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A Closer Look at the Texas Tech Air Attack

Let’s look at the second ranked passing offense in the country before Saturday’s matchup in Lubbock.

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Houston Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Texas Tech once again has an extremely high-powered offense. They’ve had a number of great gunslingers lined up behind center in recent years, such as their current coach KIiff Kingsbury, Graham Harrell, Taylor Potts, Seth Doege, and most recently, Patrick Mahomes. And so far this season, fifth-year senior Nic Shimonek has picked up right where these guys left off.

Through three games this season, Texas Tech has the number two ranked passing offense in the country in terms of yards per game with 437.7. Shimonek, his talented corps of receivers and a couple solid guys in the backfield have made opposing secondaries look silly so far this season, scoring 56, 52 and 27. However, offensive coordinator Eric Morris’s passing attack looks slightly different than the Mahomes’ led offense of the past few years.

Mahomes had a huge, huge arm. If you watched any of the OU vs TTU game last season, you saw it on display throughout that entire game #boomer. Texas Tech loved to throw the deep ball and they threw it often. It helped when you had a guy who could do stuff like this:

But, what Tech has shown more of this season is success in the short to intermediate passing game, as well as utilizing wide receiver bubble screens and getting the running backs involved. Mahomes and the Red Raiders ran these plays last season, but they seem to be more of the game plan through the early part of their 2017 campaign.

When Shimonek can get the ball into the hands of speedsters Keke Coutee and Oklahoma City’s own Cameron Batson, they have shown that they can make people miss and turn these short passes into big gains. To complement the smaller, quicker receivers, Shimonek has the likes of 6’3 Dylan Cantrell and 6’4 Derrick Willies who have performed extremely well this season. Finally, to round out his weapons, the Texas Tech signal caller loves to throw the ball to his dynamic running back, Justin Stockton, who has 79 yards receiving and a touchdown through the first three games.

Now let’s take a closer look into this potent Red Raider air assault:

Middle of the Field

On the play below, Tech lines up with four receivers split wide, trips to the top of the screen. Shimonek sends the running back, Justin Stockton, in motion to the trips side. After the snap, Shimonek fakes the flare pass out to Stockton and hits Coutee, who turned his route around right past the first down marker, for a nice gain.

This time, the Red Raiders line their receivers up in a “double-stack” formation. Cantrell turns around at the line of scrimmage, but when this isn’t open and Shimonek is flushed out of the pocket, Cantrell sprints up the field. He finds some space behind the out-stretched arms of the Arizona State defenders and Shimonek hits him in the numbers for another first down.

In the next video, you will see Texas Tech start out in a five-receiver set, and he again finds Coutee across the middle:

If Oklahoma State can’t get pressure on Shimonek, his receivers will find ways to get open:

Seeing Tech convert these plays over the middle is worrisome, as Kenny Hill and TCU saw similar success against the Cowboys last week.

Here are two examples below:

To the Sideline

And Texas Tech hasn’t only found success throwing to the middle of the field this season…

You can see below the Red Raiders have four wide and a single back lined up next to Shimonek. At the top of the screen, watch as Cantrell gets past the first down marker and then curls in. As he creates separation on the curl route, Shimonek throws a nice ball away from the defensive back for a first down:

Here again, Shimonek finds his guy on the sideline right in front of the first down marker:

And Shimonek loves to go back shoulder to Cantrell when they get into the red zone:

Similar to a pass TCU scored on last Saturday:

Quick Wide Receiver Passes

As I mentioned above, Batson and Coutee only need a little bit of room and they can do a lot of damage to a defense.

In this video, you see Shimonek hit Batson on the wide receiver screen out of the same double stack set we saw above. Batson gets a great block from his fellow receiver Derrick Willies, and picks up a Red Raider first down:

This time, Batson is lined up as the slot receiver on the bottom part of the screen. He flares out behind the line of scrimmage and Shimonek gets him the ball after a fake handoff to running back Desmond Nisby. Willies gives Batson another solid block and Batson puts a defender on skates before he makes his way into the end zone:

This time it’s Coutee who Shimonek finds on a quick out, and he turns it into another solid gain:

Getting the Running Backs Involved:

Along with all of these receivers, Shimonek has also found great success throwing to his running back Justin Stockton. In an earlier video we saw Shimonek use the running back flare route as a decoy before completing a pass over the middle. Here he decides to make the throw to his man out of the backfield on a similar route, and Stockton shows him why this was a good idea:

The Cowboys saw something similar last week as well:

And you can’t talk about the running backs in the passing game without showing a screen:

Now, I know I am highlighting the short to intermediate passing plays, but don’t get me wrong… Shimonek can air it out too:

As you can see, these guys can hurt you in so many ways through the air, and they are more dangerous in the passing game than TCU. Not to mention they’ve also had success with their running game this season, which makes them even more dangerous. They went for over 300 yards through the air and over 200 on the ground last week against Houston, and the Cowboy defense will have to put on a better defensive showing than they did against the Horned Frogs if they want to slow down this high-flying offensive attack.