to game:

1. Run the ball 50+ times. Find different sets and looks to repeat the same plays. The Tech D is tiny. Texas ran the ball 61 times.  85% of those runs were the same two plays.
2. Limit McCoy pass attempts to favorable situations. Tech’s cornerbacks are small and have trouble in pure bump and run. McCoy threw the ball only 19 times (within my 18-22 attempts target window) and most of those balls were to wide open wide receivers (see his two TDs).  He missed several gimmes, unfortunately.  Tech’s corners were atrocious.
3. Jace Amaro is going to get his. Limit his teammates. Amaro went 6-83-1td (13.8 yards per catch) with two drops and some excellent blocking on screens.  The rest of his teammates averaged an awful 8.8 yards per catch.
4. DL needs to dominate. Let’s put a check by that.
5. Safeties and corners have to challenge the Tech screen game.  Check.  Tech moved the ball out wide between the 20s in spurts, but never turned this crucial part of their offense into points.
6. Play honest numbers against the run and make Tech prove that they can run the ball. Check.  Tech’s leading rusher was their punter and we spent 90% of our snaps even or undermanned up front.

Techblock_medium_medium

The game’s most surreal moment featured the announcing team showing Tech WR Eric Ward blindsiding Steve Edmond on a devastating block on A PASS PLAY WHERE THE BALL WAS STILL IN THE QB’s HAND (and remained there for another three beats as Mayfield scrambled about looking downfield) with both announcers repeatedly pronouncing it a good, clean hit and hard-nosed football.  I was laughing like a madman.  They do this for a living.  They had an official (Mike Pereira?) watching the game back in the studios offering call explanations.  Nary a glimmer of realization despite ten minutes discussing the replay.

Back to the game…

Defense

A dominating effort created by a strong game plan by Greg Robinson that exploited the talents of Jackson Jeffcoat as a free Bandit type rusher in a “Spinner package” with complementary nickel and dime personnel packages (last seen vs. Texas Tech in 2004, according to Robinson in the post-game presser, but we’ve used Jeffcoat in this role before under Diaz). The Texas Tech OL was horrid, Mayfield looked like a true freshman walk-on under withering pressure, and Tech’s inability or unwillingness to run the ball effectively decided the game by halftime.

Best defensive effort since OU.  If an opponent has only one dimension on offense, The Gerg is probably going to do some work.

DL

Please evaluate the entire Tech OL for post-traumatic stress disorder.  Nine sacks, countless pressures, ball tips, and several QB hits later, Baker Mayfield probably slept Saturday night slathered in Tiger Balm. Malcom Brown singlehandedly stopped Tech’s run game from guard to guard while sealing off interior scrambling lanes and Cedric Reed (4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 3 QB hits) held down the fundamental fort while Jeffcoat freelanced his way to three sacks and a number of pressures lining up anywhere from standup 3-4 style OLB to 0 gap late blitzer.  Even Caleb Blueitt got into the act late, rushing Michael Brewer as if he were the punter.  Throw in a sprinkling of cornerback and zone blitzes and it looked like a game of tag where the Tech QB was home base.

LB

Dalton Santos has developed into an average LB.  Which is a steep improvement.  And he still has upside to fulfill. He’s delivering at least two bone rattling hits a game and getting out to the sideline better as he learns to cheat on offensive cues. His role model should be OSU’s Caleb Lavey, a similar body type who logged improvement every year he played in Stillwater and will earn 1st team all-conference this year (at least from me).  LB was hugely de-emphasized in this contest with our formational use of Jeffcoat and our nickel/dime heavy packages and it’s probably no coincidence that meant a dominating performance.

DB

I will not let the good work turned in by Carrington Byndom go unappreciated.  He lost one close 50/50 ball early, but then spent the rest of the game dominating whoever Texas Tech put on the field side of the formation in single coverage without safety help.  I don’t think people appreciate how tough an assignment that is, but I saw you Carrington.  Our other senior DB Adrian Phillips quietly led the team in tackles last night, doing a very nice job of keeping the Tech screen game from running amok and playing an effective de facto LB role when asked to do so. Very proud of how AP and Byndom closed out their college careers at DKR.

