Texas Tech football: Near upset by HBU raises plenty of concerns

Saturday night, the Texas Tech football team was nearly upset by Houston Baptist raising plenty of concerns within the fan base.

About the only good news that came out of Jones Stadium on Saturday night was the fact that Texas Tech has now won 18-straight games against teams from the FCS.  The rest of the takeaways from the 35-33 win that went down to the final minutes are going to raise a myriad of concerns about this year’s Red Raiders.

The secondary was shredded

This was supposed to be the year that Tech figured out its secondary woes.  But after seeing last year’s defensive backfield torched to the tune of 307 yards per game, third-most in the NCAA, no progress was noticeable against Houston Baptist.

The Huskies’ senior QB Bailey Zappe passed for 572 yards and four touchdowns and made it look almost effortless.  What’s more, just like so many QBs in 2019, he picked up passing yards in chunks.

Among his 31 completions were two TD passes of 65 yards and another that covered 75 yards.  He found eight different receivers, three of which went for over 100 yards.  That included true freshman Josh Sterns who had 209 yards and a pair of TDs on just five catches.

It wasn’t as if HBU was doing anything exotic either.  The vast majority of their passing yards came on simple slants across the middle and go routes on the outside or down the hashes, the latter of which were routes that tore up the 2019 Texas Tech secondary as well.

Now, we must give HBU their due.  Zappe is a very good QB and his receivers are explosive.  But if Tech can’t corral the Husky passing attack, it’s tough to see how this defense is going o survive in the Big 12.

Bowman was unimpressive

On the surface, QB Alan Bowman had an acceptable stat line.  Completing 38-52 passes for 480 yards and two scores while being intercepted once, he did just enough to win in his first start in almost a calendar year.

The problem is that he was severely outplayed by an FCS quarterback, albeit a very salty one.  But If Bowman is going to be second-fiddle to a guy like Zappe, what does that say for his ability to stack up against the likes of Texas’ Sam Ehlinger, Oklahoma State’s Spencer Sanders, or Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler?

Time and again, when Bowman’s first read was taken away, he looked panicked and flustered.  He also had some moments where he could have easily thrown at least two more picks than he did.  What’s more, he missed two throws to wide-open receivers (Dalton Rigdon and KeSean Carter) who had gotten behind the defense.

Keep in mind that a week ago, the HBU defense surrendered 721 yards of offense to a North Texas team starting a first-time starter at QB.  Thus, there’s no reason to think that Bowman and Tech shouldn’t have been able to torch the Huskies similarly.  But that was far from the case.

One has to wonder if he was knocking the rust off after a year away from live action.  And perhaps the lack of a full spring and Texas Tech’s limited ability to hold intrasquad scrimmages in fall camp had something to do with his inconsistency.  But whatever the reason, moving forward he needs to be much…much better than he was on Saturday.

The pass rush was ineffective

Three sacks might seem like a nice total for the Red Raider defense.  But the reality is that the pass rush simply didn’t do enough to harass Zappe and that was one reason why the secondary was abused the way it was.

In all, Tech was credited with just eight quarterback pressures.  That’s simply not good enough, especially against an FCS opponent.

Eli Howard and Jaylen Hutchings were Tech’s most disruptive defensive linemen but Howard seemed to run out of steam again as the game wore on and Hutchings left with an injury.  Other than that, not many players along the defensive line made much of an impact.

What’s most disconcerting is that the Red Raiders pass rush followed the same script as last year by playing representatively in the first half but fading in the third and fourth quarters.  And despite all we heard this offseason about the added quality depth Tech had added over the offseason, that didn’t prove to help the Red Raider pass rush any on Saturday as Tech looked gassed by the end of the night.

A lack of energy

It seemed as if the empty Jones Stadium had an impact on the energy and effort of this Texas Tech football team.  That’s perhaps the biggest concern given that every game this year is likely to be played under similar circumstances.

How often did we see the Red Raider sideline going nuts?  It seemed rare.  Which team seemed to be more excited about the plays it made?  Certainly the visitors.  Which team played as if this game were important.  Houston Baptist.

I don’t care that this was also a problem for Kansas State and Iowa State on Saturday.  I didn’t seem to be an issue for Texas or Oklahoma, each of which robot punched overmatched teams the way Tech should have HBU.  And it shouldn’t have been a problem for Matt Wells’ team.

When it looked this summer like college football wasn’t going to happen this year, players around the country joined the #WeWantToPlay movement and that included many Texas Tech players.  But on Saturday, it was hard to believe many of the Red Raiders actually walked that talk.