1. Game Links:
2. Muddy Turned It Around. That’s a really simplistic way of looking at things, but I thought the momentum turned quite a bit when Marquis Waters made a fantastic catch and then return for a touchdown. The defense started well with a 3-and-out, but the offense then proceeded to stall as well. A punt back to FIU resulted in a 9 play, 88 yard touchdown drive for FIU and things looked incredibly shaky as Texas Tech went 3-and-out again with a punt. FIU gets the ball back, proceeds to get the ball back, another 3-and-out (a theme if you will) for FIU and then Adrian Frye decides to scoop up a rolling punt that bounces away and FIU has the ball at the Texas Tech 38 yard line. Waters makes a terrific break on the ball and there was absolutely no one standing in his way to the end zone.
FIU would get the ball back and then proceed to miss a field goal (that was reviewed for some reason) and Texas Tech would go on to score 28 points in the 2nd quarter alone with over 200 yards of passing and holding onto the ball for over 9 minutes alone.
3. Good and Bad on Defense. I think there was definitely more good on defense than bad. There was the long sustained drive from the 1st quarter an a broken play that resulted in a 69 yard touchdown pass, but then things were really tightened down for the most part. In the 3rd quarter, FIU would have another 9 play drive, this time for only 53 yards that resulted in a touchdown, but by that time, with the touchdown, the score was 38-21 and Texas Tech had a healthy lead.
Remember the days when the entire game was filled with missed tackles? It was just part of the game on a large-scale basis? I think I can sort of count the missed tackle son one hand and it definitely feels like the defense is more sure-handed when it comes to making plays, tackles in space, etc. I think I’ve got this prevailing thought that the defense would just fold at some point, but they continue to play really well.
Statistically, Florida International averaged 4.2 yards per play, 1.9 yards per rush (there were some sacks in there I am sure, the Jacob Morgenstern stands out as one where the quarterback just made a terrible play by not getting rid of the ball) and threw for only 191 yards on 29 attempts for 6.6 yards an attempt. Those are all solid numbers. I’d also add that the defense allowed only 10 first downs all game long and the FIU offense only converted 6 of 15 3rd downs and there were ZERO 4th down attempts by FIU.
Those big plays really do skew the averages (as they should) and if Texas Tech solves those problems, I think we’re talking about a truly dominant defensive performance. Instead, I think this is a solid B performance. Plenty of things to correct, but generally very good I think.
4. Offense Back On Track. I mentioned above the 28 points scored in the second quarter and without a doubt, that’s the best the offense has looked all year. Varied, different guys getting the ball, stretching the field, utilizing the tight end, finding those seam routes up the middle of the field with the inside players, it all just clicked for a quarter and FIU could never recover.
Texas Tech racked up 31 first downs, had 177 yards rushing and averaged 4.8 yards a rush, 407 yards passing, for 11.0 yards per attempt, and a total of 584 yards on offense, good for nearly 8 yards a play.
I mentioned that 1st quarter being pretty terrible and the offense held onto the ball for just 3:31, but after that, the 2nd through 4th quarters, the offense held onto the ball for at least 9 minutes each quarter. FIU simply couldn’t score because they didn’t have the ball.
That’s sort of the point with such a strong rushing attack, only 5 negative yards rushing the ball, and 177 yards on the ground with a couple of touchdowns were really good. It was great to get SaRoderick Thompson a touchdown, nice to see Henry Colombi get that touchdown as well.
5. A Game of Firsts. How about Cam’Ron Valdez getting his first carries of his career, 5 for 20 yard is a good start for a college career. Mason Tharp getting his first catches of his career, 3 catches for 61 yards and an absolute beauty of a touchdown right down the middle of the field. Travis Koontz getting his first catches of the year, catching all 6 targets for 53 yards and 2 touchdowns. The 2 touchdowns were the same play, just flipped it appeared from the left side to the right side. Jerand Bradley gets his first action of his career, a catch for 5 yards. Chadarius Townsend gets his first carries of this year, 5 for 28 and I sometimes forget how danged fast he is.
6. Special Teams Issues. I wish that we didn’t have to discuss this each week, and again, you wonder how much of this is coaching and how much of it is the players. After the game, head coach Matt Wells said that Adrian Frye thought that somebody touched the ball, which is why he tried to pick up a rolling punt return that just should not have been touched. I honestly don’t know if I buy that and maybe that’s Wells attempting to alibi for Frye a bit, which is fine. It was a bad play and had it not been for the Waters interception pick-6 on the very next play, I don’t know where the game ends up. Regardless, that seemed to be the only gaffe that I can remember other than the missed extra point, which again isn’t coaching.
Oh, wait, the squib kickoff was actually an absolutely perfect kickoff, right towards the sideline, but then the coverage was terrible, I think it was a 30 or 40 yard kickoff return on what should have been FIU starting a drive inside their own 20 yard line.
I would add that Frye is definitely more electric when it comes to returns, he had a 17 yard punt return, which I can’t recall a punt return going for that sort of distance in quite some time. He certainly wasn’t afraid of the situation.
