Texas Tech football 2017 rewatch: TCU game was low-point of season

LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 18: Kyle Hicks #21 of the TCU Horned Frogs goes between two Texas Tech Red Raider defenders during the game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the TCU Horned Frogs on November 18, 2017 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. TCU defeated Texas Tech 27-3. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 18: Kyle Hicks #21 of the TCU Horned Frogs goes between two Texas Tech Red Raider defenders during the game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the TCU Horned Frogs on November 18, 2017 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. TCU defeated Texas Tech 27-3. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images) /

Continuing our rewatch of the 2017 Texas Tech football season, we look back on a great example of how not to pull of an upset as TCU dominated the Red Raiders.

My most indelible memory of the 2017 TCU game was that of an intoxicated underage student who found his way onto my row on the West side of Jones Stadium.  He proceeded to announce his arrival by repeatedly vomiting onto the walkway between the rows, the resulting splatter reeked of alcohol and caused most in the vicinity to seek higher ground.

But after rewatching this game, I can’t help but wonder if that student’s nausea from alcohol induced or football induced.  After all, he had just spent the previous three hours watching what was one of the most putrid home efforts in the history of Texas Tech football.

This 27-3 home loss to No. 12 TCU was the low point of the 2017 Texas Tech football season.  The Red Raiders were dominated throughout as the Frogs held Tech to season lows in points, total yards (289) and passing yards (153).

Quarterback Nic Shimonek lost his poise as the game wore on becoming demonstrably upset as the TCU pass rush pesterd him all game.  (After one of the plays on which he was knocked down while attempting a pass, his demeanor became so bad that he slammed his hands on the ground as he lie on his stomach in what looked like a toddler throwing a tantrum.)  Eventually, he was replaced late in the 4th quarter by McLane Carter but the game was so far out of hand that Carter was just asked to run out the clock.

Shimonek started 7-7 passing but ended the game 17-33 for 137 yards and an INT that was returned for a touchdown.  It was a performance that resulted in the senior losing his starting job for the next game at Texas.

And while Shimonek was understandably frustrated by the play of his offensive line, he would have been wise to look in the mirror first.  On far too many plays, the cement-shoed QB became antsy in the pocket and tired to scramble when he did not have to.  The result was three sacks and numerous throw-aways to the sidelines as Tech did not score a touchdown at home for the first time in the “Air Raid” era.

The game culminated in unprecedented fan frustration as the Lubbock faithful, already angry at having a third-consecutive 11 a.m. home kickoff, began reigning down boo’s as the Red Raiders lost their fourth-consecutive home game to finish the season 2-4 at Jones Stadium.

Facing a tough road game at Texas as the only hope for salvaging a bowl appearance, most could not fathom the continuation of the status quo given the disintegration of the product on the field and the dissatisfaction of a fan base which emptied the stadium at half time.  While we now know that a Black Friday miracle in Austin would save Kingsbury’s job, after the TCU game, virtually everyone not named Kirby Hocutt had decided that it was time to put the Kliff Kingsbury experiment out of its misery.

Defense can’t capitalize on TCU mistakes

All season, Texas Tech’s resurgent defense made its living by taking the ball away from opponents.  Tech finished the season ranked No. 6 in the nation with 29 takeaways but against TCU, it came up with only one.

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But what was most frustrating about this game was that Tech could have had a season-high in turnovers.  TCU fumbled six times in the game, three coming from true freshman QB Shawn Robinson, who was making his first career start, but Tech recovered just one.

What’s more, Tech could have forced seven turnovers early in the game if corner Octavious Morgan had held on to a 1st quarter Robinson pass that went right through his hands.   If Texas Tech had been able to take advantage of these opportunities, it would have finished the season second in the NCAA in turnovers gained with 36 but more importantly, it could have very well pulled off the upset.

But that would have been no guarantee given the offensive ineptitude.  The only turnover Tech forced came on a fumble recovery at the TCU 25 by Vaughnte Dorsey.

Unfortunately, Tech could do nothing on two running plays sandwiched around a Shimonek incompletion and had to settle for a Clayton Hatfield 20-yard FG attempt.  Kicking from the 10-yard-line, Hatfield yanked the kick so far left that it almost landed in the visitors’ tunnel and within minutes video of the cartoonish-looking play went viral.

It was a fitting cap to what was a horrendous year for the Red Raider place kickers.  But the bigger issue was the fact that TCU did everything it could to give Tech this game but the Red Raiders were incapable of capitalizing on five fumbles that the Frogs put on the turf.

Opening drive a 2018 preview?

If there was any positive football from Texas Tech in this game, it came on the Red Raiders’ first offensive drive.  Tech took the opening kickoff and proceeded to have one of the most anti “Air Raid” drives possible.

Facing the TCU cloud coverage that dropped eight men at least five yards deep, Tech held the ball for 21 plays and 8:52 of game action.  But after covering 70 yards, Tech stalled out in the red zone (as was so often the case in 2017) and had to settle for a 22-yard Clayton Hatfield field goal to go up 3-0.

But what is more interesting to consider is the possibility that these types of drives may become more common in 2018.   With a new QB and receiving corps, Tech will likely rely more heavily on its run game this year as it did in the first drive against TCU.

Tech kept the ball on the ground for 11 plays during the drive and when it did pass, the primary strategy was to hit the short and intermediate routes.

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With a weak arm, presumed 2018 starting QB McLane Carter is more adapt at utilizing the middle of the field, where as Shimonek preferred to work the ball deep and outside the numbers.  While the 21-play drive is not likely to be replicated too often, there could be far more drives of a similar nature this year as Kingsbury plays to his team’s strengths which are expected to be the running game and the defense.