Kelson’s Breakdown: Texas Tech

In his inaugural piece on Inside Texas, former Longhorn defender Drew Kelson breaks down the Tech game and gives IT subscribers a player’s perspective on the main factors that led to the Texas loss.
Greetings Inside Texas members, It is a pleasure to share with you my thoughts on the Horns game against Tech…and what a week to start off with. But, here we are…

Over years and years of film study I’ve learned to objectively and almost emotionlessly watch film. I know it doesn’t sound fun but my perspective on football is a tad bit different. I’ve never considered myself a football fan of any team, but more of a student of the game. It’s difficult for me to watch without analyzing schemes, coverages, match-ups and the intangibles that lead to the result of games. And Saturday against the Red Raiders, as difficult as it may seem being a former player, it was no different.

Ideally, coaches and players would like to perform as robots and analyze the game with objectivity. They’d love to be machines that weren’t affected by the emotions of the season or game. Coaches would love for their players to play relentlessly and with the same intensity each play of each series no matter the opponent, what the stage is, or the atmosphere. We’ve all pretty much seen this systematic relentlessness throughout the season in a way that seemed unrealistic and nearly inhuman.

QB throws, receivers catch. Opponents run, Defense stops. Coaches call plays, players execute. This sensational yet unrealistic standard of performance we knew surely wouldn’t last throughout the season, right? Yes, to some degree. But, in a season where every game is a “one game season”, many would like to think that if the Horns were ever off they could flip the switch back on, right? But Saturday was simply not the day.

Here’s why: The spread offense is thought to even the playing field where one team may be a little more talented than the other. It completely trumps the idea that the most talented and strongly recruited team will win every time out. It’s thought to take the weight off the shoulders of the offensive linemen to be dominant in the run game. It’s supposed to spread the defensive talent across the field and make them make plays in space. Lastly, a spread offense is supposed to put up enough points to compensate for a defense that may be over-matched by the opposing team.

Well here’s where things get real…Texas Tech has had one of the largest offensive lines in college football for years now. They’ve also allowed themselves to be competitive in regards to their defense by giving them a chance to outscore opponents. They boasted a defensive line that clearly matched up well with our offensive line and every other OL this year in spite of what recruiting boards expected of any of these players coming out of prep ball. Saturday, we witnessed a Texas Tech team who’s typically considered inferior come out just as physical up front and resilient on defense as we’ve seen any other team in years. While in the past the Horns knew even with deficits they would come out of this game with a W, the Red Raiders’ physicality and intensity are what made a difference in this game. Tech finally had all the pieces to get over the hump.

With the comeback that nearly was, with all that was stacked against Texas, the same things that would have made this another remarkable, historical win were the same reasons for the Horns’ loss. In essence, there were two major factors that led to the game’s final result, and I’ll also leave you as well as something bittersweet to think about.

Emotion – The fact is Tech’s defense came out and played like it meant more to them. They were on an emotional high that I haven’t seen from them in years. They played like this was their National Championship and realistically that’s the emotion they needed to keep them going throughout this game. When momentum shifted late in the game, things seemed much more evenly matched but it was just a bit too late.

Fatigue – The Texas defense experienced fatigue early in the game and was playing catch-up throughout the rest of the game. After forcing Tech to punt early, the Texas defense was forced back out on the racetrack against Tech’s offense after a safety. Though it was your classic bend but not break effort, they probably bent a little too early during drives and struggled to get off on 3rd downs. The time Graham Harrell bought to throw the ball was cause for physical fatigue while first down after first down, especially those converted on 3rd down, were cause for emotional fatigue. But still this Texas defense held on enough to put the team in position to compete for the win at the end.

Bittersweet Youth – These young guys played on a stage and in an environment that’s more hostile than they’ve experienced all year. The Red River Shootout is at a neutral site and the last two games were at home. We were bound to learn more about the young players on this stage. And honestly, there’s more to be excited about in the future than I believe people want to give credit. This young secondary kept the last and likely the next Biletnikoff Award winner out of the endzone for 59 minutes and 59 seconds, which defenses have struggled to do this year. Now I’ll be the first to tell you that’s not enough, but be honest…who expected this much from these young guys coming into the season? They have bright years ahead and a loss now will lead to big wins in the future. We also saw young players like Malcolm Williams and Fozzy Whittaker find a way to impact this game on such a grand stage. This won’t be these players’ last game in Lubbock and I argue they’ll respond greatly on this stage and others in the future.

At the end of the day, this is what I believe Longhorn players would like the fans to keep into perspective. The game of football isn’t as cut and dry as people want it to be. The fact is if the Horns played OU and Oklahoma State ten more times we’re not sure who would win the majority. If they played Missouri again, the game wouldn’t be as skewed. There’s no telling who would win if the Horns played Tech again. Every game the Horns have been graded on has been based on their performance on that particular Saturday. At the end of the day, football is game where even if you may be a better team, you must be the best team each and every Saturday. Although it may sting a little, Texas Tech was the best team on Saturday.