Though I'm not masochistic enough to want to belabor Saturday night's low points much beyond this post, I want to conclude my post-game thoughts with a look at five statistics which best illuminate what went wrong in Lubbock. I think moving forward requires some painful digesting of the what and how of Texas' (first half, in particular) failures--both as mistakes to avoid and opportunities to elevate to a higher level.
1. TEXAS TECH 1st QUARTER TIME OF POSSESSION: 12:28
"Keep Tech's offense off the field" was one of many fans' key talking points throughout the week, but the 1st Quarter could not have gone more poorly for the Longhorns in that regard. When on the final play of the first quarter Barron Batch scored a touchdown for a 12-0 Tech lead, he capped as stunning an opening five drives to the game as a Texas fan could imagine:
Did Texas Tech win the game in the first quarter? In many ways, yeah. Consider the final offensive numbers (not including the non-offensive touchdown each picked up in the second half--Texas via punt return, Tech via INT return):
|TTU, Final 3 Quarters
|TX, Final 3 Quarters||54||371||26||20:35|
|TTU, 2nd Half||40||217||10||17:09|
|TX, 2nd Half||34||279||20||12:51|
If Texas didn't lose the game in the first quarter, they lost it in the first half, when Tech led by as many 19 points. Though in the second half it was Texas that eventually got on track, it was Texas Tech... that got the ball last. Absolutely crushing.
2. TEXAS TECH SACKS: 4 / TEXAS RUSHING YARDS 80
To many Texas fans, much of Saturday night's game (especially up through Colt's devastating pick six) in Lubbock felt like the worst moments from 2007, with McCoy struggling to find his mark, holding the ball too long or scrambling for his life behind a Texas offensive line that was abused badly as a pass protecting and run-creating unit. Though Texas would regroup down the stretch, the credit here goes to the Red Raiders' defensive line, which left an indelible mark on the game with an inspired first half performance.
Texas fans are rightly upset by how much holding the Red Raiders' own offensive linemen were getting away with, but as Scipio Tex and I ultimately decided during a post-game chat, we all knew going into the game that this was the same crew from Dallas: At some point, it's on Texas' coaches to instruct their players to block/hold without fear of reprisal. The shame is on the officials, but the strategic blunder is on Texas. Especially given the Tech D-Line's first-half dominance.
3. TEXAS TECH RUSHING ATTEMPTS: 26
As always, it was Texas Tech's passing offense doing the majority of the work, but as I found myself writing in one Big 12 Report after another this season, the difference in this year's Red Raider offense is the commitment to and success of the running game. Tonight was no exception: Tech ran the football 26 times for 130 yards (5.0 ypc), more than enough to keep Texas' defense from selling out to stop the pass. Though Will Muschamp's improved second half defense limited Tech to just 48 yards on their 13 second half rushing attempts, Mike Leach's continued commitment to the effort was part of the reason Tech's pass game never really sputtered throughout.
We've said more than a few times this season that if Will Muschamp succeeds in making an opposing offense one-dimensional, it's game-set-match. Mike Leach understood that and ran the football enough to force Muschamp to stay honest against the run. And that, in turn, helped Graham Harrell and his outstanding receivers take advantage of the 'Horns through the air.
4. TEXAS FINAL 3 DRIVES: 18 PLAYS, 229 YARDS, 3 TDs
Malcolm Williams' final line? 4 catches, 182 yards, 2 TDs. Fozzy Whittaker? 7 touches, 47 yards. Texas' offensive gears eventually slid into highly-productive grooves, but it came too late. 26 offensive points in Lubbock just isn't enough. Why, then, is this stat line included among the five explaining Texas' loss? Because it was Texas first embodiment this season of the explosive contributions from Others--absence of which had been masked by the surreal performances of Texas' go-to veterans--that we worried might be a fatal weak link of this offense.
It crushes my soul that this isn't the #1 bullet for a "Top 5 Reasons Texas Won" post. It almost was. The only consolation is that, heading forward, we're a better offense for it. The way I feel, though, it's the faintest of silver linings.
5. TEXAS TECH FIRST DOWNS: 31 / TEXAS FIRST DOWNS: 18
And with this final statistic, we in many ways complete the circle: Though the one-sided first quarter may have been decisive all on its own, the game-long story was that Graham Harrell was able to execute better that which was essential for both teams: Keep the offense on the field, execute on third downs, sustain drives, and grind the opposing defense. The Red Raiders converted on 8 of 16 third downs; Texas on just 4 of 12.
Graham Harrell in the first half converted 5 of 8 Texas Tech third downs--rushing once for 8 yards and completing 4 passes for 84 yards. He did not turn the ball over once during the game. He took one sack on Tech's opening drive and one at the beginning of the 4th Quarter. The mistakes Texas fans saw from the same player in years' past.... not this time.
Anything less and the Red Raiders lose. Hard as it is to say: the bratty punk earned it. He really did.