Texas Tech football 2017 rewatch: Baylor win a blueprint for 2018?

LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 11: Keke Coutee #2 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders makes the catch and picks up a first down during the first half of the game between the Baylor Bears and the Texas Tech Red Raiders on November 11, 2017 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 11: Keke Coutee #2 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders makes the catch and picks up a first down during the first half of the game between the Baylor Bears and the Texas Tech Red Raiders on November 11, 2017 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images) /

Continuing our rewatch of the 2017 Texas Tech football season, we look back at a win over Baylor that could be a blueprint for how the Red Raiders look to win games this season.

In the tenth game of 2017, Texas Tech got a much needed win over Baylor at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.  The 38-24 triumph put an end to a 4-game losing streak and brought the Red Raiders to within one victory of bowl eligibility at 5-5.

But as we gear up for the 2018 season, it was interesting to look at this game though the lens of what we expect Texas Tech football to look like this year.  Many believe the game plan for this fall will be to play more conservatively on offense while relying on an opportunistic and physical defense to carry much of the load.

That formula was on display against Baylor last season as the Red Raiders forced four turnovers and returned a kickoff for a touchdown.  Meanwhile, the offense was efficient but far from spectacular putting up just 337 total yards.

Quarterback Nic Shimonek was not asked to do anything difficult as the passing game featured short and intermediate throws almost exclusively.  Tech took no shots down field on the posts or “go” routes that had been the staples of the offense all season and all the Red Raiders’ big plays came because a receiver was able to pick up yards after the reception.

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Shimonek was especially accurate going 24-29 for 246 yards and two touchdowns.  Such a performance could be a recipe for what Tech asks any of its quarterbacks to do this season, especially early on.

And what Shimonek did best in this game was protect the ball.  While the Red Raiders only turned the ball over once on a Tre King goal-line fumble, Baylor lost this game because of ill-timed giveaways from it’s freshman QB.

The Bear’s fist turnover came at the Texas Tech 9-yard-line when QB Charlie Brewer fumbled and Dakota Allen pounced on the ball.  At the time, Baylor was threatening to tie the game at 14-14 late in the first quarter. Tech would score on the subsequent possession to establish a 14-point lead that would remain in tact for the rest of the game.

Brewer was picked off in the end zone by safety Vaughnte Dorsey just before halftime with the Bears at the Red Raider 30 and he would lose another fumble at his own 35 illustrating to Red Raider fans why Kingsbury is so focused on finding a QB that will protect the ball this year.

Brewer’s stats far exceeded Shimonek’s as he threw for 417 yards and three scores.  But Brewer’s turnovers were what ultimately cost his team the game.

Texas Tech fans that want to see the supposedly more exiting quarterbacks Jett Duffey and Alan Bowman would be wise to take a look at this game to see how steady quarterback play can be more desirable than exciting but risky play.

This was a game that Texas Tech knew it would win so long as it played a smart game.  Tech had more talent than the 1-8 Bears and the only opportunity Baylor had to pull off the upset was if the Red Raiders gave the game away.

That did not happen as the Red Raider defense made big plays when necessary, including a TD by DaMarcus Fields who scooped up Brewer’s second fumble and took it to the house to seal the game in the 4th quarter.  It would not be surprising to see the Red Raiders utilize a similar formula his fall.

Coutee opens game with K.O. return TD

Inside receiver Keke Coutee returned the game’s opening kickoff for a touchdown helping to ensure that there would be no hangover from the previous week’s devastating collapse against Kansas State.  It was the first time the Red Raiders had a kickoff return for a touchdown to open a game since 1973 when Lawrence Williams did that against New Mexico.

Many feared that facing a 1-8 Baylor team coming off its first win of the season could have been a trap game for the Red Raiders, which were in the middle of a month-long funk.  But Coutee’s return electrified the large Texas Tech crowd in Arlington and that energy translated to the field as Tech built a 21-7 halftime lead.

Recently, we discussed how hidden yards could be critical in 2018 and big plays in the return game would be a huge boost to a team with so many questions on offense.  But such plays will have to come from new returners as Texas Tech must replace Coutee and its primary punt returner  from 2017, Cam Batson.

Texas Tech penalties continue to mount

Last season, Texas Tech was in the bottom 10 in the nation in both penalty yards and penalties per game.  Against Baylor, the Red Raiders had several stupid penalties that could have been costly against a more capable opponent.

Of the team’s six penalties, four were personal-fouls.  Tech was called for a late hit out of bounds, an illegal block below the waste and two hands-to-the-face.

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This marked Tech’s 10th-consecutive game to be flagged for a personal foul.  These costly and preventable penalties must be a focus  of the 2018 team.  If Tech finds itself in a number of close game this fall, it will not be able to sustain such a high number of 15-yard penalties, especially if the offense is not as potent as in the past.