Diggs was solid, primarily because Tech did little to challenge his deficiencies – so capably illustrated by Ian B in his OSU post-game review.

Duke Thomas had a nice game, getting an easy sack and a deflection interception – he nows leads the team on INTs for the year.  As he should, since he also leads the team in targets.

Josh Turner and Leroy Scott got extended looks in our DB heavy packages and I appreciate Scott’s willingness to mix it up in the run and screen game.  Turner had four tackles over 35 or so snaps.  Mykkele Thompson even turned in a physical sideline double leg tackle/slam.

Offense

We had the right pieces against a Tech defense as lacking in upfront strength and overall physicality as any team I’ve seen in the Big 12 this year.  Better players at QB and RB would have accentuated our WR and OL dominance to the tune of a 56 point effort, but I’ll take a 25 point win.

There were some easy yards out there.

QB

The perfect Case McCoy game plan – lots of handoffs, a few throws to open receivers, < 22 attempts overall. His solid if modest statistics don't illustrate the fact that he actually played poorly when measured vs. opportunities available and left several medium to big plays on the field.  His scrambling was good for a smile, though his ball security got a frown. Nonetheless, he was the QB for a Longhorn win.  Let's add that to the faint praise lexicon.

So Tyrone Swoopes is a nifty runner?  Okey dokey.  (Pencils in Jerrod Heard on depth chart above him for 2014) Annnnd…we’ll just keep that there for now.

WR/TE

Mike Davis dominated the Tech Shetland Pony CBs (4-112-2 TDs, appeared ridiculously open on 90% of his targets) and throws down a 200+ yard effort with more reasonable throws.  Jaxon Shipley threw the prettiest pass of the evening. Marcus Johnson demonstrated poor ball control as frequently as his underrated speed.  A crew that could have easily had a 350 yard receiving effort with a different game plan and QB, but whatchagonnado?

Geoff Swaim killed Tech’s LBs for four quarters and his penalty was bogus.  Great addition to the team.

OL

Dominating effort.  All they can do is maul the guy in front of them.  The backs have to add value. Joe Bergeron added a good bit, Malcolm Brown, much less.  In pass protection, they’re not responsible for the extra man.  Or Case self-pressuring and deciding to demonstrate his Michael Vick if he had two broken legs act.  When evaluated under what they can actually control, this was their best effort of the year, despite Tech outnumbering the box on nearly every play and our run game more or less declaring on every down what our intentions were.  61 carries for 281 yards and 3 touchdowns running the same 2-3 plays with no QB in the run mix tells the tale.  Nice to see Kennedy Estelle growing by leaps and bounds (though he had a couple of regrettable moments) and the Hopkins/Espinosa duo is the strength of the line.

RB

Brown’s 27 carry, 128 yard effort was underwhelming considering several of the holes he had, and he pretty much just ran the play for what it was blocked for all evening (his longest run went for 14 yards).  He’s workmanlike. Anyone else think he was actually a bit more athletic making cuts and eluding tackles as a freshman?  And is that a good commentary on our S&C? Joe Bergeron was the better back last night, averaging 6 yards a carry on his 17 totes, trucking several Tech defenders, and making a few nifty cuts once he found his game legs.

Jalen Overstreet short circuited the STARTZ OVERSTREETZ fan movement by demonstrating a gift for running to darkness.  Seriously, I like him.  But our best RBs are playing.

Special Teams

Didn’t lose the game?  The punt run by Erxleben is a good illustration of staff inattention to detail.  Hear me out before you just chock it up to flukiness in an otherwise dominating win.  Given the field position, there’s no chance for a return (Tech was punting at exactly mid-field). So don’t call for a hard return where everyone bails out, right?  Nor should you attempt a block, given that’s it’s 4th and 17 and you don’t want to gift a new set of downs and a near guarantee of Tech points.  So you go neutral punt (no quick release, no heavy rush), tell your guys to contain, and play out the percentages.  Instead, we combine a hard return call (so Shipley is going to field it inside the 10? Really?) and an open lane to the chains (and eventually the end zone) while one rogue rusher meant to contain attempts to block the kick.  He flushes the punter, startled to see wide open grass.  The worst possible combination of a dumb call mixed with blowing an assignment. In fact, the only combination that can allow that play to occur.

