Throughout the season, Texas Tech seemed to be on the cusp of greatness.
The Red Raiders could have put a cork in TCU’s season early on in conference play if not for Aaron Green’s miraculous touchdown in the closing minute of their matchup. Despite that loss, that was the first game Tech was considered a legitimate threat, but what followed was five disappointing losses that came at the offense’s expense.
That was the case on Tuesday night against LSU in the Texas Bowl, with a final score of 56-27.
Had Green dropped that tipped pass in the back of the end zone, Kliff Kingsbury’s squad wouldn’t have ever been pitted against the Tigers. But it was an intriguing matchup nonetheless because of the sheer dichotomy of the two teams’ offensive philosophy.
Tech: The pass-happy Air Raid offense ranking as one of the most explosive teams in the nation.
LSU: A slow-burning team focused on the run that gets in trouble throwing the ball.
Analysts and fans had the former pegged correctly. The latter proved to be difficult to pin down, though, as Les Miles took a surprising approach, though hindsight shows that it could have been anticipated.
While LSU was successful on the ground—Leonard Fournette ran for 212 yards and had five total touchdowns—it wasn’t his production that won the night over for the Tigers as generally anticipated. Miles and his coaching staff took full advantage of a poor Tech pass defense that allowed 264 yards per game against FBS opponents.
Though about 100 yards less than Pat Mahomes’ total, LSU quarterback Brandon Harris tossed for 254 yards. It was an uncharacteristic night for a quarterback who had only reached 250 yards on three other occasions this season. The Tigers averaged just 173 passing yards per game, passing only 36.8 percent of the time, a similar rate to LSU’s play selection last night.
Mahomes helped keep his team competitive for a while, but the onslaught of Harris’ passes averaging over 11 yards per attempt gave the Red Raiders difficulties holding on for the entire game. The Tigers pulled away in the third quarter.
The bigger the hole for Texas Tech — as shown all season — the more Mahomes was relied upon to bring the game in and the more he became less efficient. But being sacked on what seemed to be every drive didn’t help matters, either.
Texas Tech had already gone through some in-house moves after the regular season, parting ways with multiple defensive assistant coaches.
Defensive coordinator David Gibbs remained in an effort to keep developing the system that worked so well at the University of Houston. But as LSU took advantage early on with the passing game, its entire offense opened up as Tech’s defense was forced to cover the entire field. That only allowed Fournette to run free, and even allowed Harris to show what he can do on the ground as well.
The end result, LSU scored its most points since playing New Mexico State last season.
It’s old habit for the Red Raiders to give up this type of production in the Big 12, but this was a different brand of offense they were facing. When the opponent is as strong defensively as LSU is, the entire landscape of the game changes to where Tech’s up-tempo offense can’t keep up with the drives its defense keeps losing.
With playmakers like DeAndre Washington and Jakeem Grant along with blindside tackle Le’Raven Clark leaving this year, Tech’s offense has its work cut out for itself with no immediate improvements coming on the opposite side of the field.
Mahomes is a talent who deserves to be recognized, but he’ll never get the credit if his stats are only inflated because his defense gives him extra opportunities to make up for its faults.