It’s a two-game season for Texas now, starting Saturday in Austin against Texas Tech. In preparation for the contest, Texas Tech blogger Seth from Double T Nation and I exchanged a series of questions. Check Double T Nation later this morning for my thoughts on the ‘Horns
Heading into the Missouri game, I thought Texas Tech was ready to lunge forward, but the team suffered two straight setbacks - losing decisively to both Missouri and Colorado. What happened in those two contests?
Seth, Double T Nation: The common denominator for both of those games is that both Colorado and Missouri completely stopped the run (see more of this below). For most of those games, Missouri was able to rush 5, pressure Harrell, and force him into some bad decisions. The same goes for Colorado. The strengths of both of those defenses wasn't necessarily up front, but it was the play of the linebackers who were able to fill the gaps in stopping the run, yet still being able to drop into coverage to clog up the middle of the field, and the play of the defensive backs, who were able to rough up the Texas Tech receivers. A DTN reader likened it to the Indianapolis and New England game a couple of years ago where the Colt receivers questioned the rough play of the Patriot defensive backs.
In years past, Coach Leach has typically really let his team have it after a really bad loss and he hasn't given up on this team at all, in fact, I think part of the reason he hasn't gotten down on this team is that because they are relatively so young that there are sunnier skies ahead.
The Red Raiders took care of business last week against Baylor, but the Bears don't provide nearly as stiff a test as the previous two opponents. Did Texas Tech do anything different to make you think they're back on track, or was this a case of beating handily an inferior opponent?
Seth, Double T Nation: Probably a little bit of both. Yes, Baylor is an inferior opponent, but they are a Big 12 football team and Texas Tech was able to beat them by 28. That's not bad. The things Texas Tech did right was introduce a new running back, Aaron Crawford, and Coach Leach actually give him the ball more than a handful of times. Receivers other than Crabtree contributed and made plays and Harrell had over 9 yards an attempt, which meant he was getting the ball down the field rather than trying to force short passes over a crowded middle of the field.
Defensively, the pass defense has proven to be be solid and Saturday was no exception, but we won't talk about the rush defense. Giving up 91 yards to a Baylor team that was only averaging 60-ish is not a good sign for things to come.
Give us the skinny on Texas Tech's new defensive coordinator.
Seth, Double T Nation: Ruffin McNeill (what a great name. –ed)is the exact opposite of what former defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich was - passionate, motivating and a leader. I was able to witness first-hand McNeill's passion for the game against Iowa State where after every defensive series, he would sit down and actually coach his defense, get in the players faces and you could literally see the players get motivated as you watched. Perhaps McNeill's biggest flas is the same flas as his predecessor, which is not being agressive enough. For Setencich's reign, Texas Tech fans were subjected to a bend-but-don't-break defense, completely unaggressive. So far, I think that McNeill has done a decent job of stopping opposing offense, although the defense's biggest achilles heel is stopping the run, which is not something that I lay at his feet, but something that will have to change over time.
It appears to me that when Texas Tech struggles offensively, it's often because they totally abandon any semblance of a running game. How accurate is that assessment?
Seth, Double T Nation: I couldn't agree more and in fact last week one of the 5 things that I wanted to see Leach & Co. do was to run the ball like there's no tomorrow, especially since Texas Tech was facing a less than stellar Baylor defense. It wasn't great, but it was acceptable (73 yards). As I look back at the Colorado and the Missouri game, it seems like the biggest similarity is that they both completely took away the running game, leaving Harrell and the offense with only one option. The key to this offense is running enough to keep the defenses honest and to be honest, I'd prefer that this team run 20 to 25 times a game rather than the 15 attempts against Missouri and 12 attempts against Colorado.
What's going on with Shannon Woods?
Seth, Double T Nation: This is just a weird situation and it appears, at least from what I've read, that its Woods attitude that is keeping him off the field. During the spring, Woods was demoted to the 3rd team and was promoted to the 1st team once games were played. At the time, most of us thought that this was just Leach trying to motivate Woods, but now I think we're all left scratching our heads as to what Woods has really done. Woods is clearly the most talented and most experienced running back on the team and Woods' actions, whatever they are, are bad enough for Leach to start a true freshman, Aaron Crawford. The only other option at running back is Kobey Lewis, who is all of 5' 5", 160 pounds.
Your biggest concern heading into the game is...?
Seth, Double T Nation: Jamaal Charles and my television. Texas Tech had a difficult time stopping Colorado and Missouri running backs and it's probably safe to assume that Charles has more speed and natural ability than any of their runners. I'm concerned that my television will meet a less than desirable fate if Texas Tech doesn't show any ability to stop the run.