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From the Other Side: Talking Texas Tech With Zach Mason



OSU heads to the desert this weekend to face an unbeaten Texas Tech team in Lubbock. There are plenty of differences between this year’s Red Raiders and last, especially at the quarterback position.

To help get the low down on the Raiders, I spoke with Zach Mason, the managing editor for Viva the Matadors, the SBNation Texas Tech blog. He talks about Tech’s improved defense, why the offense is better this year than it was with Patrick Mahomes behind center, Tech’s biggest weakness, and how Houston is better than Oklahoma State.

Phillip Slavin: How are you guys feeling about Texas Tech’s season so far?

Zach Mason: “The general consensus or the feeling around the Tech fan base has been tremendous optimism. I don’t think people thought they’d start 3-0. It’s been a really impressive start. Kliff Kingsbury entered the season kind of on a hot seat, it depends on who you ask, but I think there’s the feeling that if he didn’t succeed this year he would be out. He’s really surprised some folks. He’s got some good wins to start off already. Eastern Washington’s a really good FCS program. He went and beat a Power 5 school Arizona State, even though it’s been a middling program. Then to go to Houston, in their house, and beat a very solid team with the best defensive player in all of college football, with Ed Oliver. So overall, there’s a lot of confidence around a Tech team that’s still… I’m not really sold yet because I want to see how they look against Oklahoma State. I think this will kind of give us an idea of how good the team really is. I think some people are a little over confident right now, and then there’s people like me who know better and say ‘ we’ll see how they do against the real true test’.”

PS: Before we get to the offense, let’s talk defense. Tech’s hasn’t been great in recent years, but it seems to be showing improvement this year. What have you seen?

ZM: “Kingsbury recruited a lot of JUCO transfers, and that has helped the team tremendously, especially adding the level of experience that they didn’t have before. It was a very young team last year. Now he brought in some JUCO sophomore and juniors who have experience playing at a high level at prestigious junior colleges. They’ve translated quite well. Dakota Allen, that’s the one everyone talks about, from East Mississippi College. He actually was a freshman at Texas Tech, got into a little trouble, transferred away, but then he ended up coming back this season. He’s actually leading the team in tackles, he’s got 27 already. He has an interception, he’s got a sack. He’s been all over the place. He’s been a huge lift. The linebacking core is the strength of this defense. Teams have struggled to run the ball against Texas Tech. They’ve still be been able to get big chunks of yardage through the air. But this Tech defense has been able to force some turnovers. That’s been the biggest difference, that’s what they haven’t been able to do in recent years is… they’ve had this bend but don’t break mindset. It never really worked out, and they couldn’t force turnovers. This team is more focused on trying not to give up a single first down. I think that has changed the performance level that they’ve had.

PS: Aside from Allen, who is another defensive player OSU fans should keep an eye on Saturday?

ZM: The other linebacker is Jordyn Brooks.


He is just as good if not better than Dakota Allen, depending on who you ask. He’s more of a run stopper kind of build. He gets penetration. Last week he did get an interception so he’s competent in the passing game. He does not give up a whole lot of yards to running backs, and he doesn’t really let guys break tackles. When he makes contact he generally brings people down. Again, its something we haven’t seen from Tech defenders in a long time. If Tech could have a version of Jordyn Brooks and Dakota Allen all over the field, this would be an excellent defense. I think those are the clear top two players. Jah’shawn Johnson is a safety. He does a formidable job. Tech’s got some solid defensive line play, not great by any stretch, but for the Big 12 they can at least get to the quarterback. Texas Tech’s defense is more prone to stopping pocket passer type quarterbacks, which I guess is the good thing in facing Mason Rudolph. He’s obviously a top three quarterback in the entire country, but the fact that he’s not as mobile as some of the other quarterbacks that have given Tech trouble, I think will play to Tech’s advantage, because they can just sit back in coverage and not have to worry about putting a spy on him.”

PS: Turning to the offense, Patrick Mahomes is with the Chiefs. How has his replacement Nic Shimonek looked so far this year?


ZM: “He is a fascinating player to me. He originally enrolled at Iowa, then he transferred and has been sitting behind pretty much all the “so called” great quarterbacks at Texas Tech; Davis Webb, Baker Mayfield, and Patrick Mahomes. He’s been sitting, waiting his turn. He’s a 5th year senior and he finally gets the keys to the offense. I think even Oklahoma State fans will enjoy watching his play because you haven’t seen anything like him. When he drops back to pass, he looks so calm, as if he has no expectation that anyone is going to get through the offensive line. He just kinda stands there and he’s kinda chillin, kinda looking around. He doesn’t bounce on his toes when he’s in the pocket or anything like that. He just kind of stands there. He just shows no fear, it’s like he was born in the pocket and that’s all he knows. So in that regard hes’ a very interesting player to watch. He’s played really, really well. He’s been an efficient passer. He threw his first interception in the game against Houston last week. It wasn’t entirely his fault. He’s just an accurate passer. A lot of these passes in the Texas Tech offense are obviously screen plays and those are high percentage throws. But he has been able to throw the ball down the field. He’s got a decent arm. Again, he’s just a very confident passer. He has a lot of great receivers at his disposal and that’s certainly going to help. He’s got speed demons in the slot, he’s got Derrick Willies on the outside who can go up and get the ball over some defenders. I think this offense is better than it was last year with Mahomes, because the ball is getting to the playmakers than it was now. There were times when Mahomes would just kind of scramble for eight yards. Shimonek… he just gets the ball in the hands of the playmakers like Keke Coutee, or Justin Stockton, or Cameron Batson, he finds those guys and let’s them do the work and they’ll pick up bigger gains than Mahomes could do by himself just carrying the offense.

PS: What is Tech’s one biggest weakness?

ZM: I would say secondary. I just don’t have a lot of confidence in it. I think they can get beaten over the top by good receivers and I think James Washington can have a field day if Tech’s defense doesn’t focus on stopping him. There’s other receivers that’re going to have to be stopped. I think that’s going to be the focus. I think that’s going to be the group that’s going to have to step up the most is the secondary. Obviously, Rudolph is going to try and carve them up and he’s very capable of doing that. They’re going to have to play out of their minds if they want to win this game.

PS: Do you have a prediction for Saturday.

ZM: I think this is going to be a wild one. I’m pretty objective. No one has ever called me a Texas Tech homer, but I truly believe Texas Tech can win this game because of the match-ups. I think Oklahoma State’s defense was exposed last week against TCU. I think Tech saw that, and Tech’s offense saw that and thought ‘we’re just as good as TCU’s offense so why can’t we do the same thing? Why can’t we put up 59 points?’ College football is so much about momentum. I think Texas Tech is rolling right now, they’re going to be at home. They’re going against a team with a less than average defense. I think Houston’s defense was better than Oklahoma State’s defense. I really wouldn’t be surprised if Texas Tech wins this one in a shoot-out. Something like 42-37.

That’s not all. I’ve included the full interview below if you’d like to listen. We also discuss Tech’s secondary issues, the talent at running back, just how hot Kingsbury’s seat is, and I learn that Mason might be the most objective Tech fan I’ve ever talked to.

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