And then there’s the Blueitt roughing penalty – our fourth of the year.

Lightning strikes are flukes.  They’re not flukes if you’re hiking on a ridge line with a flagpole during a thunderstorm. Basic football IQ stuff and I’m loathe to mention it in a game that I enjoyed, but c’mon.  This is getting absurd.

Overall

The Big 12 is wanting if Tech represents the solid middle of the league, but we can only play who is on the schedule, and should always Give Our Thanks for a thorough crushing of an in-state opponent.  Fun game.

On to Baylor…

Hook ’em.

Texas Longhorns Roundball Roundup: CBE Classic and Thanksgiving Hope

Posted by    |    November 27th, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Could we actually be…good?

After losing in the first round of the CBE Classic to BYU, the natural thing for this young Texas Longhorns basketball team to do is drop a game against not-very-good DePaul. In 2011, Texas followed up an opening round Legends Classic loss to Oregon St. by capitulating to North Carolina St. Then in 2012, the Longhorns got embarrassed by Division 2 school Chaminade in the Maui Invitational, only to drop an overtime loss to USC the next day.

Instead, this year’s iteration decided to buck tradition. The Longhorns meat-cleavered the DePaul Blue Demons, going into halftime with a 14 point lead. Texas kept a double-digit margin throughout the second half, finishing the game with a 77-59 victory. In addition to the encouraging signs from the BYU loss, I saw a few other things I liked.

  • Continued dominance from Cameron Ridley. It would have been easy for Ridley to follow up a good game with a listless one (see: Ibeh, Prince). Instead, he wrecked shop and narrowly missed out on a second consecutive double-double. 19 and 9, with a career high in points, is nothing to sneeze at. Keep up the trend, big fella.
  • Rick Barnes did a nice job mixing up his defenses by effectively utilizing his afoletes. Texas switched to 2-3 zones at times, and also deployed a half-court/three-quarters press. I thought I saw a 3-2 at one point (paging Scott Drew!) but it might have just been a transient alignment coming out of the press.
  • What I really like about this team is how smart they play. I talked about Isaiah Taylor as a true point guard in the BYU post. His basketball IQ is off the charts. Once his shot and his on the fly decisions catch up, his ceiling is pretty high. Texas did a mostly excellent job of breaking DePaul’s press and handling some junk defenses, something I never would have expected out of this young bunch.
  • The announcers mentioned this in passing, but Texas really is deep this year. Javan Felix starred in game one, but he struggled last night. No matter; Kendal Yancy picked up the slack. Prince Ibeh was a non-factor against DePaul, but instead Connor Lammert chipped in valuable minutes. Proper depth has been a pain point in recent years. Yet despite having only ten scholarship players, this year’s team looks like a 9-deep roster (and 10-deep if Martez Walker can turn the light on offensively).

All Things Burnt Orange:

BYU 86, Texas 82 (Mon) | Texas 77, DePaul 59 (Tues) | Weekly Record 1-1 | Overall Record 5-1

I’m getting to be a really big fan of this year’s team. I’d venture that the NCAAs are still out of reach, but we shouldn’t be hogging the futon in the Big 12 basement, either. Here’s what I like about this squad:

