1. Damn, That Feels Good. Man, we’ve all been waiting a long time for this. It’s not over. Not by a long shot, but son of a gun that felt good. Vindication is a funny thing. This was the game where we all pretty much said that Texas Tech needed to show something. Enough with the talk about how this team is just grinding and all of that other stuff. We’ve got to see it on the field. Not only that, but Kingsbury had to win a big one. He, obviously, needed some vindication. It sucks being told that you’re not doing it right all year long and for this moment . . . right now. . . it feels really damn good to know that Texas Tech kicked Arkansas’ ass.
Everyone has called Kingsbury “Coach Bro” and I wish to encourage everyone to continue to do that. Kingsbury opened up in a big way last night. Yeah, the weight of a 4-8 season can weigh heavy on a coach and this wasn’t just one night. It was an offseason of everyone falling over themselves about how Arkansas was back, about Bielema running his mouth at a high school coach’s convention (and most likely to recruits too).
For those of you who follow along, this is probably out of Kingsbury’s character, but that probably makes it even that much more meaningful, that he wanted twelve long months to tell Bielema to stick it up his ass.
He told the high school coaches that if you don’t run the ball with a fullback or if don’t run the ball 70 times he’ll kick your ass. Kliff wasn’t trying to just say” we kicked your ass”, but don’t write checks that your mouth can’t catch.
2. Mahomes Isn’t a Magician, But That’s Okay. I’ve been waiting for an imperfect game from Patrick Mahomes and we got it. And it wasn’t just a win, but a huge win. Mahomes threw two interceptions, his second and third of the year, one at the end of the half so I don’t know how much I care about that, but it still happened. Mahomes *only* threw for 243 yards for 8.1 yards per attempt and he *only* had 1 passing touchdown. But Mahomes made Arkansas pay with his overall play, being able to run the ball for 59 yards and two touchdowns and take advantage of what the defense was giving texas Tech. Stats don’t matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. They tend to matter even less when you win because you’re not worried about anything other than notching that W in the ledger.
Mahomes had an answer for just about everything all game long and that was the difference. The crowd didn’t matter and the hostile environment didn’t matter.
Mahomes seemed as unfazed as I’ve seen a quarterback and I could hardly tell any difference in his demeanor and if I didn’t know any better, I would have thought he was playing at home. The pulse doesn’t change.
3. Bend, But Don’t Break. That’s all we’ve ever wanted from a defense. Don’t get me wrong, we’d all love a defense that dominates the line of scrimmage and is tenacious, but that game against Arkansas was all I’ve ever wanted from this defense. I’d love for it to be unbelievable, but more than anything else, I don’t want it to be embarrassing. That’s what I want more than anything, just don’t make me hang my head thinking that things haven’t changed at all. I don’t need perfection, I need competence. That’s what we got on Saturday night, a defense that gave up 424 yards of offense, 228 of those yards came on the ground, but this group got stops when it was needed. They came up with a huge third down in the second half holding Arkansas to a field goal. Arkansas seemingly drove the ball the entire second half, but all of those drives resulted in just 3 points. They gave up all of those yards, but when Arkansas got in the redzone, they came away with a mere field goal. Arkansas had their chance to absolutely keep this game close in the third when Arkansas was 3rd and 2 on the 5 yard line. They just needed two yards and they shot themselves in the foot by passing the ball, the net result was a pass interference pushing the ball back to the 15 yard line. They talked a good game, but when it mattered most, they tried to be something that they weren’t. But that’s not my problem.
I’m totally happy with this result and I think I would have felt that way had Texas Tech lost a close game like this. All I’ve ever wanted was a chance to be in a game and last year, the defense didn’t even give Texas Tech a chance.
4. Jakeem to Reggie. Kingsbury said after the game that Texas Tech ran that sweep play last year and Arkansas snuffed it out. The cornerback and safety both bit hard on the play last year and they did the exact same thing last year. A double-move by Reginald Davis and 70 yards later, Grant threw a perfect spiral to Davis, in stride, and Texas Tech would go up 21-14. Maybe that’s the difference between what texas Tech is doing and what Arkansas is doing. Texas Tech, and Kingsbury in particular, went back and looked at what happened last year and figured out how to improve it and I’m not so sure that’s what happened with Arkansas. That play alone just might encapsulate what this game was about. It was about vindication and revenge in a way. Kingsbury said that Grant was only 50% in practice. That’s faith.
