It took three overtimes, but nevertheless, Texas Tech pulled off a 56-53 win over TCU setting up a huge matchup this weekend in Manhattan. Hey, a win is a win, but if Texas Tech wants to forge a tie atop the Big 12 standings, they're going to have to play much better against K-State than they did against TCU and Tommy Tuberville knows it, especially on defense.
The Texas Tech defense gave up 516 yards to the Horned Frogs (a number that's slightly inflated because of the 54 yards they gave up in the overtimes).
"We lined up wrong. We played the wrong gaps. We didn't look like we were totally into what we were trying to execute game-plan-wise, and we didn't tackle very well," Tuberville said on Monday.
That, my friends, isn't going to get it done against Kansas State. The Wildcats make a living of exploiting a defenses missed assignments and you can bet if Tuberville is saying the same thing this weekend, the Red Raiders won't be so fortunate as to leave town with a win.
There's no question Texas Tech is light years ahead of where they were a season ago on defense. There's little disputing that and Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has noticed.
"They're a much more physical football team upfront," Snyder said during his weekly press conference on Tuesday. "I think they're a faster football team across the board. I think schematically they have made some changes that have been beneficial and fit their personnel. They are a very aggressive football team in all aspects, in terms of coverage, in terms of their run defense, in regards to their pass rush, the whole bit."
But if you want to focus on trends, the Red Raiders are going the wrong way at least as far as total yards allowed are concerned in Big 12 play.
In four Big 12 games, Texas Tech has given up more yards than the previous week versus both the run and the pass.
Texas Tech total defense stats in Big 12 play:
Is that cause for concern? Yes and no. The fact is Texas Tech has played a couple pretty explosive offenses. Any defensive coordinator in the Big 12 would probably be happy holding OU and West Virginia to 380 and 408 yards, respectively (although KSU's defense held them to 386 and 243 but that's a discussion for another post). They also completely dominated Iowa State although TCU did get the best of them for the better part of three quarters this past weekend.
On the other side of coin, it has to be concerning for the Red Raiders that they're heading to Kansas State coming off their worst defensive performance of the season. "We didn't look near as composed as we've looked in the first six games defensively. Looked like we lost our composure, and we madesome plays. But you can't give up that many yards and expect to win as many games as we've got left in the season."
In Big 12 play, Kansas State's offense is running twice as much as they throw (172 rushes, 82 passes) and they're also averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
Texas Tech's run defense is going to have to be as good as it's been all season on Saturday which leads to maybe the most concerning comment from Tech's head man during his Monday press conference.
Which position defensively has to improve to have success against Kansas State?
"Linebackers," Tuberville said. "They've played some good games. Last week they were out of position. For some reason we just did not look confident in stopping the run. People are going to throw the ball and make plays. But you know your linebackers have to play run first. We just looked like we were in a different world Saturday compared to the other games where we've played some good running teams and played pretty well."
Whatever world they were in Saturday, they had better come back to earth because stopping Collin Klein is no easy task. If their linebackers aren't in the right place, the Wildcats will be running up and down the field. And even if they are in the right place, stopping them is no small chore. Kansas State executes (blocks) their run plays as good as any team you'll see and their ball carriers set up those blocks with an uncanny precision.
All that being said, this is a game is Tech is capable of winning if they don't turn the ball over and can force the Wildcats into some third and longs. Not to mention, Kansas State is coming off an emotional win and a long flight back from West Virginia. Bill Snyder preaches consistency at all costs, but if there is ever a weekend to be flat - the opponent notwithstanding - this might be it.
But then again, it all comes down to defense for Texas Tech and putting last week in the rear view mirror. Overall, the results have exceeded expectations through seven games, but they'll need to be better than ever if they want to win game number eight.