Texas Tech Football: Halftime adjustments aren’t the problem

LAWRENCE, KS - OCTOBER 7: Running back Justin Stockton
LAWRENCE, KS - OCTOBER 7: Running back Justin Stockton /

Texas Tech Football’s road loss against West Virginia on Saturday highlights every reason why the Red Raiders can’t get ahead.

In a game Texas Tech Football should have sealed in the third quarter against West Virginia, it produced another major loss in the Kliff Kingsbury era. Unfortunately for the Red Raiders, the loss occurred at a time following its first national ranking since 2013, and just when Tech started earning national credibility.

At the half, Texas Tech was dominating, 28-17. With 252 passing yards, 84 rushing, 19 first downs, and 4-7 on third down conversions, compared to just 184 passing yards, -10 rushing yards, 12 first downs, and 2-6 third down conversions for West Virginia, Texas Tech looked to be in the drivers seat entering the second quarter with the football.

Despite the point differential, Texas Tech had some major adjustments to make, which included limiting penalties which had already hit 8 for 57 yards through two quarters alone. As most football fans know, nothing keeps an opposing team in the game quite like hand delivering first downs and additional scoring opportunities. Additionally, nothing makes an opposing team look better than laying off the gas when they amass a “comfortable lead.”

For Texas Tech Football–which held a win probability through roughly 45 minutes of play–the fourth quarter collapse was a culmination of “getting too comfortable.”  While the Mike Leach era wasn’t exactly producing championship team after championship team, he was widely successful and praised for his ability to be absolutely relentless. Whether Tech was up by a field goal or 32 points, his play-calling was focused on burying opponents and earning style points. That’s where the Air Raid shines the brightest, and that’s where the urgency of running the ball has become lost in the grander scheme.

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Back when Tech’s defense was incredibly porous, the need to run the ball to keep that unit off the field was there. Tech simply had to control the time and tempo to prevent the opposing team from scoring.

With a defense that can compete now, the focus of the Red Raider offense must revert back to quick score drives, and taking the air out of opposing teams via the scoreboard. Don’t get me wrong, with running backs like Justin Stockton, Tre King, and Desmond Nisby, the run game is effective when it has to be, but the objective should be to use backs as blockers, and catch defenses off-guard when they anticipate passing plays.

I saw a lot of conversation on social media following the West Virginia loss about how Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t know how to make halftime adjustments. However, aside from penalties, halftime adjustments aren’t always the answer.

To draw comparisons to this, after last night’s win over Utah, USC head coach Clay Helton mentioned that despite being down 21-7 at the half, the Trojans didn’t need to make halftime adjustments; they just needed to do a better job executing. For fans wondering why Texas Tech didn’t make halftime adjustments, sometimes that’s not the answer. For Texas Tech, the only things had to work on after the half were emphasizing discipline, and execution.

Often times, we ignore the necessity for kicking field goals because we’re all so used to Texas Tech finding the endzone. For Tech to leave nine potential points on the field is, perhaps, the most unacceptable aspect of the game, and every time Michael Barden missed, you could see the frustration mount on the sideline. Once a team misses a field goal, the opposing team has done its job, and it immediately shifts momentum–usually with good field position. As Texas Tech realized last night, that’s a game-changer, and now teams know they can capitalize off Tech’s biggest weakness.

Texas Tech can’t “fix” kicking issues at the half; that has to be addressed in practice, and it must be done soon. For what it’s worth, even No. 5 Washington was  experiencing kicking issues against ASU–a team Texas Tech beat this season– where two field goal attempts were no good. In fact, most teams I watched on Saturday had kicking issues, but you can’t ever fault coaches for choosing to take points instead of going for it on 4th down, regardless of how bad the kicker has been. Once a team shows it has no trust in a component of its team, it comes with the assumption that a staff doesn’t trust other elements, too.

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While this was a complete team loss, the 2017 Texas Tech team is leaps and bounds better than the 2016 squad. If Texas Tech can learn that it’s okay to throttle opponents, trust the process, and continue to play with a purpose, this season could set the foundation for an exceptional era in Texas Tech Football.