In Saturday’s ugly loss at Oklahoma, the Texas Tech football team committed too many sloppy and undisciplined penalties.
After seeing the Texas Tech football team play two refreshingly disciplined games to open the 2019 season, many were excited about the thought that perhaps Matt Wells will be the head coach to finally remedy the program’s long-running penalty woes. However, we also wondered whether or not the penalties would rise when the competition became tougher and unfortunately that appears to be the case.
After being flagged just four times each in the first two games of the season, the Red Raiders have been close to repeating their penalty numbers from 2018, which saw them rank in the bottom 10 nationally in penalties and penalty yards per game. In the fourth game of the year, Wells’ team was flagged 8 times for 65 yards just one game after being flagged seven times for 60 yards against Arizona.
That’s a disappointing turn that’s seen Tech go from being ranked in the top 25 nationally in penalties per game after two weeks to now sitting at No. 42 in both penalty yards and penalties per game. Still, that represents a marked improvement over last year but the team is trending in the wrong direction.
What’s worse is that the infractions Tech committed in Norman were both ugly and costly. Though they did not impact the outcome of the game, similar miscues could cost the team a win at some point this year.
The first Red Raider penalty of the game came on Tech’s first possession when the punt team lined up illegally. Dawson Deaton and Weston Wright were then flagged for a chop block on the Red Raiders’ third offense series.
That personal foul was costly because it backed Tech up to its own 11 putting the offense in a tremendously difficult situation on the first possession for Jett Duffey. Not surprisingly, the drive ended in the team’s third-straight punt to being the game.
The next Red Raider penalty was a delay of game prior to the team’s first snap of its final second-quarter possession. How a team coming off the sideline to start a possession can ever be called for a delay of game is as puzzling as it is aggravating.
At the 10:56 mark of the third quarter, the game took a disappointing and ugly turn. At the end of Douglas Coleman’s 40-yard return of a Jalen Hurts interception, DE Eli Howard threw a low block at the knees of OU running back Kennedy Brooks, taking Brooks out of the game.
This was an ugly play from a player that more is expected of. That type of block has no place in the game and if the roles had been reversed, we could be labeling the offending player as a dirty cheap shot artist.
To his credit, Howard issued a heartfelt apology to Brooks, his coaches and teammates, and the fans on Twitter following the game. That was the right way for the junior and team captain to conduct himself after admittedly making a huge mistake. Fortunately, Brooks is expected to play this weekend against Kansas.
This is the type of undisciplined penalty that Wells, as well as his DC Keith Patterson, vowed to eradicate from the program. If they had wanted to send a true message to their team, they should have benched Howard for the remainder of the game.
Another preventable and, frankly, stupid penalty came at the 7:00 mark of the third when freshman Dadrion Taylor jumped offsides as OU was set to punt for the first time in the game. When the Sooner punt team shifted, Taylor just ran into the backfield giving the home team five free yards which resulted in a first-down. Though it was not as egregious as Howard’s penalty, any penalty that gives the opponent a first down when they are set to put is also inexcusable.
Of course, even worse is a flag that takes points off the scoreboard. That’s what happened when Deaton was caught being an illegal receiver downfield on a play in which Jett Duffey threw a beautiful TD pass to McLane Mannix. Why Tech’s center was five yards past the line on a passing play is a mystery unless he got the play call wrong after the offense audibled.
Regardless of why it happened, this is an offense that can’t afford to have points taken away because of simple mistakes. If the Red Raiders want Duffey to have any success, they need his surrounding cast to keep from wiping out his best throw of the game.
Another way to keep Duffey from having success is to put him behind the chains before a drive can even start, which is what happened at the 13:47 mark of the 4th quarter. On 1st-and-10, TE Travis Koontz flinched before the snap drawing a false start flag.
Keeping another OU drive alive when it looked like Tech had made a stop with 8:29 to go in the game was a questionable pass interference penalty on Zech McPhearson. On the next play, OU broke off a 28-yard TD, which would not have happened had the drive not been expended by a Tech penalty.
Of Tech’s eight penalties, four came before the snap and six would have to be considered mental mistakes. That’s too many for a team as mediocre as Tech to overcome.
OU was actually flagged 9 times for 114 yards on Saturday but they have the elite talent to erase those mistakes. If the Red Raiders are going to be able to win some Big 12 games with their less than elite roster, the types of unnecessary penalties we saw in Norman must be avoided.