  • Athleticism and length: This team completely outhustled and overwhelmed both BYU and DePaul. If it wasn’t for some amazing shooting by the Cougars, Texas would have walked away with that game. Ibeh’s incredible shot-blocking and dunking prowess is just one aspect. I watched Holland closely on defense during the DePaul game, and he’s an absolute pest. Jonathan Holmes diving on the floor during the last minute of the game was also impressive. I counted a handful of “wow” plays in both games, where Texas would make a statement on the basis of athleticism alone. That’s a cool feeling.
  • Mix of the right parts: Let’s start in the backcourt, where Taylor and Felix form a nice one-two punch at point guard. Both players are great probers. They’re quick enough to get into the paint and create opportunities. I particularly like Taylor’s moves to the basket. He’s looking to get points, whether that be of his own volition or by setting up easy buckets from his teammates. It’s something I haven’t really seen since the D.J. Augustin days. Holland, Croaker, and Yancy are all excellent slashers. I also believe Barnes is already more keen to trust them with ball-handling than he was with Julien Lewis at any point during Lewis’ career. The frontcourt is also a nice four-deep, with both Ridley/Ibeh and Holmes/Lammert capable substitutes.
  • High basketball IQ: This was a critical ingredient missing from the past two seasons of Longhorn basketball. We often complimented J’Covan Brown’s innate passing ability, but too often his teammates had no idea what to do and when to cut. Myck Kabongo was a mess meshing with his teammates. McClellan and Lewis induced more head-shakes than I could count. This year, Taylor has brought stability to the point, and it’s flowing down the food chain. I really, really like this freshman class, and it’s not on ability alone. They know how to play the game, and they’ll be fun to watch once experience flows through their veins.
  • Paint as a Plus: I mentioned in the first bullet how easily Taylor and Felix get into the paint. We’ll see if it lasts against better opposition, but I’m bullish. Beyond them, Holmes and Lammert function really well in the high post, and Ridley is getting very comfortable operating on the block. I also saw the guards crashing in to fight for rebounds, a refreshing reminder of teams past.

Now for some troubling things:

  • Lack of Experience: Obviously. This is a young team, and it’s important to remember that. Whether it’s Taylor picking up two quick fouls to go to the bench, or defenders continually losing their man on a basket cut, or a big man not quickly and properly passing out of a double team, mistakes can and will happen. As Nate Silver might say, don’t lose the signals in the noise compiled in the losses.
  • Abysmal Shooting: The difference between BYU’s marksmen and Texas’ chuckers was as stark as the honored guests of death at a red wedding. It’s always refreshing to see Barnes sacrifice offense for defense. I like Demarcus Holland’s D as much as the next guy, but at this point I’d rather see Dogus Balbay shooting free throws than Holland as an offensive threat. A zone-breaker like Phil Forte would look great in Texas’ three-guard set. Alas…
  • No true superstars: If Texas were landing a guy like Emmanuel Mudiay or Justise Winslow in next year’s class, I could see it being a real good time. With a team like this, Barnes is basically hoping or praying a guy like Taylor turns out to be a superstar and a big man like Ridley rounds into his potential. Kansas St.’s Jacob Pullen-Curtis Kelly teams are a comparable ceiling. If you’re not bringing in All-Americans, you damn sure better be able to develop one. Barnes hasn’t proven capable of doing that on the 40.

Big 12 Power Rankings:

1. Kansas Jayhawks (4-0)

Locked in to top dog status until back-to-back away games at Colorado and Florida in early December.

2. Oklahoma St. Cowboys (5-0)

Nice Marcus Smart pub piece on Grantland today.

3. Iowa St. Cyclones (5-0)

Huge true road win at BYU that could have easily been a let-down game following the Michigan win. Hope they’re not peaking early, as a deep run for the Cyclones could really get Hoiberg that DA role in Gotham City.

4. Baylor Bears (6-0)

Beat Chaminade in Maui. At least now we know it’s possible.

5. Oklahoma Sooners (4-1)

No shame dropping a close one to Michigan St. at the house that Jay-Z built.

6. Texas Longhorns (5-1)

No shame falling to a very good BYU team in a hostile neutral environment, either.

7. West Virginia Mountaineers (4-1)

Moves up a spot based on wins. Don’t expect that to happen against Wisconsin tonight.

8. Texas Tech Red Raiders (5-2)

Lost to Pitt, which moved into Ken Pomeroy’s top 10. Still unwise to bet on Pitt in the NCAAs.

9. Kansas St. Wildcats (3-3)

Like the football version, this year’s purple cats are not good.

10. TCU Horned Frogs (2-2)

Pass.

Sports-Related Things to be Thankful For:

  • Intelligence, wit, and insight from the Barking Carnival crew and its readership.
  • Coaching rumors leading to all sorts of possibilities. Like this one, from the incomparable Mr. Cocksman.