7. Nit-Picks and Pick-Me-Ups. There were only 46 tackles by the defense, a testament to the fact that there simply wasn’t just a ton of plays by the defense. The leading tackler only had 4 tackles on the day and there were 4 players tied, Colin Schooler, Jesiah Pierre, Brandon Bouyer-Randle, and Rayshad Williams . . . There really weren’t that many splash plays by the defense. Only 2 sacks and only 4 tackles for a loss, which means that they were forcing FIU into punt situations without a ton of negative plays . . . Kaylon Geiger’s 6 catches for 121 yards were really terrific and I tend to think that with better coverage, he’s not getting some of those, but he made some of those happen on his own . . . When you run for 177 yards and your leading rusher only has 47 yards on 9 carries, you might have a relatively loaded running back room . . . The 9 penalties for 75 yards were a problem and I really don’t want to slide back into those bad habits, 2 interference penalties on Rayshad Williams and Bouyer-Randle kept a drive alive, plus a couple of penalties on special teams too were an issue . . .
8. Ring of Honor. It was really nice to see Michael Crabtree get into the Texas Tech Ring of Honor. That’s something that’s reserved for royalty and for me, he’s definitely royalty. It’s tough to imagine the current generation not really knowing how good Crabtree was as they’ve probably see that play as much as any other play in their lifetime. But there was so much to Crabtree’s game that probably goes a bit unnoticed, the first 2-time Biletnikoff winner is a significant accomplishment and a testament to his absolute dominance.
I’d imagine that the same words you could say about Crabtree could also be said about Elmer Tarbox, most likely a dominant athlete in his day, a 3-sport letterwinner, a World War II pilot, Silver Star and Purple Heart recipient. Having never played a down of football before he arrived, he figured it out pretty quickly. Tarbox played both ways, honorable All-American as a half back and a single-season interception record of 11 still stands today.
9. Coach Quotes. Head coach Matt Wells opening statement:
“First of all, thanks to our crowd. The students, the fans, I thought it was another good outing. Great atmosphere to play in, going to need that here in three weeks when TCU comes to town. Great atmosphere, it was fun to play in front of these guys and I think it will keep getting better and better. We talked all week about starting strong on both sides of the ball and how we wanted to start strong and it was not an indication of the result of the first series. It wasn’t going to be whether we scored or we gave up a score it was the vibe of starting strong and I certainly think we did that. It was a really good second quarter. Tyler (Shough) got in a rhythm, we did a nice job protecting him, spreading out, a lot of guys got balls. They tilted the coverage and doubled Erik (Ezukanma) early, that was obvious that was the game plan early. (Geiger) came alive like we knew he could, Koontz and Tharp had big third down catches. It was good to get them involved. Defensively, holding that running back to 51 yards, 55 yards total for the defensive in terms of rushing, that’s a big night. You told someone to less than 250 (yards) that’s a big night, proud of them. Step one, big goal for us, was to go undefeated in the non-league and we accomplished that, 3-0. Now you get into a one-week, big time game, every single week in the Big 12, and we go to Texas this week and we’re certainly excited to do that.”
Q: “What do you feel like you have learned about your team during this 3-0 start?”
“You look back on the first two games and resilient is the first word that comes to mind. Down 14 at half, down seven at half, nobody bickering, nobody griping, nobody arguing, playing together and then having a sense of urgency in the third quarter to tie games to take leads and find ways to win at the end. I think I learned that we are in pretty good condition, we are built for a fourth quarter game. To see the improvement in practice from week two, to week three, I think Sunday, I think these guys would probably tell you, it was tell the truth Sunday around here. Our coaches were very, very direct. In the coaching world they say you can coach harder off of wins, and I think there’s certainly a lot of truth to that, but our players responded, they were very, very coachable.”
10. Players of the Game
Tortilla Tossin’ Player of the Game: I’ve pretty well gone through this entire 10 Things without mentioning Tyler Shough and his performance. Much improved, completing 74% of his passes for 399 yards for 11.4 yards per attempt, 4 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Absolutely threading the needle on a couple of plays, he’s definitely got the arm and I worry a bit when the players are faster, but I thought he was the best player on the field yesterday. Kaylon Geiger’s performance was a close runner-up for me.
Swiss Army Do-It-All Defender of the Game: Let’s go with Brandon Bouyer-Randle, who single-handedly thwarted a third down with a batted down pass, 2 quarterback hurries, and 4 tackles is a pretty nice day.
Player Finding His Way: I thought Rayshad Williams had a really nice game. As mentioned above, not a ton of plays other than the Marquis Waters play, which was significant, but overall, Williams maybe played the best.
Road Grader of the Game: I’m not sure how to pick one of the interior linemen, but I thought that the blitz pick-up from them was really terrific for the most part. Dawson Deaton’s name wasn’t mentioned at all, which means that he did a terrific job, and I thought that Josh Burger also did well, definitely finding those defenders who were on their way.
Eraser of the Game: Marquis Waters for sure. Absolutely deflated FIU.
Lighting a Fire That Trey Cleveland catch was absolutely terrific. I thought for sure he’d be ruled out of bounds, but am glad for him that he stayed in-bounds. The receiver room is really set if players stick around, so much talent there that they can barely get on the field.
A Brand New World A combination of Travis Koontz and Mason Tharp, combining for 114 yards, catching all 9 targets, with Koontz catching 2 touchdowns off of some play-action and Tharp catching an absolute beauty over the middle. The idea of having a tight end that’s difficult to match up with is fun to consider.