5. Jah’Shawn Comes Up Big. For what seemed like the entire game, Alex Collins would run the ball, 27 times in fact, and every time, when the play looked to be about over, some Texas Tech player would come in and try to take the ball away from Collins, and for 27 times he held onto the ball. The goal here was to get Collins to fumble the ball and 27 times Texas Tech failed.
David Gibbs isn’t coaching those failures, but he is coaching the one time. The 28th time to be exact, when Jah’Shawn Johnson stripped Collins for Arkansas’ final play of the day and secured the win. I don’t think that Arkansas was going to score twice to get the game even close, but this is what Gibbs is preaching. You keep trying, whether you end up making he play because if you don’t, then you’re never giving yourself a chance to make a play. Yes, you have to go through the motions even though it seems futile for 27 plays. That 28th play meant something.
6. Defensive Standouts. Aside from making that singular play, Johnson was incredible for pretty much the entire game. He registered 16 tackles, including 1 tackle for loss and the aforementioned forced fumble and fumble recovery. LB Dakota Allen was huge, again, registering 12 tackles on the day, as was Tevin Madison, despite probably being the smallest guy on the field. Madison will stick his nose where he probably shouldn’t for a guy his size and that’s probably why he’s starting.
I thought the play of the defensive line was absolutely incredible. Again, not perfect, but hold your ground and put guys in position to make plays like Allen, Johnson, and Madison. There weren’t a ton of plays to be made behind the line of scrimmage, but Pete Robertson and Branden Jackson each made one.
7. Receiving Corps. Not one drop by this group the entire game. Not one. They all made huge plays throughout the game and it seems incredibly evident to me how this group rallies around the idea of getting better each game. The deep stuff wasn’t there at all this game, which meant that Texas Tech would have to rely on the screen game and the inside receivers and that’s exactly what happened. Jakeem Grant caught 8 passes for 75 yards and aside from throwing for 72 yards, I thought his play was huge. I didn’t keep track of this, but it felt like every one of Grant’s catches were a huge play. Same thing with Davis, who led all receivers with 115 yards and 2 touchdowns. I don’t want to overlook that first touchdown that Davis had, where he scored on a screen, but he also stiff-armed the defensive back. That’s some toughness that I don’t recall from Davis in the past. Ian Sadler had another quiet but incredibly effective game, catching 5 for 57. We got to see a bit of Cameron Batson catching passes over the middle, something I think we’ll see a bunch more of next year.
Again, the lack of drops, not a single one, was critical for this team. At team can’t complete 70% of their 3rd downs if passing teams don’t have guys that can catch the ball.
8. Washington and Stockton’s Speed. I don’t know if I am really sure about the difference between Justin Stockton and DeAndre Washington and how fast they are, but their ability to cut up that Arkansas defense, one that was barely giving up 75 yards thus far this year, to the tune of 76 yards for Washington on just 11 carries and 45 yards for Stockton on just 4 carries was huge. They weren’t really grinding out yards, but they took huge chunks of yards at a time and Stockton’s 22 yard run was so fast. If you blinked you missed 22 yards on the ground weaving through the defense. I don’t know that Texas Tech gets this win without the legs of Washington and Stockton.
9. They’re All Damned Wizards. The coaching staff. Every single one of them are all wizards. Writing that diminishes what this coaching staff has done over the offseason and it’s really been fantastic to see this staff mature and put their head down and work. I find it mind-boggling how Mike Smith has been able to turn around that defensive line and make them competent. I think it’s really spectacular how Trey Haverty and Zac Spavital have worked with those linebackers to the point where they’re in position to make plays, and if it weren’t for two huge plays last week, would be on a great streak of holding teams when it counted. David Gibbs deserves a ton of credit too for switching J.J. Gaines to the cornerback position as I think he’s been as solid as any cornerback on the roster and he started playing that spot just this fall.
10. High Fives Everyone.
— Michael Strong (@stillstrongttu) September 20, 2015
— Michael Strong (@stillstrongttu) September 20, 2015