Texas Tech football: Red Raiders’ thin defense fading after halftime

WACO, TEXAS - OCTOBER 12: JaMycal Hasty #6 of the Baylor Bears runs the ball against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the final play of the game on October 12, 2019 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
WACO, TEXAS - OCTOBER 12: JaMycal Hasty #6 of the Baylor Bears runs the ball against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the final play of the game on October 12, 2019 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

The Texas Tech football team’s precariously thin defense has made a habit of wilting in the second half this year.

If college football games were only two quarters in length, the Texas Tech football team might sport a top-50 defense in the nation.  But because it is a unit with virtually no depth, the Red Raider defense is struggling mightily in the second half of games.

Overall, the numbers for DC Keith Patterson’s defense are ugly.  The Red Raiders rank just 116th in the nation in total defense allowing 460.5 yards per game.  That includes a pass defense that sits at No. 122 overall by surrendering 284.9 yards per game, which is more than in 2018 when Tech was second-worst in the country against the pass.

For the most part, it’s been the second half when the defense has been unable to come up with stops.  Let’s look at what has happened after halftime in some of Tech’s more winnable games this year.

In Tempe, the Arizona Wildcats amassed 232 of their 499 total yards and 15 of their 28 points after halftime in a 28-14 win. That included touchdown drives of 75 and 99 yards. In that half, the home team kept the ball for 19:48 of the 30 minutes of game action as the Tech run defense proved incapable of stopping the Wildcat ground attack.

In the game against Oklahoma State, the Red Raiders began the first half with nine-straight stops on defense before the Cowboys put their first TD on the board on their final drive of the second quarter.   After the intermission, OSU scored on four of eight drives as they racked up 345 of their 509 yards.  Fortunately, the 20-0 lead the Red Raiders were able to jump out to was enough to hold up in the 45-35 win that is still the only Big 12 game to go Tech’s way this season.

A week later in a 33-30 double-OT loss in Waco, Tech was rather dominant on defense in the first half giving up just three points while forcing three punts and coming up with two interceptions.  But in the game’s final 30 minutes and OT, Baylor put up 391 yards and 30 points.

That day, the Red Raiders simply wilted again in the second half.  Every Baylor drive after the half crossed midfield after Tech allowed BU to enter Red Raider territory three times in the first half.

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Of course, in the second half of Tech’s loss to Kansas on Saturday night, the defense was again a shell of what it proved to be in the first half.  To open the game, the Red Raiders came up with four-straight stops and on those drives, KU struggled its way to just 55 total yards.

But something changed in the middle of the second quarter; the Jayhawks abandoned the ground game and went airborne.  That led to two quick scores at the end of the half to cut Tech’s 17-0 lead to just three points.

It would have been nice to see Tech make some changes to counteract what the Jayhawk offense had been able to do late in the first half.  That didn’t happen and the Red Raider defense proved to be a calamity of errors after the break.

Tech surrendered points on four of six second-half drives.  Racking up 300 yards, KU had its way against Tech in the final 30 minutes.  What’s more, 87.6% of the Jayhawk offense came in the final two drives of the second quarter and the second half.

On the season 52.2% of the 3,264 yards and 67.5% of the 194 points Tech has surrendered to Power 5 teams have come after halftime.  In the current 3-game losing streak, the disparity between the halves is even greater with 54.9% of the yards and 64.4% of the points that the defense has given up have come in the final two quarters or OT.

This confirms for us that what our eyes have been seeing is correct, this defense lacks any semblance of depth.  When healthy, the starting eleven is more than capable of holding its own but as injuries and too much time on the field take a toll, there’s no hope for this team.

Take this past week for example.  Tech entered the game with three reserve defensive linemen, Lonzell Gilmore, Tony Bradford Jr., and Nelson Mbanasor as well as corner Des Smith all sidelined.  That was a blow to a defense that had starters Douglas Coleman, Adrian Frye, Evan Rambo, and Thomas Leggett fighting through nagging ailments that left them at less than 100%.

We should have known just how thin that side of the ball was in the eyes of the new coaches when they went heavy into the graduate transfer market to plug holes as soon as they saw their roster in spring practices.  Relying on as many as four such additions to hold down starting roles or function as key backups is never a good indictment of the talent, or lack thereof, on a roster.

What’s more, the coaches have turned to one redshirt freshman (LB Xavier Benson) and three true freshmen (LB Tyrique Matthews and DBs Dadrion Taylor and Alex Hogan) to log huge minutes this year.  It’s not that any of those players are standout talents that have forced their way onto the field by their play or brilliance, it is that they were simply the best options Tech had this year.

Consider that Taylor, a native of Oklahoma City, is making the conversion to corner after playing running back exclusively in high school and yet is still being thrust into action this year and it becomes obvious how thin Keith Patterson’s defense is in the secondary, which was supposed to be the deepest position group on that side of the ball.

This week’s bye will help restore some of the depth for the Red Raider defense but the real improvements have to come over the offseason.  In the current recruiting cycle, only eight of the 17 players verbally committed to the Red Raiders are defensive targets so there’s plenty of work left to do in that regard for Matt Wells and Co.

Next. Turning points in loss to Kansas. dark

Don’t be surprised to see this program load up on JUCO and grad transfer targets to round out next year’s roster in the hopes that the depth concerns that have cost this team so dearly in 2019 will be a one-year blip rather than the dawn of a disturbing trend.  Until Tech has a legitimate two-deep full of players that can compete at a Big 12 level, what we’ve seen in the second half of games from the Tech defense isn’t going to improve anytime soon.