I was willing to be optimistic that the outgassing from Grenfell was an anomaly. Teams play bad games. This happens, especially in the first week in a hostile environment against a deeply underrated team playing their biggest game in years. One instance of this thing could get a pass, but Saturday really left a measurable amount of air out of the balloon when attacking, and it left more dangerous things than I would have liked Clemson to loom in a couple of weeks (I hate it when they’re looming in sight. It’s very rude.)
It is important to look at these things through the right lens so that they can exist in the right context. The state covered a big spread against the undefeated Big 12 team. This is so beautiful and in your mid-season it will be celebrated for being so. But this is not your normal season. The state is not here to win Texas Tech, is here to win the ACC title, which adds even more scrutiny to games like this. Winning the league means beating Clemson, and that offense doesn’t seem capable of that now.
This is still a really good football team because they are great on the special teams and absolutely intimidating in defense. She also ran the ball a bit better than expected against strong lunge defenses. But the state is struggling hard to move the ball in the air. Leary is 32/56 with a touchdown and now picks against teams with a pulse.
There are a lot of bugs here, but I think the biggest concern is not having the number one guy out there. Receivers are now struggling. Leary isn’t quite as sharp as you’d like, but State doesn’t create much of a breakup and they do a poor job of making contested catches too, both of which are not lost on Thayer Thomas of course. After eliminating Charleston Southern, Thayer Thomas has earned 8 out of 18 captured by wide receivers this year against an FBS competition. Nobody has more than three. The country needs someone other than him to rise in the worst way.
Leary only had 121 yards pass against Texas Tech. There are some things hidden in it though. A large portion of his throws were around the line of scrimmage, so some of this was by design. Apparently the state thought they had an advantage in space based on the way the plays were called. But Leary got two clean shots on the court and missed both, poorly against Laysan in the first quarter and narrowly against Smith in the third. The latter turned into a contested ball because it fell and Smith was unable to play on it. Emezie could pull off some of those narrow bug mistakes last year. The state does not have this man now.
I’m certainly not worried about Devin Leary. He’ll be fine, but he needs someone to start opening up and do some plays. I love Smith here so far. I think he’s shown the most as someone who can put pressure on the defense, but he’s still only had twice this year. We also haven’t seen the state use Carter as much the way they’ve used the Emezie in the past couple of years. I don’t think it matches the skill set necessarily, but its size can create some compatibility issues.
It’s also important to give Texas Tech some credit here. This is a good DB room they have. Defense Red Raiders ranks 18th in the country in completion percentage. In the two-week game against Houston, that defense made Clayton Tyon his worst-rated passer since, well, Texas Tech in the first week of 2021.
On the flip side, the state seems to be running the ball better than many people expected. They don’t set the world on fire, but the Sumo-Karngbaye gave the ground attack a jolt. He still makes first-stage fouls, and those happen to be blatantly obvious on Saturday, but he’s averaging 5.8 yards per carry over three games. He has remarkable vision and patience for a young appearance and is very good at running through contact. The country has already found a star here.
The pack will win matches this year because of the defensive and special teams. It’s already happened twice. With the emergence of Sumo-Karngbaye cementing one of the team’s biggest concerns, State could really have it all if they fix the passing game. It will definitely get better, and Texas Tech’s numbers will be one of the best passing defenses they’ll see this year. I’m not sure I see where they make an immediate jump in productivity, but I hope some of these younger players start showing up.