Texas Tech Week One Report Card: Sam Houston State


Texas Tech defeated the Sam Houston State University Bearkats in a 59-45 shootout in week one. There were plenty of positives on both sides of the ball; but unfortunately, many negatives as well. Because this was against an FCS opponent, we’ll be a little more critical of the team than if they were playing a more talented opponent. That’s not to say Sam Houston is a weak team; they just do not pose quite the threat that a mid-table or elite Power Five team does.

Quarterbacks: B+

Pat Mahomes performed well in his first season opener, and his raw stats were among the best in the country. He made less than a handful of poor decisions throwing the ball, and he generally put the ball where his receivers could make a play. According to offensive coordinator Eric Morris, he also was on top of his pre-snap reads, saying “I thought 5 did a great job of getting in and out of some good plays,” when asked about the team’s capability of making big plays.

Unfortunately, there were a few things that could use some correction as well. Pat did miss a couple of receivers who were open; one being Devin Lauderdale on the play that would eventually lead to a scrambling Mahomes finding Sadler in the end zone (can’t knock him too much since the play ended up alright). And if you’re being nitpicky, there were a few throws he could have led the receivers a little better on. That being said, the Red Raiders had eight drops, which would have got Mahomes over 75 percent. Lastly, there were a couple plays where he felt pressure a bit prematurely and moved around when his eyes could have stayed downfield.

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All in all, it was a solid performance that will get the sophomore signal caller on the right track as he is only two weeks away from facing a very tough defense in Arkansas.

During the fourth quarter, Davis Webb came in and did not perform well. Granted he came in cold, which is difficult to do, but some most of the throws were not even close. We all know Webb has the potential to be great after torching the Arizona State defense in the Holiday Bowl in 2013, but those days seemed a distant memory Saturday against SHSU.

Offensive Line: B-

For the most part, the Tech offensive line played great. The individual effort was at a high level, the technique was great, and the communication was outstanding. One of the best assets of this O-Line is the ability of nearly every member to get to the second level and block linebackers. Baylen Brown had an excellent block that sealed out a linebacker for Jakeem Grant’s rushing touchdown in the first quarter. Also, they protected Mahomes very well; in addition to not giving up a sack the entire game, they kept the pocket clean nearly the entire game.

As in any game, there were a few negatives. The most obvious were the penalties. There were multiple false starts, which should not happen at home, especially when half the crowd has left the building. Also, Tony Morales may have gotten away with a clip after what looked like he dove at a defender’s knees on the play where Texas Tech was called for a hold. Lastly, Baylen Brown allowed the defensive end to cross his face on multiple plays, which could lead to disastrous outcomes for either the quarterback or running backs in the future.

Running Backs: C+

The Texas Tech running backs had an average day on Saturday, gaining 123-yards on 25 attempts, and adding one touchdown. Against a tougher opponent, those numbers would pop a little more. However, Texas Tech’s stable of backs had a great deal of help up front, as evidenced in Justin Stockton and Jakeem Grant (his statistics were not counted, as he is not a traditional running back) being able to walk into the end zone untouched on two occasions. The help in the passing game, which was also a positive, picking up opposing pass rushers and giving Mahomes more time with the football.

The pass-catching could use some work though, especially from Justin Stockton, who had trouble when lined up as a wide receiver. This was likely one of the “killer instinct” issues that Kliff Kingsbury referred to in the post-game press conference Saturday night.

Wide Receivers: C-

The wide receiver position group was a rollercoaster for the Sam Houston game. Jakeem Grant had a great game at receiver, even though his two touchdowns came as a running back and on special teams as a kick returner. He was open all game and made a few great moves to spring himself free. Devin Lauderdale was also open the whole game, and contributed two touchdowns, one on a 64-yard play in which he had to completely turn around to catch the football (and still had enough distance between himself and the DB to win the race to the end zone). The receivers also generally blocked well, and only had one penalty (holding) as a group.

The bad part of the game was the dropped passes. According to Eric Morris, “on the eight drops that we had, [there were] 173-yards that we left out there.” That is a staggering number of yards to not capitalize on, and could easily be the difference in a closer game. With the defensive struggles this team has had over the past six years, the offense needs to make sure the easy ones do not get away.

Defensive Line: D

The Red Raider defense looked like the same book with a new cover on Saturday. First-year defensivecCoordinator David Gibbs will have to get much better play out of his defensive line to have a mediocre squad in 2015. There were a few bright spots though. Rika Levi looked a lot more agile than a year ago, Keland McElrath and Demetrius Alston played with their hair on fire, with McElrath getting great penetration on a number of plays and generally being disruptive. Also, Branden Jackson looked like his old, reliable self for most of the game.

The biggest weakness, without a doubt, was the rush end position. Pete Robertson’s off-the-field issues, whatever they were, ended up costing the team dearly on Saturday. Also, Zach Barnes lost containment seemingly all day long against the Bearkats, allowing the running back to run right by him and break multiple runs to the outside. Other defenders were also caught with their backs turned, not separating from the opposing offensive linemen and being able to look in the backfield, losing gap integrity, and generally not getting a solid pass rush on most intermediate drop-backs

Perhaps the most mind-boggling issue the Red Raider front had on Saturday was their inability to line up quickly and properly. On several plays throughout the game, multiple defensive linemen were seen still walking over to their position while the opposing team was set and ready to start the play.

Linebackers: D+

Texas Tech received a great individual effort from Micah Awe on Saturday, but it is evident that there are not too many solid options after that. Awe notched ten tackles, six being solo. He was also in on a tackle for loss. Other linebacker highlights from Saturday’s game included Malik Jenkins’ tackle for loss, and Mike Mitchell’s fumble return.

Aside from Awe, the linebacker crew has a lot to work on, including fighting off blockers, not getting “caught in the trash” during a play, and learning how to take the pitch man on an option play. They also have to get better at tackling if this defense wants to contribute more to the team. Sam Houston State has some good running backs, including former Texas rusher Jalen Overstreet, but they are well below the caliber of the Big 12 elite backs.

Defensive Backs: B

The Texas Tech defensive backs were a turnover machine on Saturday. Thierry Nguema and J.J. Gaines had interceptions, with Gaines taking his to the house for six. Also, Jah’Shawn Johnson put his head right on the ball to force a fumble, while Tevin Madison punched a ball out for his. Last year, it took the Red Raiders three games to recover a fumble and four games to get an interception. Gaines also showed outstanding individual effort on several plays. Most notably, fighting off a blocker to make a solo tackle on a screen pass.

All that being said, coverage from the Red Raider secondary was very loose. For the most part, the only incompletions were very poor throws (including the Gaines interception). Almost all of the catches were uncontested, as receivers had at least two steps on any defender when they caught the ball. That will need to change as Texas Tech moves through the season. Playing teams like TCU and Baylor will be a train wreck if some of the best receivers in the country are left with as much space as the Bearkats were given Saturday.

Next: Turning Points: Five Crucial Moments In Texas Tech's Victory Over SHSU