1. Game Links & Media:
And the home of the RAIDERS! pic.twitter.com/H1uN3MAPuB
— Texas Tech Football (@TexasTechFB) September 5, 2021
🎶 STAND ON HEIGHTS OF VICTORY! 🎶 pic.twitter.com/l5itANQk5Y
— Texas Tech Football (@TexasTechFB) September 5, 2021
2. Resilient. Resilient was the word of the day after the game. It was the first word that came to my mind after the game and it was something that PxP announcer Marc Jones said and it’s something that head coach Matt Wells said after the game. In fact, you could also use the word antifragile, which is one of those buzz words that means exactly what you think it means, which means that it is a response to stress that ends up leading to a positive outcome, but really comes when someone is fully invested in the outcome.
That’s pretty much what we have here with last night’s win. 31 unanswered points is a lot of unanswered points and that’s not to say that Texas Tech’s performance was stellar, but Houston is likely going to be a good team so long as their quarterback performs better than what he did last night, which I think Holgorsen can correct some of those throws (maybe).
Regardless, I think the key here for Texas Tech and Wells is that this felt like a game that they’d lose because of the deficit, especially the touchdown at the end of the half to put Houston up 21-7. I thought that there’s a lot of football left to play, but to try to overcome that deficit if the defense doesn’t get some stops would be incredibly difficult. That’s exactly what happened, Texas Tech pinned their ears back defensively, was more focused on offense and the final touchdown was definitely a step on their throat moment that felt good even though the game was out of reach.
3. Quarterback Performance. I thought that quarterback Tyler Shough’s struggles were largely the result of a leaky offensive line. I thought that the arm-strength on the out routes were impressive and it was fairly obvious that a huge part of the offense was to trust Erik Ezukanma to be the more physically dominant player against his defender. I also thought that his touch around the line of scrimmage was really nice. Getting rid of the ball when pressure hits is going to be something to watch as the team moves forward. Shough’s 9.625 yards per attempt is outstanding, a ton of those yards were yards after the catch, and only 231 yards passing, but I don’t care about padding huge passing numbers at this point.
4. Defensive Turnaround. Houston had 127 yards in the 1st quarter and for the remaining three quarters, Houston would have a total of 260, so they gained only 133 for the rest of the game. Houston had 16 total first downs, but had 8 of them in the 1st quarter.(Conversely, Texas Tech only had 39 yards in the 1st quarter and ended up with 376.)
Back to the defense, it finally dawned on defensive coordinator Keith Patterson that rushing 3 players simply wasn’t going to cut it, and I felt that from the 2nd quarter forward that the pass rush was a mix of a linebacker and the line putting pressure on the Houston quarterback.
Probably also important to point out that Houston averaged 2.5 yards per running attempt. Texas Tech forced 4 turnovers. Houston averaged 3.56 yards per passing attempt. The Cougars were just 6 of 17 in 3rd down conversions and the most of the game could never muster any consistence. Houston had 6 total yards in the 3rd quarter.
5. Breaking Out Tajh. Running back Tahj Brooks gained 85 of his 134 yards on 2 touchdown runs, one to end the game and he averaged 8.9 yards per rush. I think the running game was largely effective, but this would be a point of emphasis here, which is that this probably needs improvement to an extent. It is nice to have a player like Brooks who can obviously make plays, but I’d like to see better consistency.
6. 4 Picks. The four interceptions were not something that I really thought would happen in an opening game. Tune was a little bit turnover prone, I think he had 10 picks in 8 games last year. It was a problem, but Tune’s belief in his arm was a problem, thinking he could squeeze the ball in spaces that just weren’t there were a boon for Texas Tech. No matter, Texas Tech’s defense certainly capitalized on those plays and you throw in a pick-six and the world instantly becomes a better place.
7. Nit-Picks and Pick-Me-Ups. Let’s get this out of the way . . . the defensive pass rush without a fourth linebacker rushing the passer is non-existent . . . the offensive line, largely Caleb Rogers, was rough to watch in the 2nd half . . . Shough holding onto the ball is a problem. Just get rid of the ball if the pocket is going to collapse within 2-Mississippi . . . 2 of Houston’s touchdowns were of the cheapest variety as the UH receivers were left completely open, I think a Malik Dunlap handoff that went awry and I wasn’t able to tell as to the safety that let the Houston receiver wide open. Those are coverage issues that can hopefully be corrected with some time in the film room . . . I loved seeing the energy from DC Keith Patterson after a big play, that was a feel-good on my end of things . . . the Derrick Lewis special teams tackle on the Houston kickoff return was jump-off-the-couch good . . . loved seeing Jaylon Hutchings and Tony Bradford get sacks . . . 1 for 1 on field goals . . . on the 2nd Brooks touchdown, Cumbie went with 2 tight ends and they both blocked their tails off . . . remember when the big money donors for Texas Tech wanted Holgorsen as the head coach? I’m not saying that Matt Wells is any sort of golden-child, but I’m certainly not a fan of Holgorsen and the way his team wilted and his offense was unable to do much of anything and seemingly had no adjustments was not inspiring. We’ve given Hocutt plenty of crud for hiring Wells without much of an interview process, but maybe the big money donors don’t know a ton about hiring head coaches too (granted, the AD’s job is to hire head coaches and generally speaking, I’ve been pleased with Hocutt’s tenure as an AD) . . .
8. EZ’s Dominance. Had that cheap pass interference not been called Erik Ezukanma would have had over 200 yards receiving and truthfully, he completely dominated the game. Houston simply didn’t have an answer for the standout junior. 7 catches for 179 yards with Ezukanma making plays down the field, in traffic, and really everywhere else. Ezukanma’s dominance may wax and wan this year, but that’s because teams will start double-teaming him because, well, that happened. That’s going to open up more parts of the offense, but teams are on notice.
9. Open Field Tackling Improved. There’s not a ton to write about the open field tackling other than it was largely improved. That’s not to say that Houston didn’t gain yards, but the Texas Tech was able to limit Houston because the open field tackling was really on-point and it felt significantly better than it was in year’s past. That’s a positive.
10. Players of the Game
Tortilla Tossin’ Player of the Game: This one is EZ, yes, Erik Ezukanma.
Swiss Army Do-It-All Defender of the Game: Riko Jeffers with 4 tackles, an interception for a touchdown and an interception.
Player Finding His Way: Reggie Pearson, after being out for all of last year finished with a beaut of an interception and 8 tackles.
Road Grader of the Game: I thought Dawson Deaton had a terrific game, the seal on the first Brooks touchdown was pretty terrific and I thought he provided really good coverage.
Eraser of the Game: That Jaylon Hutching sack was all sorts of big early in the 3rd quarter and it felt like momentum changed quite a bit after that.
Lighting a Fire: Head coach Matt Wells said that the game balls went to strength coaches Dave Scholz and Andrew Krueger, so let’s give them some love here too.