There’s no rule to this, but it seems power within conferences shifts every 10 years or so. Just eight years ago, Texas Tech was near in the upper echelon of not only the Big 12 but the nation thanks to Mike Leach’s innovative spread offense. The trend of high flying offenses began in Lubbock and has now spread throughout the state.
Tech was a hot upset selection the past two weeks after it put a cork in Arkansas three weeks ago. But that seems like an afterthought of a win at this point after losses to TCU at home and a 63-35 shellacking from Baylor today.
Now TCU and Baylor are at the top of the food chain in the conference after adapting the air raid offense, improving the system in their own right. Now the Red Raiders are left reeling. They haven’t found that magic to take down the perennial favorites just yet.
What the Red Raiders proved is that teams can’t beat Baylor at their own game.
It was clear that Tech was trying to mirror Baylor the whole game. What that game is, is an aggressive rapid-fire attack that doesn’t know what the word ‘stop’ is. That only worked temporarily, as the Red Raiders were down just one possession late into the first quarter. Then the accelerator broke in the second quarter — an epic collapse ensued.
Trying to pace Baylor does tires a team down. Tech was successful in marching down the field throughout the game, staying close to Baylor with 636 yards compared to 680. The aggressive approach worked to an extent. Pat Mahomes had another great performance, tossing for 415 yards and three touchdowns thanks to extra attempts on fourth down. That’s a hallmark of Baylor’s operation but after two converted attempts that helped lead to early points, three were failed.
That’s not where the line is drawn, though. Where Tech failed, in particular, was that the rapid-fire offense led to even more penalties — something that was improved since ranking 127th last season. Compared to an average of just 3.7 penalties per game this season, the Red Raiders had 17 penalties for 142 yards compared to Baylor’s eight penalties for 72 yards.
Penalties have long been a problem for Baylor. But the Bears have been able to move past those mistakes for the most part. The Red Raiders, on the other hand, were a sub-.500 team when committing double-digit penalties last season and reverted back to that state today.
All this led to the Red Raiders digging a bigger hole on every drive, as four turnovers ensued through the game’s course. In turn, Mahomes was forced to pass 50 times (Davis Webb had an additional 15 attempts), meaning DeAndre Washington wasn’t allowed to work into the rushing game like Baylor puts its running backs into the game — an overlooked aspect to the Bears’ attack.
Likewise, Mahomes was being forced into bad situations the more he threw, throwing two interceptions and two additional fumbles placed the Bears into scoring position.
Trying to beat Baylor at its own game isn’t working, as much as that seemed like it could work after the first two drives.
Just like Baylor has made its own adjustments under Art Briles to become a rush-first Air Raid team, Texas Tech needs to make its own innovation in order to shake things up in the conference once again. Otherwise, they’ll just be dogs chasing cars.