  • Florida football’s dumpster fire being far worse than ours.
  • The best SB Nation longform of the year.
  • More greatness on SBNation: Breaking Madden. Read it now. All of them.
  • The Celtics and Lakers both sucking. Very refreshing.
  • Lance Stephenson. Makin’ it rain.
  • Julius Randle. Jabari Parker. Andrew Wiggins. Aaron Gordon. My goodness.
  • Days of Future Past. Not sports-related, I know. Still going to be awesome.
  • Also not sports-related. But WANT. (The game is the game.)
  • Kirk Goldsberry’s layman graphics for the analytical sports nerd.
  • Speaking of analytics, Burnt Orange Nation writer Jeff Haley’s excellent hoop-math.com site, which I haven’t spent enough time perusing.
  • And Ken Pomeroy. Still the definitive guide to college basketball analysis.
  • Waiver wire running backs. I’m looking at you, Zac Stacy, Rashad Jennings and Bobby Rainey.
  • The one-and-a-half weeks Case Keenum mattered for the Texans.
  • Can we mandate that the Texans draft Johnny Manziel and sign Vince Young to be his backup? That should be a rule. Hey if you didn’t click on my Breaking Madden link, maybe this will change your mind.
  • This tweet:

this food truck was selling korean bbq and blaring money ain’t a thang so basically what i am asking is can you marry a truck

— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) November 10, 2013

On that note, yum. Have a happy Thanksgiving.

Until next week.

Turkey Raiders: Will Texas Tech ruin Mack’s Holiday?

Posted by    |    November 27th, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Be ready to give thanks for entertaining football as the league’s other paper tiger comes to town looking for a signature win.

While the road game in Waco is looming over Longhorn nation’s collective head as the make or break game on the schedule, a former Longhorn scourge is on his way even now with a collection of pirates that just might steal Mack’s treasure earlier than everyone anticipates.

The Red Raiders came into the B12 season with an undefeated record that lasted four games into their backloaded conference slate which has since handed them four consecutive losses against OU, OSU, KSU, and Baylor.

This has led to the conclusion that Tech was a paper tiger that would fold against real competition.

Of course, that’s equally true of Texas, so which team proves to be more resistant to the Origami of a primetime Holiday game?

General overview

Texas is currently ranked 61st in the S&P rankings. That’s what happens when you struggle with poor opponents and get demolished by good ones. Stats don’t care about your W-L record, which is much more the function of chance and matchups then pure statistics, which indicate more precisely how good you are at accomplishing the common aims of a football team. Such as accumulating yards, scoring points, stopping your opponent, protecting possessions, and so forth.

The Texas offense is “carrying” the team with a #46 ranking while the defense has been deadweight with an #83 ranking overall. Texas’ rushing offense is rated particularly poorly, which is more likely an indictment of the passing game which can’t protect the RB’s from eight man fronts.

Meanwhile Tech is rated 40th overall despite a 79th ranked D thanks to their #17 offense. In case you haven’t followed events in Lubbock this year; they began the season planning on starting the Lake Travis QB named Michael Brewer that replaced Garrett Gilbert. He was injured in the preseason so they ended up starting a walk-on named Baker Mayfield, also from Lake Travis, who had replaced Brewer for the Cavaliers and also won 4A Championships.

Mayfield went down for a bit so they started a true freshman named Davis Webb. All three of these options have arguably been better than Case McCoy or the 3rd string options at Texas.

Stopping the Tech offense

It’s fascinating how Tech has maintained a consistent identity since Leach took over the program back in 2000. They are still more or less an Air Raid team, with Leach’s first Air Raider QB Kliff Kingsbury integrating the offense’s evolving focus on throws and runs to the middle of the field.

Those evolutions are what should frighten Gerg and Texas fans. The Raiders employ the same “motion the RB to the flat then run a QB draw if the linebackers give chase” play that has utterly befuddled Texas for the last two seasons. Baker Mayfield is essentially a homeless man’s Johnny Manziel, a short and very quick runner with a solid downfield ball. Unlike Manziel, Mayfield doesn’t have freakishly large hands and is prone to fumbling while on the loose.

Texas defenders should be on high alert for chances to strip the diminutive Central Texan when opportunities present themselves.

Their backs, particularly Kenny Williams, run with a nice mix of balance and power, but their run game usually only finds room due to the 2-deep looks that their passing game draws from most opponents.

The real threat they present to the middle of the field is Jace Amaro, the best ball-control weapon in the conference.

