Credit to Texas Tech. First of all, Texas Tech deserves a lot of credit for winning the football game. Because make no mistake, Tech won the game. Graham Harrell threw a number of passes into good coverage that had to be perfectly thrown to find the hands of the Tech receiver. And they did. Repeatedly. Many observes nationally and in Texas still wondered before the game if Harrell was just another in a long line of "system" quarterbacks at Texas. He's not. Want evidence? Do system quarterbacks lead the Heisman race late in the season? It's also no coincidence that Harrell completed that final pass to Crabtree. According Ruffin McNeil, Crabtree and Harrell work on that throw often, including for at least an hour one day during the summer.
Many observers wondered if Mike Leach would abandon the running game, as he is known for doing. He didn't, as the Red Raiders picked up 105 yards against the Longhorns, as the two running backs averaged 4.7 (Woods) and 5.1 (Batch) yards per carry, respectively. He's also answered questions about a commitment to defense, promoting Ruffin McNeil, who has done an impressive job with the unit in about a year. Here's a prediction: A major program will finally offer Leach a first tier coaching job (it's overdue) and he will leave Lubbock.
It wasn't just the offense, however. The Tech defensive line was more talented by far than any other Tech line this century. The triumvirate of Colby Whitlock, Brandon Williams, and McKinner Dixon spent most of the game in the Texas backfield harassing Colt McCoy. The defense isn't among the handful of best defensive teams nationally, but it is one of the three best in the Big 12 (Texas, OSU, Tech, in no particular order).
Schedule advantage: Tech. Their game against Texas marked the second game in Tech's own gauntlet that still includes games against Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Texas, on the other hand, was playing the last game of their four-game gauntlet. And it showed. Mack Brown on the injuries:
It's a very difficult week for our players and our coaches. They're emotionally and physically tired. They're banged up. Some may not play this week. A lot will not be able to practice this week after this stretch.
Last week, I wrote about Cosby, Shipley, and Ogbonnaya seeming tired and beat up from the tough, physical games they had played through. Cosby hurt his back during the game, while the ABC crew dropped the nugget that Cosby hadn't been hit in practice all week. Shipley looked fine physically, but dropped a crucial possible touchdown pass early in the game. Ogbonnaya looked like he lacked the burst that contributed to long runs against Colorado, Oklahoma, and Missouri. Brown said later in his Monday presser that Ogbonnaya has in fact been bothered by an ankle sprained against Missouri.
Finally happened. Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the ball, injuries took a serious toll. Ryan Palmer, unlikely hero of the 2006 victory in Lubbock, battled through hamstring and elbow injuries. Chykie Brown, the largest and most physical cornerback on the roster besides Aaron Williams, didn't play much after missing the OSU game with a sprained ankle. Jared Norton was sick for several days last week and I don't recall seeing him on the field. Roy Miller got dinged up before returning late. Brian Orakpo was finally injured while being held. In retrospect, it's surprising that it hadn't happened earlier in the season. Fortunately, Mack Brown said on Monday that his Texas career isn't over ($). Team officials reported on Monday that he doesn't have ligament damage, which is positive. Check out the screen shot of the play when he was hurt. Holding, much?
Big 12 officials are clearly not concerned about the rampant holding that goes on every game, but it's absolutely irresponsible to allow defensive ends to be injured because of it. The team is sending tape to the league office this week documenting the holding calls from the previous week, but that isn't working. They do that every week. It's time for Mack Brown to take a public stand about it. He has to protect his players and he makes enough money the fine shouldn't be an issue. Call it what it is. A travesty. And then tell the Texas offensive line to start doing it if the league isn't going to crack down. Apparently it's fine now for offensive lineman to tackle people. Make no mistake, though, the missed holding calls aren't the reason Texas lost. Tech was a better team that night.
Stats are for losers. Mack had a bunch of them this week during his Monday presser. The Longhorn defense tired early as Tech possessed the ball for 12:28 of the first quarter. Another reason they tired? Tech converted four third downs of eight yards or more in the first half. The defense also allowed eight explosive plays, while missing 15 tackles that contributed to 93 extra yards. That's three more missed tackles than last week. Unacceptable, especially considering the team worked on tackling last week, as it does every week.
On the offensive side, the wide receivers dropped seven passes, including the aforementioned potential touchdown grab that Shipley dropped. I don't think he's dropped a pass all year. Those seven drops made up half of McCoy's incompletions (14). If the receivers catch those passes, McCoy completes close to his usual 80% (79.4%), instead of a season-worst 58.8% (10% worse than his 68% game against UTEP). McCoy is now under 80% for the season (79%).
Extended appearance for mythical Fozzy creature. I might as well just make this a weekly segment. The running game is struggling again with OG hobbled by an ankle injury and so the Eyes of Texas turn once again to the mythical Fozzy creature, who may finally be absolving himself of mythical status. He gained 42 yards on six carries, while adding a catch for five yards, taking over running back duties in crunch time and providing Texas a chance to win the game.
It's not a myth that the kid is electric and needs to see the field more. Greg Davis called his first poor game of the season, repeatedly using the ineffective tight ends (I don't want to see them any more) and not giving Fozzy a touch until it was almost too late. Oh yeah, and that's not even mentioning the first offensive play call, which was horrendous. Stupid. Harebrained. Any number of other derogatory terms. The early season success has kept notoriously fickle Texas fans off his back, but more mistakes and a continual failure to use the Fozzy creature may very well resurrect calls for his job.