Oklahoma State vs. Texas Tech: Grading the Game

"If I were your coach, I would just keep handing it off to #26" --Anonymous TTU fan - Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Spo

Oklahoma State grades and commentary for the Texas Tech game

Not since the Mike Leach era has an OSU vs. TTU game been this intense.  Due primarily to my geographic nearness to Texas Tech and the overwhelming fan support they enjoy in my hometown, I was emotionally invested in this game - to the point of having pregame butterflies. I was determined to watch the game live - no recording something this important - and by the time OSU scored to make it 21-0, the dog was awake and howling (literally) by my side.  We’re both lucky to have made it through the second quarter alive, but as the last seconds ticked off the clock, the realization dawned that Tech was going down and not even the Pirate himself could save them.  Order has been restored to the universe.

In any case, it’s time to hand out a few grades.  I toyed briefly with the notion of assigning 5 stars across the board, but I decided it might be best to print the statistics, cut them into small pieces, feed them backwards into a scanner, and subject them to fractal analysis (YMMV). Results below...

Star-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-half-22x_medium Offense (Overall)

While the final stats won’t win many Big 12 beauty pageants, the Oklahoma State offense was determined and efficient.  Overall, the offense seemed to click for the first time all year.  Chelf resembled last year’s version of himself (#CCCMFC !!) and masterfully managed the game.  In what can only be a seen as an #okstate rendition of the Harmonic Convergence, the receivers made plays, the running backs ran hard, and Yurcich called great plays - all in the same game.

To no one’s surprise, establishing the run was key.  The following table shows rushing yards and points scored by quarter:

Quarter Yards Points
1st 71 21
2nd 20 7
3rd 152 21
4th 38 3
Total 281 52

While the yards to points correlation does not necessarily imply causation, it’s clear that when OSU ran the ball effectively, the offense scored in bunches.  More than any one thing, the emergence of the run game has sparked the OSU offense.

Star-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-22x_medium Offensive Line

Don’t look now, but Wickline’s unit seems to be coming together at precisely the right moment.  For the first time this year, the starting lineup was the same in consecutive weeks and the results (110 points) have been what OSU fans have come to expect from the league’s preeminent line coach. Despite Tech’s determination to stop the run first, OSU managed (for the most part) to run when needed. I docked a star for the spotty pass protection - especially from the LT / LG positions, but the OL play was pretty good on the night and was a huge factor in the offense’s success.

Star-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-half-22x_medium Quarterbacks

Chelf’s QB rating of 112.7* was his highest of the year versus Big 12 competition and the performance seemed even better than that.  The Chelf to Tracy Moore connection in the first quarter was worthy of song - had it not been so short lived (remember when Weeden and Blackmon used to do that for an entire game?). Chelf also did a good job of distributing his passes to multiple receivers.  However, Chelf also made several horrible decisions to throw into traffic - two of which were picked off.**  Despite being ecstatic with Chelf’s performance, I felt the true freshman QB from Tech upstaged him on the whole.  That said, if Chelf can continue to play this good or better, Oklahoma State can win all of the games left on the schedule.

* Interestingly enough, Chelf’s outing against Texas Tech exactly equaled J.W. Walsh’s rating against West Virginia.
** Unlike Blake Bell, at least Chelf appears to be a good tackler

Star-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-22x_medium Running Backs

For the second week in a row, the OSU running backs have looked great and deserve 5 stars.  Roland answered his doubters (me included) by fighting for every extra yard after first contact, Smith ripped off a few big gains, and Childs looked fantastic*.  It appears Roland has breathed new life into this position group and the entire team has benefited enormously.

* Shortly following Childs’ second touch, I received my first text of the game from a Baylor fan simply stating, "Childs is good".  Indeed.

Star-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-22x_medium Receivers

The receivers also played perhaps their best overall game of the season.  Tracy Moore, Charlie Moore, Ateman, Glidden, and Seales all had at least one reception of ten yards or greater and I don’t remember a drop.  With a few exceptions on quick throws near the sideline, blocking was also very strong.  This is where I expected this position group to be 3 games ago - and where I expect them to stay.  These guys are simply too talented to be anywhere near a liability.

