Stevens: Red Raiders Want To Prove Defense Has Returned to Lubbock
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  09/07/2010
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Sept. 7, 2010

Lobos vs. Texas Tech
6 p.m. Saturday -- University Stadium
On The Air: The Mtn; 77-AM KKOB/Lobo Radio Network
Online: Game story, stats, quotes on GoLobos.com

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

The word out of Lubbock is that the Texas Tech Red Raiders are drooling about their Saturday visit to University Stadium and it has nothing to do with the big chili cookout contest to be held prior to kickoff.

The drool is from the Red Raiders' defense, which is eyeing the Lobo offense the way Wiley Coyote looks at the Road Runner. But can the Lobos dodge all those missiles from the arm of Tech QB Taylor Potts and can Lobo QB B.R. Holbrook dodge all those Tech defenders looking to prove that defense indeed has returned to Lubbock?

And will the eyes of Texas Tech be on Lobos or Texas Longhorns, next week's opponent?

The Tech defense surely liked what it saw in Eugene, Ore., when the Lobos failed to reach the scoreboard and barely nudged their offensive total over 100 yards in a 72-0 loss to the Oregon Ducks. This probably turns a few eyes to Texas.

But defense, supposedly, has returned to Texas Tech thanks to new head coach Tommy Tuberville, who doesn't exactly share the philosophy of former coach Mike Leach, who seemed willing to outlast teams on the scoreboard.

Leach's plan wasn't such a bad one. His Red Raiders quite often lit up the scoreboard in dramatic fashion. They beat good teams, upset some great teams and often were found in the Top 20 and in bowl games. Tech won 29 games in the past three seasons including a 48-28 home win over Lobos in 2009.

Tuberville seems to like a more balanced approach - a little more ground stuff, a little more defensive stuff. It's the stuff championships are made of. It's probably what you need to beat Texas.

One way to instill confidence in a Tech defense that gave up 27 points to SMU is to do to the Lobos what Oregon did to the Lobos - keep them off the scoreboard. That might be a hard act to follow.

The Lobos returned from Oregon with a wounded pride and Lobo coach Mike Locksley says the effort in Oregon will not be repeated. "I believe in this football team," said the second-year Lobo coach. "I have no doubt in my mind that this team will bounce back."

Locksley probably is right about the Lobos bouncing back because almost everything that could have gone wrong for the young UNM team went wrong in Eugene. Another factor is that Tech probably isn't as good as the Ducks.

But Tech is pretty good and showed decent balance in the 35-27 season-opening win over SMU, a team Tech has now beaten 14 straight times.

The Red Raiders threw the ball 53 times and ran it 31 times vs. SMU. It was a big day for Potts, who tossed for 359 yards and four touchdowns. "I think Potts is one of the better quarterbacks in the country. I like what they are doing with him," said Locksley.

Potts did fine and so did receiver Lyle Leong, who pulled in 11 passes for three scores. But 27 points is a lot to give up to SMU, and you can't blame the Tech tacklers for eyeing UNM as an opportunity to make a statement about Texas Tech defense.

You can't blame UNM for looking at Tech's defense as a chance to reach the scoreboard for the first time in 2010.

Tuberville, at his weekly press luncheon, said the Raiders were hitting on about half their cylinders in the SMU game. He considers his team to be a V-8. Tuberville also wasn't thrilled that his team ran to a 35-14 lead and then SMU almost made a comeback.

He said part of the problem was the Tech running game. Tech had 102 yards on 26 carries, before sacks cut into that figure. The Tech coach also was not thrilled that Potts got sacked twice and got smacked another seven times while passing.

Potts clearly is the star on offense although Tech's backup hurler, Steven Sheffield, tossed for 238 yards and three TDs last year in Tech's win over UNM. Potts left that game shortly before halftime after two Lobo sacks left him dazed.

Tech's top defenders might be defensive end Brian Davis and nose tackle Colby Whitlock. The Tech's question mark on defense might be a young secondary, but that unit had three interceptions against SMU.