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Numbers don't add up at Texas Tech

12:22 AM CDT on Tuesday, September 9, 2008

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Everything was supposed to be different this season at Texas Tech, especially the defense.

After two weeks, the Red Raiders rank a less-than-intimidating 95th in the NCAA total defense stats, which sure seems like more of the same.

Maybe there's more to the story than the numbers. How else to explain the contingent of Tech fans chanting "DEE-fense, DEE-fense," as the Red Raiders left Nevada's Mackay Stadium late Saturday night?

While Tech's defense might have yielded 488 yards, it helped deliver a win.

Tech is 2-0, ranked 12th by the AP and a good bet to be undefeated going into Big 12 play Oct. 4 at Kansas State, with all due respect to the challenge SMU presents this week.

Texas Tech's Jake Ratliff (left) and Jamar Wall close in on Nevada's Chris Wellington in Saturday's game.

History says what happened in Reno represents something new for the Red Raiders, despite the mixed reviews.

Three times in his Tech career, Graham Harrell has completed less than 60 percent of his passes as a starter. The Nevada game marked the first time Tech had managed to overcome that kind of performance by their quarterback and exit with a win.

The defense also overcame the downside of coach Mike Leach's outside-the-box thinking.

Tech went for fourth-and-1 at its 30 on its first possession and failed.

Again, that usually signaled the red alert claxon for the Red Raiders.

In this case, the defense held Nevada to a field goal and signaled a trend. The Wolf Pack penetrated the Texas Tech 20 five times in the game and registered only nine points from those trips.

"A lot of people underestimate their defense," Nevada coach Chris Ault said.

Essentially, the defense survived a problematic road game and their head coach's instincts on a bad day, something that has plagued Tech in the past.

For Leach, it was the equivalent of hitting on 18 in blackjack, one of the favorite pastimes in Reno.

"I thought I gambled stupid," Leach said. "Being in Reno, I guess I got the bug. I was stuck in a hotel where you don't have any clocks, and they were pumping oxygen in there."

Nobody is claiming the Red Raiders are anywhere close to the product people thought defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill would devise. He has developed playmakers, despite the tons of yardage allowed.

Sophomore linebacker Bront Bird was credited with 14 tackles (12 solos) and a sack against Nevada, and looks – maybe just a little – like a poor man's Rocky Calmus.

Junior Brandon Williams of Fort Worth South Hills has three sacks through two games, and McKinner Dixon has added two.

Call it a work in progress, as most coaches would.

Or invoke evolutionary theory, as probably only Leach would. He started at the point just after Earth cooled and everybody played in the Pangaea super conference.

"We started out as a lightning strike," Leach said. "Then we became a beetle and then it became an ape. We're trying to ensure that they [the defense] don't evolve too far because they begin to lose their edge. I thought it was pretty good. I need them to play a bit more aggressive."


(Rank, team, previous ranking, overall record and Big 12 record)

1. Oklahoma, 1 (2-0, 0-0)

2. Missouri, 2 (2-0, 0-0): Against Championship Subdivision member Southeast Missouri State, Southlake Carroll product Chase Daniel and the Missouri offense produced remarkable numbers. Daniel played five series and led the offense to five TDs, throwing for three. Those 35 points were produced in 9:35 of possession time

3. Texas, 3 (2-0, 0-0)

4. Kansas, 4 (2-0, 0-0): The Jayhawks get a chance to silence skeptics this week on national TV. Probably no 12-win BCS conference member engendered as much skepticism as the Jayhawks last season – because of their strength of schedule. Now, QB Todd Reesing (76.7 completion percentage) & Co. face Big East contender South Florida in Tampa on Friday.

5. Oklahoma State, 6 (2-0, 0-0)

6. Texas Tech, 5 (2-0, 0-0)

7. Nebraska, 8 (2-0, 0-0)

8. Colorado, 7 (2-0, 0-0)

9. Kansas State, 9 (2-0, 0-0)

10. Texas A&M, 10 (1-1, 0-0)

11. Iowa State, 11 (2-0, 0-0)

12. Baylor, 12 (1-1, 0-0)

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