Friday, January 10, 2014
Season report card: Texas Tech
By Brandon Chatmon
The 2013 season was a learning experience for Texas Tech. The Red Raiders saw plenty of success with a seven-game win streak to start the season, yet also endured plenty of disappointment with a five-game losing streak to end the regular season. TTU’s 37-23 win over Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl was easily the most encouraging game of Kliff Kingsbury’s first year.
The offense was explosive and creative but not very balanced. TTU averaged 35.8 points per game, finishing third in the Big 12 as offensive struggles was rarely the reason for a loss. Kingsbury’s group finished among the top 10 nationally in total yards (511), passing yards (392.85) and first downs per game (27.6).
Jace Amaro was the most productive tight end in the nation and provided an immediate mismatch as soon as he stepped on the field, Jakeem Grant’s speed and quickness scared defensive backs and Eric Ward’s ball skills combined to give the Red Raiders the Big 12’s most versatile receiving targets.
TTU’s pass catching threats helped it lead the Big 12 in passing yards per game. They were solid on third downs, converting 45 percent of their third down attempts, despite relying on Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield, two true freshmen quarterbacks. The offensive line, led by tackle Le’Raven Clark, was good enough to make Tech one of the league’s top offenses but was not dominant.
The running game was the weakness of the squad, averaging 118.15 rushing yards per game, No. 111 among FBS teams, as no Red Raider finished with more than 500 yards rushing.
Texas Tech’s defense rode a roller coaster from good to average to horrible, thanks in part to injuries as the season progressed. The Red Raiders finished in the middle of the pack in pretty much every category but did have some strong showings including wins over Arizona State and TCU.
Linebacker Will Smith led the way, finishing among the Big 12 leaders in tackles with 120 stops while consistently showing up as one of the conference’s most active defenders and defensive tackle Kerry Hyder was one of the Big 12’s best defensive linemen. But the overall unit didn’t feature an overwhelming group of playmakers or overwhelming depth.
The inability to stop the run, particularly during their five-game losing streak, made that unit the weak link during the home stretch of the season. TTU allowed at least 277 yards in each of its last six games, which won't get it done if TTU hopes to compete for a Big 12 title in the near future.
Special teams: B
They were pretty solid but not spectacular. The Red Raiders finished among the Big 12 leaders in field goals, kickoff returns and opponent starting position. They didn't win games but they didn't cost games either.
The Red Raiders exceeded expectations, particularly since they played the majority of the season with a true freshman at quarterback led by a first-year head coach. They started the season with seven straight wins and, most important, showed they grew and matured after their five-game losing streak to end the regular season with an impressive bowl win over a 10-win ASU squad. Tech fans should be encouraged with the direction of the program under Kingsbury as his unyielding confidence and competitiveness trickles down throughout the entire program.