The Numerical, Dec. 30 bowls: Texas Tech's surprise and a candle in the wind

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Aliotti's retirement began happier than Mack Brown's, offenses blew scoring opportunities from coast to coast (well, from Nashville to San Diego), and Texas Tech made things look easy against Arizona State.


Offensive touchdown scored by Oregon in the Alamo Bowl. The Ducks did gain 469 yards (6.9 per play) on Texas, but the Longhorns were able to limit damage on third downs (4-for-12), and special teams gave Oregon long fields from which to work all night despite six Texas three-and-outs -- nine of 11 Oregon drives began at the Ducks' 25 or further back.

Texas bent but rarely broke and did what a defense has to do to give itself a chance against the Oregon offense. Unfortunately…


Defensive touchdowns scored by Oregon. The second pass Texas quarterback Case McCoy threw was picked off by Avery Patterson and returned for a touchdown. And the last pass he threw was picked off by Derrick Malone and returned for the same fate.

Oregon's offense scored only 16 points, but the Ducks won, 30-7.

2, also

Disqualifications in the Military Bowl. It felt like there could be more. To put it politely, Middle Tennessee was pushing the envelope in the physical (dirty) department (Navy fans put it less politely here), particularly linebacker Roderic Blunt, who was eventually ejected after two personal foul penalties (and he could have earned about four more).

But instead of getting chippy, Navy just got even, pulling away for a 24-6 win.


Trips by Middle Tennessee inside the Navy 40-yard line. In a day marked by teams' failures to score when they had the chances, the Blue Raiders may have taken the cake. In four scoring opportunities, they kicked two field goals, turned the ball over on downs at the Navy six, and threw a pick on their final possession. Average points per trip: 1.5.

For its own part, Navy could have made the score a lot worse if not for blown opportunities. The Midshipmen made seven trips inside MTSU's 40, six if you don't include the clock-eating drive to end the game. They scored three touchdowns and kicked a field goal, but they also lost fumbles on consecutive drives, which gave MTSU life further into the game than the Blue Raiders probably earned.

In the Holiday Bowl, Arizona State, a heavy favorite, made seven trips inside Texas Tech's 40. The results: two touchdowns, three field goals, a missed field goal (accompanied by horrendous clock management at the end of the first half), and an interception. (Tech made five trips, scored four touchdowns, and kicked a field goal. Winner.)

And while Ole Miss eventually won the Music City Bowl over Georgia Tech, the Rebels scored just four times in eight scoring opportunities, getting a couple of field goals blocked and giving the Yellow Jackets hope for a while.


Arizona State's F/+ ranking heading into bowl season. I mentioned why that made me nervous in my Holiday Bowl preview:

When the Sun Devils dominate, they dominate. Cases in point: a 53-24 win over Washington (yards: ASU 585, UW 212), a 62-41 win over USC, and a 58-21 win over an Arizona team that had just beaten Oregon. The Sun Devils took down good teams like Wisconsin and UCLA as well.

But the glitches were pretty easy to remember, too. They were twice roughed up physically by Stanford, they barely survived a Utah team that had already begun to fade, and they lost to Notre Dame in Dallas. The highs were so high that they dragged ASU's ratings up, but the lows were both sketchy and perhaps more frequent toward the end of the season.

Needless to say, I probably don't need to worry about the Sun Devils being ranked quite as highly in the year-end F/+ rankings.

The Sun Devils most certainly did not dominate in a 37-23 loss to Texas Tech. A two-touchdown favorite, they fell by two touchdowns because their offensive line couldn't get any sort of consistent push on the Red Raiders' defensive front and their secondary couldn't prevent a less-than-explosive offense from ripping off explosive passes downfield.

There are always some bowl results that make little sense; there is nothing in the stats that suggested this result was anything more than one or two percent possible. But that, of course, is why we play (and watch) the games.


Texas Tech receivers with at least one 15-yard catch. The problem for head coach Kliff Kingsbury's first Tech offense in 2013 was that, while the Red Raiders were perfectly solid from an efficiency standpoint, and while their pace was often used as a lovely weapon in the arsenal, they were not prone to big gains downfield. Without big plays, you have to play error-free football for six or eight or 10 plays at a time to score, and with a freshman quarterback (a pair of them, actually), that's a lot to ask.

This was one of the most stunning performances of the season, and we are absolutely going to overreact to it.

Well, it was a lot to ask in the regular season. It wasn't asked for at all in San Diego on Monday night. Davis Webb completed 16 passes of at least 15 yards and produced one of the more awesome, baffling stat lines of the bowl season: on third-and-long passes, against one of the nation's better pass rushes, Webb was seven-for-11 for 170 yards and no sacks. Yards per attempt: 15.5. On the most defense-friendly downs in football.

