September 26, 2011

Defense taking small steps

Texas Tech's Monday media luncheon was a lot more upbeat than it could have been, but it was time for a reality check after enjoying some late game heroics in a 35-34 win against Nevada.

The Red Raiders had a great game on special teams and an OK game on offense. Defense, well, it's a work in progress.

"I think winning, no matter who you're playing, winning makes everybody feel a lot better," head coach Tommy Tuberville said during his media luncheon. "Winning the way we did, it felt like a team victory. It really wasn't. Pretty much an offense and special teams victory. Defense owes an awful lot to both of those groups how they played, compared to how they played.

"Defense, we just didn't hold up our end of the bargain, coaching or playing, you can't give up that many big plays, that many running yards. We just look confused. We have condensed it, we have changed things around and we have tried to make it as uncomplicated as possible but you can only go so far. You still have to be able to make some adjustments as you go, and that's one thing concerning is we didn't."

Nevada outgained Tech 562 yards to 441 yards. Nevada, a WAC team, was just two points away from handing Tech its first home non-conference loss since 2002.

It might not be as bad as it looks on the stat sheet. Maybe Saturday's game was the perfect lesson to teach a young defense.

The primary struggle was taking the adjustments defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow drew up on the sideline and applying them to the field. That's far more correctable than trying to make a slow defense play fast.

"I think any way you can go out and find a way to win a football game like that, it's really good for your program and it's really good for your kids," Glasgow said Monday after reviewing the game film. "It's a learning experience that our kids can go learn some very important lessons with that didn't cost us the football game."

Maybe the defense will come out with confidence against Kansas in the Red Raiders' Big 12 Conference opener. It stopped Nevada when it had to and stopping the Wolf Pack had been a problem all night.

Tech had only stopped Nevada drives twice prior. Two punts and no turnovers, and even on Nevada's final full drive the Red Raiders had allowed the Wolf Pack to move the ball from its own 19-yard line to the Tech seven-yard line.

A Nevada touchdown would have put the game all but out of reach, 38-28 with about five minutes left in the game.

The defense held Nevada to a field goal to keep it a one-possession game. The players demonstrated to themselves that they could stop an opponent when it mattered the most.

The Red Raider offense got that game-winning touchdown after a great kick return by Ben McRoy.

Glasgow said a stop like that could help push the defense to make more big stops, preferably earlier in the game.

"There's no doubt, those things that happened allow kids to go out and play with more and more confidence," Glasgow said. "I think the more guys we have who are playing with confidence the better we'll be."

Tuberville said it's all about allowing the defense to take small steps. It took one Saturday and it has the opportunity to take the next one against Kansas.

"You have to be realistic and you have to look yourself in the eye and say, 'who are we?'" Tuberville said. "We are a team that we knew we were going to be, you know, fairly good on offense. You don't know how far, early and how much better you can get. And I think that to this point, we have done pretty well offensively…

"Defensively we knew, all new, new coaches, new schemes, new techniques, new terminology. It wasn't going to happen overnight."

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