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September 4, 2011

The Wrap: Season under way



Texas Tech is 1-0 after its 50-10 victory over Texas State on Saturday. The end result wasn't a surprise, but the course of the game definitely was. The Red Raiders trailed 10-9 at halftime and struggled to stop the Bobcats' option attack.

THREE THINGS WE LEARNED

1. Darrin Moore lived up to expectations. Darrin Moore is someone that we've been championing all offseason as a guy who was capable of assuming the No. 1 receiver role for the Red Raiders this season. He performed up to that level during the spring and fall camp -- it seemed like he embarrassed a defender at least once every day in practice -- but there was still a lingering question of whether or not he could do the same in an actual game.

Moore obviously erased those questions last night, setting a school record for receiving yards (221) in an opener. Granted, Moore will go up against much better defenders than Texas State's Craig Mager, but he's obviously established a rapport with Seth Doege and the importance of that shouldn't be underestimated.

2. Tech showed its youth, inexperience on defense. Tommy Tuberville said after the game that at one point in the first half, the Red Raiders had "seven or eight first-time (defensive) players" on the field against Texas State. Blake Dees, Sam Eguavoen, Kindred Evans, Leon Mackey, Jackson Richards, Pete Robertson, Delvon Simmons, Sawyer Vest and Dennell Wesley all played Red Raiders for the first time on Saturday, while Terrance Bullitt, Dartwan Bush, Cqulin Hubert and Derrick Mays all saw by far the most extensive action of their careers.

That inexperience was compounded by the fact that Tech was facing a Bobcat offense that looked much different than expected.

"You have to remember we didn't have a clue what formation they would be in," Tuberville said. "Defense, you have to have defense formations. And we'll have some -- we'll have a few sessions right in this room here Monday and there will be a lot of mistakes, probably alignment mistakes that just got us in trouble. Couple times our three-technique couldn't get to the ball possibly because he lined up too wide or something like that."

The Red Raiders' youth moment on defense also provided some bright spots -- an inexperienced group, yes, but also faster than the defensive outfits Tech has fielded in the recent past. Dees, the first true freshman to start at linebacker for the Red Raiders since 2003, was second on the team with eight tackles and also chipped in a TFL and a forced fumble.

3. Tech's offensive line is not the strength of the team. Even with Terry McDaniel starting at center after spending just three weeks at the position, Tech's starting five up front entered Saturday's game an experienced, veteran unit with 68 combined starts under their belts.

And they got whipped in the first half, especially on the edges. Through the first two quarters, Texas State's undersized and inexperienced defensive front kept the Red Raiders' running game in check to the tune of 27 rushing yards on 15 attempts and was able to consistently put pressure on Doege.

Tech's offensive line settled down in the second half, but it's hard to label that unit -- considering its experience and how it underperformed -- a strength at this point. As terrible as New Mexico was last year, their defensive front is notably more talented than the group that Texas State fielded on Saturday.

OBSCENELY OBLIGATORY OVERREACTION

BIG 12 POWER RANKINGS
1. Oklahoma - Sooners did what they were expected to do and rolled Tulsa. Dominique Whaley could be one of the surprises of the Big 12 this season.
2. Okla. State - Sloppy but lopsided victory over UL-Lafayette. Brandon Weeden's three interceptions an obvious concern.
3. Texas A&M - Lost in the bowtie out and S-E-C chants? SMU is a sneaky good team.
4. Baylor - No 'D' in 'signature win,' but that doesn't matter for the Bears.
5. Texas Tech - Trailing at the half to an FCS team? Yikes. Red Raiders got on track after halftime.
6. Texas - Surprise, surprise. Garrett Gilbert isn't a completely different player than he was a year ago.
7. Missouri - Tigers are one of the Big 12's biggest head scratchers of the weekend; MU only led by four points heading into the fourth quarter.
8. Kansas - The Jayhawks' visit from the cellar may not last long, but KU took care of business against McNeese State.
9. Iowa State - Steele Jantz, unfortunately, did not live up to his name, but did show some moxy in leading the Cyclones to two fourth-quarter scores.
10. Kansas State - The Wildcats almost lost to an EKU team that was playing without its starting quarterback.
Texas State surprised Tech with its option game on Saturday; operating mostly out of the pistol formation with 22 personnel, the Bobcats generated 256 rushing yards on 50 carries. Even if you take into account the fact that the Red Raiders weren't expecting and hadn't prepared for that kind of offensive attack, the team's Sept. 24 home game against Nevada just got a whole lot more interesting.

The Wolf Pack's base offense is very similar to what Tech faced on Saturday: pistol formation, incorporates option elements, tight ends and fullbacks. The only differences? Nevada has a better coaching staff, legitimate Division I FBS personnel and is infinitely more experienced running that kind offense than Texas State.

Gulp.

Fortunately for the Red Raiders, they won't face the Wolf Pack for three more weeks.

WEEKEND SUPERLATIVES

Best Same-Team Tackle - The Bobcats' primary kick returners, defensive back Derrick Lopez and wide receiver Isaiah Battle, seemed to have communication issues throughout Saturday's game. At no point was this more obvious than the waning moments of the first quarter. Lopez and Battle were back deep to return a kickoff following Tech's first score of the game. Donnie Carona's kick sailed a couple of yards deep into the endzone and both Lopez and Battle moved to field it; Battle caught the ball, but got tangled up with Lopez and ended up falling at the one-yard line. This play led to the day's...

Most Predictable Safety - Who didn't see a safety coming on the very next play? Tech was able to get pressure on Texas State quarterback Shaun Rutherford, which caused the converted wide receiver to show his inexperience and just chuck the ball out of bounds. Intentional grounding. Safety.

Best Quote - "I thought (Doege) did a really good job of not panicking. The wind storm wasn't a big deal for him. They probably happen all the time at Crane and Iraan and wherever else he was." - Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown

Story of the Game - Darrin Moore's record-setting performance against Texas State is even more notable considering what he has been through over the last month and a half. His father died unexpectedly in late July, and Moore started camp little more than a week later. That's a lot for any person to deal with under any circumstances, let alone a Big 12 football player preparing for a season.

"The last month's been pretty hard," Moore said. "After I came back to camp, I felt like I tried to block it out of my mind, just try to use it as motivation."

AROUND THE LEAGUE

• If not for the Pac-12's terrible opening Saturday -- I'm looking at you, Oregon State -- the Big 12 would be under a media microscope for posting a very underwhelming undefeated (so far) weekend. Kansas State and Iowa State are both lucky to have escaped with wins over Eastern Kentucky and Northern Iowa, Missouri looked uninspiring against Miami (OH), Oklahoma State had a sloppy romp over Louisiana-Lafayette, Tech trailed at the half to Texas State and Texas had a slow start of its own.

• Robert Griffin is a star. Called it.

• Speaking of Baylor, Phil Bennett's debut in Waco was pretty ugly. A TCU offense with a lot of new faces -- running back Ed Wesley missed most of the game due to injury -- rolled up 466 yards of offense and scored 48 points. There's no doubting the potency of the Bears' offense, but scoring points wasn't their problem in 2010.

• Consider me underwhelmed with James Franklin. The Tigers returned practically everyone on offense -- granted, left tackle Elvis Fisher is out with an injury -- yet Franklin barely topped 200 yards of total offense. Of course, since Tech doesn't play Missouri until November, Franklin will likely be much improved by the time he faces the Red Raiders.



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