Big bowl win just beginning of what's next at Texas Tech
FEB 12, 2014 12:23p ET
DALLAS -- Texas Tech was undefeated and in the top 10.
Then it lost five games and slid from a Big 12 title hopeful to a 7-5 finish.
The bottom fell out, right?
Save the drama.
"Everybody kind of made a big deal out of it, but I think it was more the way the schedule was set up," Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "The teams that we were playing were teams they hadn't beat the year before either. It wasn't like it was just the end of the world."
Three of Texas Tech's five losses came to teams that finished in the top 25 and a fourth--Kansas State--received votes in the final poll. The Red Raiders' 7-0 start also featured a grand total of zero wins over bowl teams. Add in injuries along the defensive line that helped Tech give up an average of 294 rushing yards a game during the five-game losing streak and an inability to improve on penalties and turnover margin and Kingsbury's point seems even more reasonable.
Kingsbury's first team wasn't a great one, but it was good one. While the first seven games of its schedule produced an overrated team, the final five games of the regular season produced a team that, with a little perspective, was underrated.
"If you'd told me we were going to start two true freshman quarterbacks and go 8-5 and win the Holiday Bowl, I think a lot of people would have taken it at Texas Tech," he said.
The upset bowl win over Arizona State offered a tasty ending to a regular season that crawled to a bitter finish. Kingsbury didn't offer a Christmas break for Red Raiders players, and amped up the intensity in practices leading up to the bowl. The result was the best win of Texas Tech's season and hopes that the struggles which produced the five-game losing streak are behind them.
Tech was -9 in turnover margin during that stretch and committed at least eight penalties in four of the losses. The Red Raiders finished -14 in turnover margin, last in the Big 12 and only Baylor committed more penalties.
"With a young team like that, you're not going to beat good teams if you do that," Kingsbury said.
It's a new season and after bringing in a handful of junior college reinforcements on both sides of the ball like prospective starter Rika Levi on the defensive line, Kingsbury is hopeful to be prepared for the kinds of trouble that the Red Raiders faced at midseason. His first full recruiting class features four junior college defensive lineman and two offensive linemen from the juco ranks.
"When you get injuries and you have depth, nobody notices that you're playing at the same level. That's something we have to build, because injuries happen to everybody in this game and we know that," Kingsbury said. "We'd love to have more of a running game and that's something we addressed with bringing in these two junior college O-linemen."
The running game would offer more support for Texas Tech's maturing quarterback, Davis Webb. The Red Raiders' passing exodus has earned most of the headlines in Lubbock since the end of the season, but after losing Michael Brewer and Baker Mayfield, Kingsbury's left with a rising sophomorein Webb who threw for 400 yards on four occasions last year and topped 310 yards two additional times with 20 touchdown passes in just six starts.
"Everybody's going to make errors, but just the big errors that lose you games, we've got to cut out of his game," Kingsbury said. "There were certain plays throughout the game that he knew he couldn't make. We've got to eliminate those and then we'll be rolling."
Webb promised Kingsbury he'd "prove him wrong" after the first-year head coach turned to Mayfield, a walk-on, as his starting quarterback in the season-opening win against SMU. Webb did exactly that, but the focus in Year 2 will be trimming down the nine interceptions Webb threw in 2013. That included four games with multiple interceptions.
"In general, the first year to the second year ... that's when they really take off," Kingsbury said. "I think you saw Johnny (Manziel) in Year 2, how much better he played. As far as knowing the system and staying in the pocket, I think Davis will follow the same track."
Webb won't have much competition this spring, but Kingsbury feels certain the plenty of other positions will, thanks to recruiting a handful of players who could have immediate impacts. That's a welcome change from a year ago.
"We felt like we had guys that were starters because there really wasn't anybody else to push them at some positions," Kingsbury said.
That five-game losing streak was a lowlight for Kingsbury in Year 1, but he left it happy with his team's energy and effort. Only one loss came by less than 15 points, but the Red Raiders led all but one game. The schedule and injuries helped Tech's 2013 season take on a lopsided feel, but Kingsbury can't help but drift his eyes to Waco toward the reigning Big 12 champions after a solid debut season as a head coach.
"If I'm not mistaken, the year before, they were 8-5 and won the Holiday Bowl," he said. "Hopefully we can follow that mold."