I recommend you read the link to understand the full impact the 6-5, 260 pound TE has on the Tech offense. He’s a complete mismatch for just about every safety and linebacker that’s been asked to cover him this season. As we covered recently, Texas’ doesn’t have a long list of 6-0, 200 pound athletes that have much of a chance at matching Amaro’s quickness and size.

Then there’s the rest of the Tech passing game, which is where they’ve really maintained the same identity for a long time. They excel at running WR tunnel screens, RB slip screens, and bubble screens. They also have a very good and experienced outside receiver in Eric Ward (yep, he’s still there) that can punish even good CB’s in man2man situations in the red zone.

If Texas loads up with their Cover-3/Cover-1 Nickel responses Gerg has relied on all year it will be a disaster. A WR screen will inevitably blow past our small edge defenders while Mykkele Thompson flies around in desperation attempting to prevent TD’s and Amaro will shred the linebackers over the middle of the field.

Gerg will have to rely on the Cover-2 approach they practiced against OSU and they’ll have to play Dime to keep Adrian Phillips on Amaro the entire game. There’s no one else on the roster that could match Amaro’s quickness without getting pulverized by his blocking on screens and runs.

Then they’ll have to hope that Tech can’t work their way down the field with runs and short passes. Hopefully Jackson Jeffcoat realizes the opportunity to improve his draft stock against Le’Raven Clark and turns in a fantastic game with multiple sack-strips of Mayfield/Webb that turn the game.

Scoring on Tech

On the surface this would appear to be the more simple task for Texas as the Raiders have also maintained their typical identity of possessing a porous defense. The real challenge for Tech has been their undersized front which appears to be the perfect follow-up after the ‘horns struggles against OSU.

However, you can count on Tech bringing soft Cover-3 on the edges and an eight-man front against the run. This is the trade-off Iowa St accepted, dare Texas to beat them with fairly easy short passes to the flats and outside of the hashes. There’s also always the chance that this approach will yield a pick-six when Case floats a pass he shouldn’t have thrown.

Tech is also a 3-4 team that loves to bring DL stunts and blitzes. Since they’ve had an extra-week to prepare you can expect them to have a variety of stunts and blitzes to attack Texas’ younger OL in the hopes of getting negative plays that would certainly kill Texas’ drives.

Mack Brown says we should expect to see Tyrone Swoopes in this game. If this proves true at all, I anticipate it looking like the “Cluster Flux” package with John Chiles. Meaning that Swoopes comes in for an ill-advised and obvious zone-read play periodically during drives which results in a negative play and requires a McCoy to Shipley 3rd down conversion.

Just like old times.

Mack is still playing for a conference title, because it’s mathematically possible. Two victories would bring a co-championship with OSU (stupid rules in place in this league) while two victories and a Sooner victory in Bedlam would bring an outright championship for Texas…which would immediately become the worst champion in league history.

What Mack should actually have done, after he insisted on mindlessly burning Swoopes redshirt, was to give him a package of plays to comprise Texas’ Red Zone/short yardage offense and expand that into a package that could give Texas a change of pace every 3rd series or so until Swoopes had mastered a full complement. Instead we’ve asked him to run a small collection of plays from the base offense against opponents’ 2nd teamers when the game isn’t in question. I’m sure that will set him and Texas up well for the long-term, next year should be fun.

Vegas has this game at Texas -4.5, but Tech is probably the better team overall. They have the best player on the field with Jace Amaro and have had extra time to prepare to earn a signature victory for Kingsbury’s initial season. Like Paul Rhoads, he surely sees Texas as the perfect opponent to use to prop up the season and make sales pitches to recruits with. They’re even wearing their Lonestar swag for this one.

Tuberville attempted to make the same point: taking down Texas in Austin in front of a national audience while wearing the Lonestar on your sleeve is an obvious pitch to recruits beyond the undersized Central Texas Champions Texas has always left available to the rest of the league.

While Mack’s commiserating over the disastrous home loss to OSU and attempting to convince his charges not to lay an egg on the Holiday as they’ve been prone to do in the past, the Raiders still have a lot to play for.

Sometimes when things seem calm and peaceful for revelry and turkey feasting, the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us like the Bumpus hounds bursting through the Parker’s screen door.

Cue Yakety Sax and let’s see if the Moxie Train has any coal left to throw in the furnace.

