1. Almost Gave It All Away. That was as dominant of a first half that I’ve seen, one where you could take some good and bad from both the offense and the defense, but still coming out looking like a rose in terms of the score and the damage that Arizona State could do offensively. But much of that was nearly given away as the second half proved to be one where Texas Tech simply couldn’t stop Arizona State offensively.
There’s maybe some good and bad here that needs to be discussed. Namely, that ASU seemed to run a ton of wide receiver screens (please take a lot of what I write with a grain of salt as I didn’t have the luxury of rewinding the DVR), ones where the receivers were stacked two deep on the side line, one would block and the other would catch and move the ball for big chunks at a time. They picked on the one part of the defense that I think still has work to do, and that’s the cornerbacks. Of course, I also think that Manny Wilkins has proven to be a very good quarterback this year, he’s increased his efficiency and has been a consistent bright spot for ASU. Essentially, ASU’s strength is Texas Tech’s weakness, especially the way Wilkins was able to use both those screens and the sidelines and just continually picked on Texas Tech’s cornerbacks.
2. Still Earned That Win. Regardless of the second half being way too close, Texas Tech still came out with a 7 point win, which was essentially the Vegas spread. Texas Tech did win by 7 and the defense did a great job of stepping up when it was absolutely critical to that they step up.
By the end of the game, I was watching and not taking notes, so the names of those players that stepped up defensively will escape me, but a sack, a false start and a nice pass break-up ended up being the difference in the game. I seem to want to credit Dakota Allen with some late game heroics, but can’t remember if they were that last drive or if they were the second to last drive, where Texas Tech also ended up with some stops defensively.
3. Shimonek Was Impressive. Nic Shimonek finished 37 of 50 for 543 yards and 6 touchdowns, which is danged impressive. That’s 10.86 yards per pass and a completion percentage of 74% for the game. Thus far this year, Shimonek has darn near been flawless leading the offense and while his receivers have done a ton of work, Shimonek deserves credit for getting those guys in positions to make plays. The offense is different without Mahomes, but it’s still ridiculously effective in what it’s supposed to do, which is score touchdowns. If there was any thought that Texas Tech would take a step back offensively, then that’s probably going to be wrong. Kingsbury does, and has always, done a terrific job creating great offenses and this is no different.
The part of Shimonek’s game that probably comes with some time is the ability to scramble and get rid of the ball. It seemed like he did this for the most part, but there were a couple of times where he just got caught up in the rush and took some pretty big losses. When Bennett brought the pressure for ASU, Shimonek struggled a bit.
4. Big Defensive Players. I thought that there were some really big players defensively that shouldn’t get dismissed. I thought Mych Thomas had a terrific game on the defensive line, with 4 tackles and a sack and overall, I thought he played a very good game. Same thing for Dakota Allen, who had some big plays, including a sack and a very important pass break-up near the end of the game. Eli Howard had a huge sack and some huge pressure late in the game. Jordyn Brooks ended up with 13 tackles before it was all said and done during the game, seemingly all over the plays defensively.
Generally speaking, I’m pretty happy with what the front seven did defensively because they essentially held ASU to just 3.8 yards per rush, on 44 carries, which means that for the most part, these guys did their job. Ballage and Richard rushed for about 110 yards and that’s not terrible.
5. The Fumble That Turned the Game. Desmond Nisby’s fumble in the endzone really did seem to turn the game a bit. What should have been an additional touchdown ended up being a what got the Arizona State offense rolling. Truthfully though, I felt like it was the refs that got the offense really rolling, giving them probably 50 yards of penalties on a drive and once they called the cornerbacks for every close play for pass interference, it seemed that the pass defense then became a significant liability. I’m not sure what got them in their funk, but they had trouble the rest of the way. Part of that was Wilkins dropping dimes on the sideline, but Octavious Morgan and Jaylon Lane will need to get better. And it seemed that both Lane and Morgan were the main guys out there. Once D.J. Polite-Bray talked enough trash to earn a penalty to keep a drive alive (rather than just getting off the field after making a good play), he turned a good thing into a bad thing by running his mouth and that’s really unacceptable.
6. Spectacular Nights from Coutee & Cantrell. I don’t know if these were records for these two, but Keke’s 12 catches for 186 yards and a touchdown along with 8 catches for 160 yards 2 touchdowns receiving and a very important 3 yard run for a touchdown. Coutee was as nifty and shifty as I’ve ever seen him and Cantrell just simply caught everything that came his way, especially along the sideline. Cantrell made some spectacular catches and when you average 20 yards a catch, you know you’re doing something right. Coutee’s ability to make people miss was really something special tonight and Cameron Batson’s ability to do the same thing helped a ton.
7. Running Backs Continue to Play Bigger Roles. This is in comparison to last year where the running backs sometimes struggled to even find their footing. Stockton received the bulk of the carries, 12 of them for 47 yards, which is about 3.8 yards per run, while Nisby sat at 9 carries for 45 yards and 5 yards a carry. Add in Stockton’s 5 receptions for 56 yards again puts the running backs at about 150 yards of production for the game, which is where you’d like to ideally be.
I thought that Nisby was dominant when he was in the game and I’d still like see him get some carries. He is apparently coming off an injury so maybe they were taking things slow. Nisby’s worst moment wasn’t great, but I should also mention Stockton’s really bad spot was the stretch play on 4th and 1 that ended up just being one big lateral run that didn’t create any cut-back lanes.
8. Dominating the Game. Offensively, Texas Tech did absolutely dominate this game. I thought that Texas Tech might be in a spot where they would struggle, in parts, but that really didn’t happen except for the pressure. On third downs, Shimonek shined, completing 55% of third downs and those weren’t short third downs, averaging 6.9 yards per down, most of those coming on passing plays. Texas Tech averaged 7.9 uards a play and that’s really off the charts.
9. Offensive Line Held Up. Except for a bit of pressure that they had a tough time holding and a couple of late penalties, one a bad snap and I think a second holding call, I thought they did a good job. They’ll need to get a bit more dialed up when they meet Ed Oliver, he’ll probably be the best defensive lineman that the offensive line will meet all year. He’ll be disruptive and I’ll be interested to see how they handle someone like Oliver because Oklahoma has some guys that are pretty disruptive too.
10. Miscellaneous. That Mason Reed touchdown catch and run was ridiculously tough and he’s a better athlete than opposing defenses probably give him . . Cam Batson’s touchdown was also terrific, showed Batson’s patience and ability to get in that endzone . . . Derrick Willies had a relatively quiet game, 5 catches for 56 yards and a touchdown, but he made some really nice plays and that fade catch in the endzone was awfully pretty . . . I think that the rush package is essentially Zach Barnes, Eli Howard and I couldn’t tell who else, but I think those guys can roll on purely pass rush downs. Lonzell Gilmore had a tough time getting to the quarterback this game, but Howard and Barnes as purely pass rushers will likely play . . . We didn’t really hear all that much from the second safety spot and I don’t really know who played most of the game at the second safety spot. Jah’Shawn Johnson made his presence felt with 12 tackles, but that second safety for me was noticeably absent. . . Broderick Washington’s play is just getting better, he had 2 quarterback hurries and to get that from one of your interior guys is pretty danged good . . .
[Ed. Note: I’m doing this on 3 hours of sleep for forgive any typos and straying thoughts. Not working off of much sleep.]