Should Kingsbury Tap the Brakes on the Texas Tech Offense?


The Texas Tech offense is one of the fastest in the nation, but its frenetic pace has not necessarily bred success.

In 2013, the Texas Tech offense ran just over 90 plays per game to lead the nation. In 2014 that number dropped to 76 plays per game, but not by design. In both seasons Tech was in the top ten in the nation in plays per minute, running 3.33 plays per minute in 2013, and increasing that number to 3.41 plays per minute in 2014.

Tech actually played faster in 2014 than in 2013, but the offense had the ball less because the defense was unable to get off the field, especially when the opponent committed to the ground game. In 2015, Kingsbury should slow things down in order to improve the health of the entire team.

The 2014 Tech defense was on the field for 986 plays in only 12 games for a disturbing average of 82 plays per game. In contrast, the National Champion Ohio State Buckeyes only played 68.8 snaps of defense per game. The Texas Tech defense is not able to withstand 80 plays per game due to the lack of quality depth in the front seven and the overall youth being relied on at most positions.

Too often the Texas Tech defense wilted in the second half of games as players like Pete Robertson, Branden Jackson and Keenan Ward approached the 80 – 90 play mark due to a lack of trusted substitutes. In the second half of games last season, Tech allowed 22.5 points per game as opposed to 19.3 points per game in the first half. While neither number is desirable, traditional football philosophy states that winning teams have a defense that improves throughout the game as adjustments are made to combat the offensive game plan.

Tech must have a defense capable of getting critical 4th quarter stops when the game is on the line if they hope to compete in the Big 12.

The 2015 Red Raider defense will have more talent on the field with the additions of players like Breiden Fehoko and Mike Mitchell, but it will again be relying on young players to provide depth. Kliff Kingsbury should take a page from another Texas football team whose defense went from worst to league average in one season simply by making a tweak in philosophy.

In 2013, the Dallas Cowboys’ defense was the worst in the NFL, and one of the worst of all time. In 2014, the Dallas defense improved to 14th in the NFL despite being without its two best players from 2013’s defense, DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee.

No one expects (or wants) Tech to become the Air Force Falcons and run the triple option, and fans have come to love Tech’s identity as a lethal spread passing team. After all, in the early 2000’s Tech was one of the few teams in the nation to run the spread passing offense and their success spawned a new era in college football as imitators of the Air Raid offense began to pop up across the nation. However, Kingsbury’s insistence on running as many plays as possible is hurting his team.

Last year, Tech was inexperienced at quarterback and receiver and the mistakes were easy to see. Interceptions and dropped passes plagued the offense throughout the season. Young players must adjust to the pace of college football so it stands to reason that the faster the coach makes them play, the more mistakes will be made. If the old adage that “you play like you practice” is true, Tech obviously runs their tempo offense in practice. The problem is that this style of practice minimizes teaching moments.

One must wonder if Tech’s penalty and turnover problems are tied to a greater focus on tempo than teaching. Thus, Kingsbury should place more responsibility on his most experienced players.

Nov 29, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders running back DeAndre Washington (21) runs for a touchdown against the Baylor Bears during the second half at AT&T Stadium. The Bears defeated the Red Raiders 48-46. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The two best units on the 2015 offense will be the offensive line and the running backs. Last season, for the first time since 1998, Tech had a 1,000-yard rusher in DeAndre Washington. He returns for his senior year as the workhorse of the offense, and Tech has a stable of capable backs like Justin Stockton, Quinton White, and RS-FR Demarcus Felton to provide depth. That group will be running behind an offensive line with 96 combined career starts.

Kingsbury would be wise to play his strengths next season.

Last season, Tech lost two games in which they had a double-digit lead at halftime (WVU and OU). In both games, the defense was exposed in the second half as the Tech offense sputtered and was unable to drain the clock. If Tech would decrease their plays per minute to around 2.7 it would make a substantial impact on the defense’s ability to recover on the sidelines.

Tech shouldn’t abandon the tempo offense completely, but like any good weapon, Kingsbury should use it only when necessary. If the opposing defense is on its heels, the tempo offense is a great idea. However, when your own defense is in need of a rest, Tech should take more time before snapping the ball and consider giving the ball to its best player, Washington.

The tempo offense is what Kingsbury believes in and a coach must stick to his convictions. Teams must develop an identity, and Kingsbury wants Tech’s identity to be that of an unrelenting up-tempo offense. Kingsbury is going to live and die by this offense, but if he will learn to use the tempo with discretion, it is likely that his defense will be less likely to fold in the game’s most critical moments.