2017 Game 3 Post game analysis: Texas Tech
By: Jimmy Schofield
Photo courtesy uhcougars.com
Your Houston Cougars were out played and out coached Saturday afternoon, losing to the Texas Tech Red Raiders 27-24 before 36,383 fans at TDECU Stadium, breaking a 16-game home win streak. Coogfans.com breaks down each phase of the game.
After throwing two interceptions and losing two fumbles, quarterback Kyle Allen now has six turnovers on the season (four interceptions and three fumbles). That’s in three games. His decision making was questioned so much by head coach Major Applewhite and offensive coordinator Brian Johnson that he was replaced late in the fourth quarter by Kyle Postma. All the “Postman” did was lead the offense on two touchdown drives of 73 and 76 yards. Of course, Tech’s defense was playing in a very loose zone wanting the Coogs to run as many plays as possible, and more importantly run clock, which they did. After completing better than 80-percent of his passes over the first two games of the season, Allen came crashing back down to Earth Saturday, completing 24-of-39 passes for just 217 yards and a touchdown. The redshirt junior looked spooked all day, over or underthrowing passes that he easily made in his first two games. Johnson also didn’t take many deep shots, instead going with the short game hoping Tech’s defenders would miss tackles, which wasn’t happening.
On Allen’s first interception he threw right over the middle into the waiting arms of linebacker Dakota Allen on the Cougars first possession of the game. He barely looked him off before throwing the ill-advised pass. Nine possessions later he threw on the run under duress on a 3rd-and-long play in the red zone when he simply should have thrown the ball away. Allen was under duress all game long as the offensive line of Josh Jones, Braylon Jones, Will Noble, Marcus Oliver and Na’Ty Rogers had their worst game of the season and in some time, not giving their quarterback sufficient time to go through his progressions. On one of Allen’s fumbles Noble snapped the ball at his feet, surprising for the veteran center of 22 career starts. On another Allen fumble Jones at left tackle gave up a sack getting beat badly, on a two-man rush by Tech. Reserve Mason Denley finally got to see meaningful game action and commits a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty late in the game, something that cannot happen. The Red Raiders didn’t blitz much because they didn’t have to, sending four or sometimes five and dropping seven or eight into coverage.
As I mentioned in my game preview article, the team that tackled in space would win the game. That was Tech. Houston receivers couldn’t gain much separation other than Linell Bonner (7 receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown) and Steven Dunbar (6 for 83). Bonner and Keith Corbin (1 catch 19 yards) each had a few drops, not helping Allen’s cause. Tight end Alex Leslie had a nice game, catching 2 passes for 36 yards from Postma late. John Leday caught 6 passes for 25 yards, mainly on short “push passes” that serve as designed runs via speed sweeps. D’Eriq King made his 2017 debut successfully catching 5 passes for 50 yards, including a 20-yard TD on a quick pass from Allen where King was escorted into the end zone by Bonner and Dunbar’s blocking.
Postma, the senior from Katy Seven Lakes and Trinity Valley Community College brings something Allen doesn’t, mainly the element of the quarterback run game, something both Applewhite and Johnson have used very effectively over the years as play callers. For the game Postma ran four times for 52 yards including a 20-yard scramble and had a rushing TD for 9-yards on a called QB sweep, which reminded me of his game winning TD run against Memphis a few years ago. With Tech playing in a “prevent” late, he completed 8-of-13 passes for 100 yards and a TD, a 4-yard strike to Bonner to end the scoring.
Johnson wanted to establish a run game but the meager blocking up front prevented it. That and along with getting down early, forcing more passing, effectively killed the run game. Duke Catalon had 13 carries for 41 yards while Dillon Birden had just 4 rushes for 16 yards. King added 6 yards on 4 carries. Depth continues to be a concern as Catalon and Birden can’t be expected to carry the run game throughout the course of the rest of the season. When your backup QB, who just played the final two series of the game, is your leading rusher you have to be concerned as an offensive staff.
Tech’s Nic Shimonek passed for 329 yards, completing 29-of-45 passes with 2 TD’s and an interception. They rushed for 200 yards on 33 carries with 157 coming on two runs of 84 and 73 by running back Justin Stockton and backup Tre King. The “Third Ward Defense” couldn’t get off the field, especially in the first half, due to poor tackling. The bad tackling was from just about every member of the entire defense. Too many times defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio’s players would lunge, strike and bounce off Tech players. By not wrapping up they allowed too many YAC yards (yards after the catch). It was apparent that the Cougars defensive game plan coming in was to mix man and zone coverage while using base three, four and five-man fronts and showing pressure with different looks. No matter how they tried to disguise those looks however, they rarely got to Shimonek.
Tech’s best offensive player, wide receiver Keke Coutee, had 11 catches for 161 yards and a TD. He lined up in the slot mainly and abused any Cougar linebacker or safety that tried to cover him. The Coogs secondary was hit-and-miss all day. They played decently on the outside, but zoned up over the middle of the field giving too much room to any slot defenders. Matt Adams had a team leading 15 tackles, including 1.5. D’Juan Hines added 13 and Emeke Egbule added 8 but they had only 4 solo tackles each, missing many tackle attempts on short passes to Tech’s slot receivers or running backs.
D’Onofrio’s defense may have his guys thinking too much instead of just playing. The key play of the game was probably Coutee’s 77-yard touchdown reception. On the play, the defense wasn’t even set yet as the players were looking to the sideline for the signals on what set they were supposed to be in. At the snap Garrett Davis, who was conspicuously absent with just two tackles on the day, was seen running towards Coutee but couldn’t cut him off as he was a good 10 yards away at least on the snap. Terrell Williams (7 tackles and an interception) was over the top but couldn’t get to him either.
Members of the secondary were also inconsistent throughout the day, making a great play followed by a poor one. With Alexander Myres out because of injury, the cornerback duo of Jeremy Winchester and Isaiah Johnson had to play more snaps than expected against a pass heavy team that loves to play with tempo and in weather that was over 100 degrees on the field. Johnson had 8 tackles with Winchester adding 4. Winchester was responsible for Williams interception as he came off his man outside to cut off a receiver over the middle, tipping the ball to Williams, who returned the pick 20 yards. Winchester and Johnson had 4 solo stops each. Nickel back/outside linebacker Khalil Williams had a nice game, with a team leading 7 solo tackles, including 2 for loss and a sack.
The down linemen of Ed Oliver, Reggie Chevis and Nick Thurman played well but couldn’t generate pressure on their own. Big Ed had 5 tackles with 1 for loss and 3 hurries as Shimonek was constantly dumping off quick short passes to negate his pass rush up the middle. Chevis had 4 tackles with Thurman playing his usual solid game with a sack and 2 hurries. Reserve Aymiel Fleming had a pass breakup by getting his hands up to swat a Shimonek pass down, something that needed to be done more against the quick passing Tech offense. Payton Turner also had 2 QB hurries as the second defensive lineman reserve.
Brandon McDowell fumbled a punt return and had just three yards total on two returns. Leday had another nice kick return with a 47 yarder and is now averaging 50.7 yards on three total returns this season. Caden Novikoff made his first field goal of more than 30 yards this season, a 45 yarder. Punter Dane Roy pinned Tech inside their 20 on four of his seven punts. Most of the second half Tech started deep in their own territory thanks to the coverage teams.
The team has a lot of work to do as they travel to Philadelphia to face the Temple Owls to open American Athletic Conference play next Saturday (11am CST on ESPNU). Who will the starting quarterback be? How does the defense bounce back? How mentally tough is this team? Stay logged into Coogfans as I preview the Temple game later in the week.