For once, Texas Tech was able to speak positively about its defense in the post-game press conference rather than its offense. After a 27-24 victory at Houston in TDECU Stadium, the Red Raiders gained a much-needed confidence boost heading into the Big 12 Conference play.
Texas Tech forced five turnovers, its most since 2008 against Kansas. It held Houston to 33 percent on third down. Perhaps the biggest question answered was the rush defense. With six different rushers, Houston scrounged up a measly 110 yards. At one point, Tech had two running backs who had more rushing yards than the entire Cougar offense.
A big reason for this is the return of linebacker Dakota Allen. He is the leader of the Tech defense and recorded an interception on the third play from scrimmage. This interception gave Tech tremendous field position, but the offense sputtered. Tech quarterback Nic Shimonek almost refused to talk about the offensive play. Almost every answer of his featured a positive comment about the defense, and how Shimonek didn’t play his best game. Kingsbury also admitted that he didn’t call his best game.
“For the defense to hold their team to 24 points, seven of those being mine when I made a bad play and he returned it. Positive things are coming to fruition and it’s very great to see,” Shimonek said. “We feel like they can do that every game.”
If Shimonek takes credit for an interception that provided Houston tremendous field position, then Houston really only scored 10 points off the Tech defense. The final touchdown for Houston came with many of Tech’s back-ups on the field late in the game.
Dakota Allen finished with 12 tackles, eight of which were solo. Additionally, he recorded two hits on quarterback Kyle Allen and was in on a tackle for loss. He is the difference maker, but there are also plenty of helpers. Jordyn Brooks has greatly improved the linebacker position. Lonzell Gilmore has been a noticeable step up on the defensive line. Today was not one of Broderick Washington’s best games, but he shared the wealth of success that he gained within the first two games. Tony Jones isn’t even listed on the two-deep, but recorded two major fumble recoveries today.
“We wouldn’t have won that game if we didn’t (have playmakers on defense). That’s for sure. Offensively, I didn’t call a good game,” Kingsbury said. “But to watch those guys fly around the ball, make play after play, and never get discouraged when we were going three-and-out and turning the ball over, that says a lot about their character.”
Sure, Tech will face offenses that are much more well-oiled than Houston. Next week, they take on an Oklahoma State team that has been under the watch of Mike Gundy for 10 seasons and has an early Heisman candidate in Mason Rudolph. They won’t look like superstars next week, but improvement is what was needed. They are no longer the worst rush defense in the nation. It is likely they are now a top 100 team in rush defense. Are they top 50? Possibly. The fact is, Tech’s rush defense was literally the one thing keeping Tech from making bowl games. This team won’t win the Big 12 this season, but they’re going to spoil someone’s championship opportunity.