Star-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-half-22x_medium Defense (Overall)

Without a doubt, Texas Tech was the best offense the defense has faced on the season.  While the defense seemed to revert back to the infamous "bend-but-don’t-break" philosophy, they got the job done when needed.  Key stops (how about that goal line stand in the fourth quarter!?) and forced turnovers punctuated the game and caused the Tech offense to derail when it counted.  Especially important were the consecutive three-and-outs forced to begin the third quarter which allowed the offense to build an insurmountable lead.  Many of the breaks did not go their way in the 2nd quarter (tipped passes, questionable pass interference calls, etc.), and the secondary was depleted by injuries to Peterson (didn’t travel) and Gary (missed 2nd half).  However, the unit managed to hold a very potent offense to 27 points; and that’s the stat that ultimately matters.

Star-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-half-22x_medium Defensive Line

The defensive line was effectively negated by Tech’s spread scheme and Webb’s quick release.  The run defense was good in the first and fourth quarters, but seemed soft in between.  Tech ran a screen clinic on the OSU defense and the defensive line did a poor job of recognizing and tackling in space.  Most of the pressure generated by the line came off the edge from Ogbah and Clark - two players with miniscule impact on the season to date.  Castleman played well and seemed to improve as the game progressed - culminating in a dominant fourth quarter. Overall, the Tech offense largely played around the strengths of the defensive line.

Star-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-22x_medium Linebackers

This unit was difficult to grade - primarily due to Jace Amaro.  On the non-obvious passing downs, Ryan Simmons was (mis)matched in coverage with Amaro and the results were ugly.  Conversely, both Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey registered beautiful drive-killing interceptions in pass coverage.  Simmons led all linebackers with 8 tackles (4 ea. for Lavey and Lewis) - not a big number by any means.  The screen game also made the linebackers look foolish on occasion.  Still, two interceptions and some very physical tackling by what most considered our weakest unit against the Air Raid, overcame the negatives to earn four stars.

Star-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-half-22x_medium Secondary

Despite playing shorthanded for most of the game, the secondary performed admirably against a very good passing team.  Daytawion Lowe caused a fumble with a vicious hit on Amaro and made 11 tackles.  Lyndell Johnson, the only player on the team with a chance at slowing Amaro, won a few matchups with the All American TE while allowing the defense a bit of flexibility with his man coverage.  Amaro is fortunate that Johnson avoided decapitating him on the ghost "targeting" call - and OSU is fortunate the officials (correctly) did not eject Johnson, who ended the game with 9 tackles.  A big tip of the hat to Tyler Patmon for his play in place of Kevin Peterson.  Other than a few missed tackles, the staggering number of pass interference penalties (not all of which were warranted) were the most obvious blemish on the secondary’s effort.

Star-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-half-22x_medium Special Teams

Texas Tech entered this game expecting to dominate the special teams phase.  Instead, OSU emerged victorious due in no small part to the starting field position left them by the return teams.  Josh Stewart is simply outstanding in the punt return game and the Gilbert / Sheperd duo instills enough fear in opposing coaches that kickers tend to play it safe with a line-drive to the end zone.  The kickoff coverage team did a fantastic job of staying in their lanes and not allowing the across the field pass to beat them for big yards.  Derek Branson’s (#46) rise to stardom may be the best story of the year.  Grogan’s field goal from 41 yards - the longest of his career - was icing on the cake.  The only negative came on the blocked punt, marking the second time that the three man "wall" has been pushed into the punter this season.

Star-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-22x_mediumStar-half-22x_medium Et cetera: Texas Tech Crowd

The sellout crowd was loud and weird - Lubbock traditions both.  Despite the three score difference, the crowd stayed late and continued to cheer their team. I almost feel bad King Kliff’s bid for a national title was ruined in consecutive weeks by teams from Oklahoma. Almost.

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