The 2015 season has been interesting for Red Raider fans. There has been a high of beating an SEC team on the road, a heartbreaking loss to TCU on a last second tipped ball, and lots and lots of points scored. The Red Raiders have been in a somewhat similar situation during the Kingsbury era. His first year at the helm, he had the Red Raiders blazing up the polls to as high as #10 in the nation with a 7-0 start. Things quickly turned sour as the Red Raiders ended the regular season with 5 straight losses, but rebounded nicely with a win over a ranked Arizona State squad in the Holiday Bowl.
Fast forward two seasons and this season feels eerily similar. The Red Raiders started out 3-0 with a really good win at Arkansas and things were looking up. The following game versus TCU saw Tech fight until the bitter end but ultimately lost in heartbreaking fashion. The losses have mounted since then as the Red Raiders have lost 5 of their last 7 games. They have given up 63 or more points in three of those losses. The offense has sputtered as of late as well putting up only 26 points versus West Virginia last week, their lowest output of the season.
With only two games left on the schedule, another bowl-less season is staring Tech in the face. The Red Raiders haven’t gone bowl-less in consecutive seasons since the early 90s. They could perhaps pull out a victory versus Kansas State or Texas to sneak into a bowl game which would be a boost, if for nothing else than to get additional practice time for the younger players and give the fan base a little hope headed into 2016. But, based on recent history, a betting man would take KSU and UT in the final two games. Tech has lost 17 straight Big 12 games to teams not named Iowa State and Kansas. They haven’t beaten Kansas State since 2009 and haven’t won in Austin since 1997. On the bright side, as I write this, the Red Raiders are favored versus Kansas State this weekend.
Many Red Raider fans thought they would see improvement under the third year head coach and first year defensive coordinator David Gibbs. Here’s is what I’ve seen from this year’s team.
- The defense is turning the ball over at a very high rate. They rank #20 in the nation in turnovers gained which is a huge improvement from last year’s ranking of #107.
- The offense is ranked well nationally in total yards (#4) and points per game (#5).
- The Red Raiders already have one more win this season than the 2014 season with two games left.
- There are some young guys playing well on the defensive side of the ball such as Breiden Fehoko, Dakota Allen, Jah’Shawn Johnson and D’Vonta Hinton.
- The offense puts up a bunch of numbers, but it isn’t efficient which is apparent in their yards per point ranking of #40 nationally.
- There are very few playmakers in the receiving corp of a team that passes the ball 60% of the time. Without Jakeem Grant this season, Kingsbury should have thought about transitioning to the wishbone. (Kidding….kind of!)
- The Tech defense is in the bottom 6 defenses nationally in multiple categories including yardage and scoring defense.
- Tech is an undisciplined team. They commit too many penalties, too many drops and too many blown assignments for anyone to think otherwise.
- Lastly and most importantly, I see a coach whose team has the exact same issues it did in his first season. I have seen very little growth or development.
Whether fans want to keep him or not isn’t up for debate. Kingsbury’s contract keeps him here for the foreseeable future. There have been a few areas of improvement over his three seasons, but the same very basic issues that have plagued this team since day one of his arrival are still very visible and that is my biggest concern. The record this season shouldn’t be all that important to Tech fans. Sure, a bowl would be nice, but every realistic Tech fan knew this wasn’t the year they would compete for a Big 12 title. This season was about getting the program headed in the right direction to compete for a Big 12 title in the future so a final regular season record of 5-7, 6-6 or 7-5 should come secondarily to that. What is concerning is there hasn’t been tangible evidence of Kingsbury moving this team in the right direction.
The discipline issues are still there. For a very recent piece of evidence of the ongoing discipline issues, go back to West Virginia’s last offensive drive from this past Saturday. The defense still gives up tons of yards and points. The offense that looks good on paper, but isn’t efficient, sputters against better competition and doesn’t put teams away when it has the chance (i.e.. the TCU & West Virginia games come to mind). Kingsbury seems very stubborn in forcing his offense to run the way he wants it even when adjusting it slightly could help improve his defense. My fear is the Red Raiders hired an inexperienced, slightly above average offensive coordinator to run their program. In other words, he is a watered down version of Mike Leach.
Ideally, he learns and improves. But based on the results of his first three seasons, I am not optimistic for the Red Raiders’ future with Kingsbury at the helm.
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