John Harbaugh’s Ravens are also playing the Steelers Thursday night if you want to watch Baltimore and dream that the rumors about Harbaugh’s future plans are remotely true, as I do daily.

Happy Holidays to all, try and enjoy it even as our redneck cousins are appearing unexpectedly like Uncle Eddie to empty his chemical toilet into our sewer:

Let’s give also remember to give thanks that this era of Texas football is finally coming to a close.

The Week That Will Be (Thanksgiving 2013)

Posted by    |    November 27th, 2013 at 12:26 am

Put a long sleeve tee and a pair of Ray-Bans on Mike Leach and you have Texas Tech.

Last Week: 3-3 ATS 2-4 SU
For the Year: 39-37-2 (.513) ($190) ATS 59-19 (.756) SU


What we learned last week:

• Arizona State has clinched a spot in the Pac-12 championship game, and needs only a win over Arizona this weekend to clinch home field against Stanford, where they are undefeated this season. Todd Graham’s resume is looking better and better.

• Missouri now has 10 wins, and each win has been by 14 points or more. Still, they’ll still likely be a two touchdown underdog to Alabama in Atlanta…if they get past Auburn.

• Oregon is frantically back tracing their steps in their Choose Your Own Adventure book, wondering how they let two golden opportunities for national championship/BCS/Pac-12 title slip through their hands.

Johnny Manziel is now 0-2 against LSU in his career, with a 46 % completion percentage, has 1 touchdown to 5 interceptions and has averages 2.8 yards per carry against them. The book is out, now go get the athletes.

• Bob Stoops now has the most wins as a head coach at Oklahoma, edging Barry Switzer. It wasn’t known at press time if this stat has been adjusted for Switzer retiring due to his whole team going to jail.

• Baylor’s injuries finally caught up to them, as Oklahoma State was able to stack the box and press the receivers with no Tevin Reese. Lache Seastrunk might have been missed the most, however, as the Bears only rushed for 94 yards after averaging more than 300 per game in the previous 9 games.

Anyhow…

The final play of the rivalry…good snap and hold….Tucker’s kick is up…Justin’s kick is…GOOOOD! It’s good! And the Texas Longhorns have won the final rivalry match-up with Texas A&M…Justin Tucker drives it home, and one last time, the Texas Longhorns break the hearts of the Aggies of Texas A&M…

Pure elation.

That is what I felt that night…surpassed only by the run for the roses by Vince Young. The Aggies were taking their ball and going home, only it wasn’t their ball and nobody particularly cared if they went home. It looked like they would have eternal scoreboard for Reveille’s ancestors to gaze upon, but Case McCoy and Justin Tucker made sure that wouldn’t happen to us.

I wasn’t amidst the other chilled Longhorns in College Station that night, choosing instead to spend the holiday weekend with my parents, where my wife and I broke the news to them that we were expecting our first child the following summer.

Little did I know that night that that would be the last Texas game I ever watched with my father.

Just a few short months later he was diagnosed with cancer, his third bout with the awful disease in a short time span. Twice before he had fought it off. This time he would not, passing away this past May.

His deteriorating health and the fact that we had a newborn baby made traveling and getting together during last football season very difficult. But I hear from my mom that he watched that Alamo Bowl victory over Oregon State, no doubt muttering choice words for the effort displayed in that pitiful first half.

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t regret that.

My father wasn’t a Ward Cleaver who had a life lesson to extol every time that I visited with him, but I loved nothing better than as a kid catching a baseball with him, or as an adult playing a round of golf with him. It wasn’t verbal adulation that I was seeking, it was just spending time with the guy that was a superhero long before I ever knew about Superman or Batman.

Now that, at least in the physical sense, is gone forever.

I have heard before that a boy becomes a man when his father dies. If that is indeed the case, then I would have loved to been that little boy with the thick glasses just a little while longer.

But, of course, we can’t have that. It is life’s only certainty that one day we will pass from this world. You’re never prepared for when it happens, even though, as my mom once said, when you love someone with terminal cancer, you awake each day wondering if it will be the worst day of your life.

