Mike Leach Examined: Year 1 and Game 1

SOON

BYU's season opener is this Thursday (reaction!), and I could not be more excited. I've got tickets, I've got plans to tailgate, and I have my white shirt. (Daily reminder: wear WHITE on Thursday!).

BYU fans aren't the only ones excited for the nightcap of Thursday's blessings we call CFB's opening night. As I'm sure you know, Mike Leach returns to the sidelines as a head coach on Thursday night in Provo, a day many college football writers and fans have waited for.

It's hard to know what to expect from Washington State under Mike Leach. Here I present to you a review of the last time Leach took over a program, and how his team performed in game one and for that season as a whole.

None of this is meant to prove or predict anything, but I was curious to see how the Red Raiders performed in Leach's first year in Lubbock. 1999 was the last season for Spike Dykes, and Leach was hired for the 2000 season. Draw from it what you desire.

First, here is a statistical overview of the before-and-after seasons of Leach's hire at Texas Tech.

1999 Texas Tech

2000 Texas Tech

Record

6-5

Record

7-6

Passing

Passing

Comp

Att

%

Yards

YPG

Comp

Att

%

Yards

YPG

130

268

48.5%

1,929

175.3

372

613

60.7

3,548

272.9

Rushing

Rushing

Att

Yards

YPC

YPG

Att

Yards

YPC

YPG

457

1,632

3.57

148.3

298

879

2.95

67.6

Total

323.7

Total

340.5

PPG

23.0

PPG

25.4

Opp PPG

25.6

Opp PPG

21.4

The first caveat to note is Dykes' 1999 team played 11 games, and Leach's 2000 team played 13. So per-game averages are most useful here.

One thing that definitely improved under Leach was completion percentage -- though it's hard to know if that was simply because the 48.5% in 1999 was AWFUL. The Washington State QB's Leach inherits were much better than that last year. The QB who threw the most passes for the Cougars last year has graduated. Jeff Tuel will be Wazzu's starter (60% career completion) and Connor Halliday will be at backup (57.3% career completion).

Kliff Kingsbury took over in 2000 as a first time starter, but in 2012 Leach gets a senior in Tuel who has thrown 532 career passes.

The other key note from the overall 2000 season stats I noticed was that the Texas Tech offense improved by less than 20 yards per game and by only 2.4 points per game.

GAME ONE

Mike Leach's first game at Texas Tech was a home bout against New Mexico. UNM's defensive coordinator? Bronco Mendenhall.

The Red Raiders were victorious 24-3, but that hardly tells the story (though 24 points feels low given the opponent, a Lobos team that would finish 5-7).

Texas Tech tallied just 255 yards of total offense in that game, and benefited from winning the turnover battle 3-1. Kliff Kingsbury struggled mightily, going just 21-47 for 186 yards. Forty-seven pass attempts netting 186 yards is ... well, you know what that is. Again, hard to know if that is a Kingsbury thing or a new-Leach-offense thing (or both).

Interestingly, Texas Tech played four-straight home games to start the 2000 season, all against a murderer's row of powerhouses: New Mexico (final 2000 record: 5-7), Utah State (5-6), North Texas (3-8), and Louisiana-Lafayette (1-10). As expected, the Red Raiders started the season 4-0 (which means they went 3-6 the rest of the way).

While the opener against New Mexico shows some interesting stats, I also wanted to look at 2000 Texas Tech's first game against an even somewhat-formidable opponent and at its first game on the road -- something that might more closely reflect anything that is useful in regards to this year's game against BYU. That was the same game, a week five trip to Texas A&M.

Texas A&M finished 2000 at 7-5, an average major-conference team, and was an in-conference (Big 12) opponent. The Aggies defeated Texas Tech 33-15 with both teams totaling 345 yards. The TTU passing game finished 29-52 (55.8%) for 322 yards, 2 TD and 3 INT. The Red Raiders rushed for 23 yards. Overall, it wasn't an outright awful performance, but a 55.8% completion rate and 3 INTs in the fifth game of the season seem like shaky numbers.

A final note: In the four final years under Spike Dykes, Texas Tech went 7-5 twice and 6-5 twice. Mike Leach led TTU to records of 7-6 and 7-5 in his first two years, with the first marked improvement (win-column wise) came in year three when Tech went 9-5.

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