And on third-and-super-long (10 yards or more to go), he was five-for-five for 139 yards.

There's Bradley Marquez streaking down the sideline for 43 yards. There's Reginald Davis downfield for 38. Jace Amaro for 23 yards here, Jakeem Grant for 23 yards there. This was easy.

ASU had the No. 16 defense in the country according to Def. F/+, and while that will absolutely go down now, this was still one of the most stunning passing performances of the season, and we are absolutely going to overreact to it in our offseason perceptions.

First-half passing yards: Texas Tech 301, Arizona State 14. ASU ran the ball well enough to make this a game, and the Sun Devils actually cut a 27-6 Tech lead to 27-20 early in the second half, but the Tech defense (three points on ASU's final six possessions) and special teams (kick return touchdown) took it from there.


Jim Brown, USA Today

Ole Miss tackles for loss in the Music City Bowl. What's the best way to contain an option offense? Push blockers backwards and disrupt, disrupt, disrupt. Even eliminating a 13-yard sack from the equation, Georgia Tech gained just 164 yards in 48 carries (3.4 yards per carry). Needless to say, it's going to be hard for the Yellow Jackets to win like that, especially when you factor in that quarterback Vad Lee was also hurried five times and sacked once in 18 pass attempts. (Another bad sign: he had to attempt 18 passes.)

A pair of blocked field goals and a 72-yard bomb from Lee to Darren Waller early in the fourth quarter cut Ole Miss' lead, once 16 points, to 23-17. But Tech gained minus-12 yards in its final seven plays, including a 14-yard loss-and-fumble that resulted in a safety.

Ole Miss came into this game with lovely line stats against the run, but that doesn't automatically assure that you're going to handle the option well. It's a completely different set of assignments. But the Rebels handled it just fine. It was impressive to watch.


Rushing yards for Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace in 12 non-sack carries. Wallace scored on touchdown runs of 17 and 10 yards and drastically outperformed Vad Lee (15 non-sack carries, 37 yards). Again, it's going to be pretty difficult for Tech to win when its quarterback gets doubled up in yardage by a pass-first quarterback.


The last time Mack Brown wasn't head coach of Texas. Let's go through the obvious routine here. When Mack Brown was hired at Texas, Elton John's "Candle in the Wind" was No. 1 on the Billboard charts, having usurped songs like Biggie's "Mo Money Mo Problems" and Mariah Carey's "Honey" following the death of Princess Diana. (1997 was a fascinating, strange year for No. 1 songs, actually. Spice Girls, then Puffy, then Biggie. Hanson, then Puffy, then Biggie. Mariah, Boyz II Men … Elton John.) Titanic was about to be released. Beavis and Butthead had just gone off the air about two weeks earlier. Chris Farley was about to pass away.

Yeah, 1997 was a long time ago.

We can debate about how successful Brown's tenure actually was -- any tenure with a national title is a pretty good one, though two conference titles in 16 years is a bit lacking considering Texas' resources -- but he stuck around a long time and made a lot of friends. It was absolutely time for him to go, but it was hard not to feel a little bit nostalgic on Monday night.

Coaches aren't guaranteed to last very long in this business, but Brown has been a college football head coach since 1985. The last job he held before becoming a head coach? Barry Switzer's offensive coordinator. That year, he oversaw the development of freshman quarterback Troy Aikman.

Ronald Martinez, Getty

Meanwhile, the last time Oregon had a defensive coordinator other than Nick Aliotti, it was 1998. Including an earlier stint, he was the coordinator for four different Oregon coaches -- Rich Brooks (1993-94), Mike Bellotti (1999-08), Chip Kelly (2009-12), and Mark Helfrich (2013). And in recent years, he was at the helm of perhaps the most underrated defense in college football.

For years, the Ducks' defense meshed perfectly with the offense for which they were more well known. While the offense wore opponents out with pace and precision, the defense would take advantage of an opposing offense desperate to both score and play keep-away. Aliotti would dial up the pressure perfectly; it's no coincidence, in other words, that Oregon has 19 pick-sixes since 2007. (And actually, I'd have guessed it was closer to about 25.)

The 2013 defense was not Aliotti's best. The Ducks weren't as good at linebacker and couldn't defend the run as well, and it cost them, especially in the loss to Stanford. But he certainly went out on top. Texas was able to break running back Malcolm Brown free for 130 yards on 26 carries (a decent 5.0 yards per carry), but Oregon ate the Texas passing game alive; Case McCoy and Tyrone Swoopes completed 39 percent of their passes. Receiving yardage for Texas receivers: 56. Return yardage for Oregon defenders: 75.

Aliotti's retirement began a little happier than Brown's.

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