Texas Tech Football: Position Grades vs. Arkansas


Texas Tech Football traveled to Fayetteville, Arkansas to take on the Razorbacks last Saturday afternoon, and came away with a win and some much-needed momentum before heading into conference play. The offense was efficient and electric, and the defense held their ground on enough drives to win the game. Here is how the team performed, by position:


Quarterback: B+
Pat Mahomes was fantastic for nearly the entire game. The only true blemish was an interception on a very poor decision early in the first quarter, with Tech leading 7-0. Another interception was thrown at the end of the first half, but it acted almost as much of a punt as a true turnover. Overall, the Red Raider signal-caller went 26 of 30 for 243-yards and one touchdown. He also added two more touchdowns on the ground.

The most encouraging aspect of Pat’s performance was his ability to manage the game, and Kliff Kingsbury deserves a great deal of credit for calling a great game. But it is also incumbent upon the quarterback to change the play if he notices a weakness in the defense. Another refreshing trait Mahomes showed on Saturday was his accuracy on short and intermediate routes. Last year, there were too many passes thrown either where the receivers could not catch the ball, or had to break stride to make the play, which hindered their ability to get yards after the catch. This is something Mahomes struggled with himself on multiple throws in the first two games, and could put the Red Raiders in a great position if he continues to perform well in that area.

Running Backs: A-
DeAndre Washington and Justin Stockton combined for 120 yards and one touchdown on the ground against Arkansas, and each had runs of over 20 yards. While neither of them broke a particularly large number of tackles, the vision they both used was outstanding. Although Washington did not have a touchdown, he got the ball to the one yard line on drives straddling the Jakeem Grant TD pass. As red zone offense is something the Red Raiders need to work on, Washington’s efforts near the goal line were well-noticed.

Justin Stockton also had a great touchdown run that all but sealed the victory for Texas Tech early in the fourth quarter. With no safety playing in the middle of the field, Stockton showed his elite speed to crease the defense and get into the end zone.

Wide Receivers: A
There just isn’t much more you could have asked Tech’s receivers to do against an Arkansas defense that returned nearly all of its secondary members from a year ago. While the stats were not as eye-popping as some might expect, the Red Raiders caught just about everything, they blocked extremely well, and the “What Will Jakeem Do Next” saga continued, as Jakeem Grant dropped a dime to Reginald Davis for a 72-yard score.

Offensive Line: A
This group is impressive. Although there are still a few things to work on, the Texas Tech offensive line kept Mahomes clean yet again, and led the way to 3 rushing touchdowns, which was the most by the Red Raiders against a Power Five opponent since October 2013 (Iowa State). Arkansas was expected to be the more dominant rushing team, but Texas Tech outgained the Razorbacks on the ground by an average of 1.0 yards-per-carry.

The biggest concern, though, is still goal line play. Without a true tight end, the Tech offense lacks a full suite of weapons in the red zone. And perhaps against a more physical and more athletic defensive front seven, the multiple goal line opportunities Tech had would have been more difficult.


Defensive Line: C+
There was a huge size and talent gap between the Razorbacks’ offensive line and those of the previous two opponents (Sam Houston State, and UTEP). Still, the Tech line seemed to not take much of a step back. The problem, however, is that they did not make too many improvements either. For almost the entire game, the Red Raider defensive line looked like the same poor technique, bend-don’t-break unit they have been since Ruffin McNeill left the program in 2009.

That being said, a few defensive linemen came up huge on some key drives. On the first drive of the game, Pete Robertson had a tackle for loss on the first play, and had a near sack causing an incomplete pass on third down. Also, Rika Levi blew past the offensive line late in the game and allowed Branden Jackson to wrap up Rawleigh Williams for the tackle for loss on a key drive where Arkansas had to settle for a field goal (the game would have been tied with a touchdown). All in all, there are signs of improvement, but for this defense to make it to the next level, the defensive line needs to play with much more consistency.

Linebackers: D+
The linebackers took a step back on Saturday, due to a lack of big plays as compared to the UTEP game. The group still needs to work on fundamentals: taking on blockers, reading the play and reacting quickly, and tackling. Too many times, the defensive backs had to step up and make a tackle on Alex Collins who had blown past the second level.

Defensive Backs: B
The Texas Tech secondary is more or less an enigma at this point in the season. Several times throughout the Arkansas game, wide receivers and tight ends made several uncontested catches. This is in part due to being more turnover-conscious and playing almost exclusive zone defense. However, the receivers seem to have too much space, and also end up with too many yards after the catch.

The other side of the coin is that this secondary is a turnover machine. Tevin Madison got an interception early in the game on what looked to be an attempt to throw the ball away, or a miscommunication after the receiver’s route was over. Then, late in the fourth quarter, Jah’Shawn stripped Alex Collins to put the nail in the coffin. To do that to one of college football’s more physical backs was very encouraging for Tech fans. The elephant in the room at this point is, “What happens when the big plays stop?”

If the Tech secondary can avoid having to answer that question with continued success in the turnover department, the Red Raiders will have a chance in any game they play this season.

Next: Texas Tech Football: Week 4 Roadmap