My dad’s favorite holiday was Thanksgiving. He loved cooking for the entire family, chasing anyone out of the kitchen that dared to try to take even the smallest task off his hands. He planned dinner to be ready around halftime of the Dallas Cowboys game, and you can be damn sure he was more successful than not in hitting that mark.

He rarely even would eat his own handiwork, instead filling his appetite with the satisfaction of providing for others and of course, the Cowboys and Longhorns.

Thank you, dad.

For all that you did. And all that you will continue to do even though you are now gone.

Ohio State -14.5 @ Michigan:

Michigan’s offense is bad. Really bad. They haven’t scored more than 27 points since October 19th and they have the nation’s 95th ranked offense.

This series hasn’t been close of late, with Ohio State winning 8 of 9, and I don’t see any way the Wolverines put a dent in that trend this time, either.

Ohio State 28 Michigan 17
ATS – Michigan
SU – Ohio State

Texas A&M @ Missouri -4.5:

What is Texas A&M’s best win this year? Vanderbilt? Ole Miss? Does it matter if we’re arguing over 7-4 teams?

Meanwhile, the teams they have played that have a pulse (Alabama, Auburn, LSU), have not only defeated the Aggies but have averaged 42.7 points per game.

Missouri is going to Atlanta.

Missouri 41 Texas A&M 31
ATS – Missouri
SU – Missouri

Florida State -27 @ Florida:

Yowza. The Longhorns are low, but they’re not 27-point underdog low. Until next week, that is, but we’ll worry about that next week. And that is probably an exaggeration. Maybe.

Florida State 44 Florida 14
ATS – Florida State
SU – Florida State


Alabama -10.5 @ Auburn:

This one is for the SEC West, but the question here is that Auburn rushing attack (#2 in the country) can get anywhere against the Alabama rush defense (#4 in the country).

Auburn will be able to move the ball a bit, but I think their meteoric rise is a little too storybook to be true.

Alabama 27 Auburn 21
ATS – Auburn
SU – Alabama

Baylor -13 @ TCU:

The good news for TCU? They have the defense and more importantly the secondary to do exactly what Oklahoma State did to stifle the Baylor offense…load the box and press the corners, daring their receivers to beat your defensive backs. TCU certainly has the athletes to do this…

But the bad news is that the defense hasn’t performed as of late, giving up 30 points in three of their last four (albeit one of those was an overtime game against West Virginia), and they don’t have the offense that Oklahoma State did to keep Baylor guessing.

Baylor has a slight hangover, but gets over it quickly.

Baylor 41 TCU 17
ATS – Baylor
SU – Baylor

Texas Tech @ Texas -4.5:

Okay, here is the situation. If Texas wins here, and beats Baylor, and Oklahoma State loses to Oklahoma, Texas is going to the Fiesta Bowl at 9-3. Lose here and lose against Baylor, and Texas is likely headed to…ah who really cares, we’re not going to buy tickets to it anyhow.

This holiday season it is a very Dickens-like tale of two seasons for Texas Tech, who started out at 7-0 and even poked their head into the Top 10 of the BCS before being swatted back to half court. They since have lost 4 in a row and have given up 202 points and 2,060 yards in that span.

Ouch.

They are getting gashed on the ground, with Oklahoma’s 277 rushing yards the low water mark for their opponents during this streak. Simply said, if Case McCoy has anywhere approaching 30 passing attempts, Major Applewhite should be fired on the spot.

On offense it is the same Mike Leach-like Texas Tech you are used to seeing, with a passing game that averages 400 yards per game but a running game that resembles what a local middle school might throw out there. There doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between Baker Mayfield and Davis Webb, they can both have around 8 or 9 interceptions in around 300 attempts, their passing efficiency is about the same and passing touchdowns are close enough to resemble each other.

Another year, the same story. Keep Tech one-dimensional, tackle them at the moment of the completed pass, bend but don’t break and do what you do on offense and you beat Texas Tech, who hasn’t won in Austin since 1997.

Let them rack up the YAC, let them get a decent running game going and keep shooting yourself in the foot on offense and you’ll lose to in Coach Bro’s Texas debut.

Frankly, I don’t even see how Major and Mack could screw this one up.

Texas 38 Texas Tech 24
ATS – Texas
SU – Texas

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for AJ McCarron for Heisman t-shirts.