It’s an across-the-board issue, and one Texas and now Texas Tech has harped upon when entering contests with West Virginia. Tech gave up an estimated 150 yards after contact in a loss to Oklahoma last week, and head coach Tommy Tubervile said he thought his units got “outquicked” at times. TT also seemed to panic when behind, and the staff is trying to adjust that hesitancy as well.
“We didn't play our best game,” Tuberville said. “We didn't tackle very well at the point of attack. They tackled us at the point of attack. We didn't have any real big plays to speak of. We've got to make bigger plays in open field on both sides of the ball.
“The thing that really got us in trouble was our third down conversions in the red zone on both the offense and defense. We gave up two third downs for touchdowns, and we couldn't convert third downs in the red zone. We just weren't consistent enough to make big plays, and you've got to make big plays in games like that. They made them, and we didn't. Our guys were ready to play, it just looked like we were waiting for something to happen, but we've got to make stuff happen in games.”
Tech entered the Oklahoma game ranked first in the NCAA in total defense, but was gashed for 41 points and 380 yards of total offense. The Sooners stayed balanced, getting two passing touchdowns from quarterback Landry Jones and two from Wildcat back Blake Bell, who scored on a pair of one-yard runs. Javon Harris also returned an interception 36 yards to give OU a 38-13 lead that put the game out of reach.
Tuberville believes his team must attack more thoroughly and start quickly against West Virginia. Tuberville’s last Auburn team lost to WVU in Morgantown in 2008. But both Tuberville and the Mountaineers have completely changed styles, with both throwing the ball far more than they did four years ago. It’s a style that has drastically contrasted with Tuberville’s time in the SEC.
“People in this league are very proficient at throwing the ball,” he said. “I’ve noticed on even third and one or two they throw the ball and have confidence in it. I remember in the SEC, you were going to have two backs, two tight ends and it was going be a war at the line of scrimmage. Here, they throw the ball, even throw screens because people are spread out.”
Tuberville said West Virginia arguably passes better than any other Big 12 team, and that Geno Smith was only partially the reason why.
“They trust him with what they do,” Tuberville said of Smith. “He doesn’t throw interceptions. Dana (Holgorsen) knows what he wants to do and he has a system and sticks with it. They score and score quickly. That’s his personality. We played them when he was at Oklahoma State. The thing a little different about Dana, he understands running the ball and taking pressure of the quarterback. They do a very good, sneaky job of running the football.”
Tuberville also noted the league’s across-the-board strength, and the perhaps increased depth even with the loss of four teams and the addition of just two in TCU and WVU.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt there’s more tough teams in this league than any other,” Tuberville said. “We lost four good teams and gained two very good teams.”
On the Mountaineer offense: “We've got a good football team coming to town. Scoring a lot of points, averaging 52 points a game. That's a lot of points. They do a great job. They've got an outstanding quarterback that loves to throw the ball. He's strong. He's quick. He has great touch. I had a chance to watch him quite a bit in the Manning Camp this summer against all the other quarterbacks in the country, and there was no better kid than him. He's got great touch on the ball. He loves to play, and you can tell he's got that senior leadership. … This is a good team. I said it the first of the year. My vote was going to go to these guys.
On the pass rush vs WVU: “You can pick your poison. They do a great job with screens. They throw a lot of short passes. They've got two receivers, and they get the ball in open field, you better have more than one person around them trying to tackle them. I know that. So we'll go in with the same type of game plan. We'll bring four. We'll bring five. We have just got to make sure that whatever we do, that we tackle at the point of attack. We can't give up 150 yards after the catch or after we've made contact on the run.”
On his relationship with Holgorsen: “I met Dana a couple times. He came and visited us a couple springs ago. Came and watched spring practice when he brought his kids. But he's been around. He's had some good quarterbacks. Obviously, a good quarterback coach everywhere he's been.
I'm sure he's spent a lot of time here at Tech. But when you kick it off, it really doesn't make any difference. If you coached here or not, it's your team verses the other team.”
On the change in defensive approach to spread offenses: “You don't see much manned coverage anymore where it's one-on-one and you can get it there. If you overthrow it or underthrow it, there is nobody else around. We've seen so much zone coverage that you've got to be spot on. It's the same thing for us. We're a big zone coverage team, and we've made a lot more interceptions this year because of it, because there have been some quarterbacks that have made some high or low throws for interceptions.
On his team playing with emotion: “I thought Saturday, after our first drive, that we went down and didn't get anything out of it. I thought we lost a lot of emotion, and that comes from coaches, but it also comes from your seniors. We've had good emotion all year long. It was kind of like we weren't expecting that to happen. I told them, you better expect anything to happen in the games coming up because everybody has good players. When you have adversity hit, you have to turn it up a notch. And a lot of the younger guys had not experienced that you got to remember, lot of these guys haven't played much. And they have to understand when adversity hits, they have to turn it up a notch.”