Each week, I’ll check in with the beat writer who covers Oklahoma State’s opponent to get some perspective on the game from the other side.
Nick Kosmider covers Texas Tech for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. You can read his work here or follow him on Twitter at @AJ_NickKosmider.
Gina Mizell: Texas Tech was a hot team after throttling West Virginia and winning a thriller against TCU. What’s changed during this three-game stretch, where the Red Raiders have struggled?
Nick Kosmider: For whatever reason, Tech has struggled to put complete games together ever since dismantling the Mountaineers, 49-14, back on Oct. 13. The Red Raiders ran into a buzzsaw in Kansas State, but their inability to beat Texas came down to major inefficiency in the red zone, a problem that crept up again in a narrow, double-overtime win against Kansas last week. Through stretches the last month, Tech has looked every bit as strong as it did against West Virginia, but this team isn’t good enough to only play parts of games well and still win.
GM: Seth Doege is again statistically one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. He obviously plays in a pass-happy system, but had problems last season in windy conditions in Lubbock. Where has he improved or grown the most this season?
NK: I think his mental state has come along way. Doege said going into the season that he was focusing on not letting mistakes he made get him down to where he allows one bad play to build into a string of them. He’s demonstrated that this season. On the rare occasions he is making bad throws or tossing an interception, he’s quick to bounce back. He’s on pace for more than 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns, so whatever he’s done has worked pretty well.
GM: Tech’s improved defense is arguably the biggest development this season. What’s been the key to the turnaround under new DC Art Kaufman?
NK: Tech needed to simplify things on defense, and that’s what Kaufman brought. Players have raved about Kaufman’s guidance this season, saying they are glad to know exactly what tasks they have on a given play. Without having to think as much as they may have a season ago, the unit has been more relaxed and that’s paid dividends. It helps to have two senior safeties playing to the level that Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson are. Defensive tackle Kerry Hyder has been a disruptive force up front.
GM: Tech was picked to finish near the bottom of the Big 12, yet has a chance to end the season in the top half of the conference and go to a bowl as high as the Alamo. How have fans responded to this season? Has this squad overachieved?
NK: Tommy Tuberville said after Tech’s win against Kansas that nobody expected his team to be sitting at 7-3 after 10 games. I don’t know if that’s completely true. I picked this team to go 8-5 heading into the season. Still, if you had told fans the Red Raiders would go 8-4 in the regular season — which is where I predict they’ll finish now — I think most would have been pretty happy. Problem is, a loss to a Texas team Tech thought it should have beat, followed by a lackluster showing against the Jayhawks, has taken some of the luster off in the eyes of some fans.
GM: Have to ask you about Tuberville’s sideline incident with a grad assistant last week. What’s the response been like in Lubbock to all of it–the action itself, the apology, the public reprimand by the
NK: As if often the case in Lubbock, there seems to be a divided reaction to the whole situation. Some fans have blamed the media for blowing the incident out of proportion, while others are none too pleased with the Tech head coach. I think the majority, though, was glad he apologized and is ready to move on, particularly with the Red Raiders still having plenty to play for beginning with Saturday’s game.