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September 16, 2013

Notebook: Positive momentum

The Red Raiders didn't take too kindly to how Texas State handled its big win against Houston to open the 2012 season.

Texas Tech had turned in a flashy season debut against Northwestern State on the heels of a very disappointing season. Maybe the Bobcats smelled blood. They certainly let the squad from Lubbock know their feelings leading up to the debut of their overhauled stadium and the largest crowd in San Marcos history.

The 2012 meeting between Tech and Texas State was over by halftime in a convincing win for the Red Raiders.

"It didn't matter who was going to be out there, all the smack they talked this week," linebacker Terrance Bullitt said immediately after the game a year ago. "To me, I wish we could've bust the clock to be honest because it was disrespectful how they were to us. We just responded, we didn't say anything all week. Now that we won and we showed them we're in the Big 12 so if you're going to come play us you've got to put your big boy pants on."

Things seem much more neutral in this third go around with the Bobcats in three years.

It's part of head coach Kliff Kingsbury's mantra to treat every opponent with respect. A mantra that has helped the Red Raiders out to the No. 25 ranking in just three weeks.

"I would say it's blown over," receiver Bradley Marquez said. "It's a new team now. It's two in-state teams. We've enjoyed playing them the past two years and hopefully it continues to grow. As far as holding anything in from last year, it's a new season."

Texas State (2-0) has done some nice things during Dennis Franchione's two-year and counting tenure, and that doesn't come as a surprise.

Coach Fran's Division I head coaching career began in San Marcos back in 1990, and the Bobcats became a very successful Division I-AA team. He jumped to New Mexico in 1992 and TCU in 1998 where he laid the groundwork for both programs to become respectable opponents.

The coach is back and helping Texas State become a formidable opponent in the FBS. It got Southern Miss to start the season and followed up that win with a 28-3 win last week against Prairie View A&M.

"Going up against them in years past helps because you're familiar with their personnel and their scheme," co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie said. "It's a little bit different up front than it has been in years past, but ultimately it's about having a good week of preparation and executing."

The Red Raiders, meanwhile, made a statement of their own by keeping TCU at bay in 11 of its 13 drives last week.

It's something that has the entire team optimistic going forward.

Defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt said the unit is on its way toward changing the perception of what a Tech team looks like.

"We don't care what the history has been here, defensively," Wallerstedt said. "We want to set the tone for not only this year but for the future of this program."

At the same time, Wallerstedt still sees things he doesn't like.

The Red Raiders blew coverages a few times against the Horned Frogs, and there's always room for improvement. Especially against the somewhat foreign option game Texas State runs on a schedule otherwise full of passing opponents.

"It's going to be disciplined football," the defensive coordinator said. "Option, read-zone option, the fly sweeps, the orbits. You name it, they're going to present it to us. We've got to play with good eye control for the majority of the game like we did against TCU."

Once again, the message to the players is to play smart and play to their full potential.

The staff hasn't had any problems with that yet. They remind the Tech players even though they're ranked right now they were picked eighth in the Big 12 preseason poll.

Kingsbury said, if the preseason scorn wasn't enough to keep the Red Raiders level headed, there is an open invitation to leave the program if players are content at 3-0.

"I don't even pay attention to (rankings)," Kingsbury said. "It is what it is. We just attack each week, try to get better that week and try to win that game. That's really where we're at."

Defensive momentum

There are winds of change outside the vacuum that is the Tech football training facility.

The team made a statement to other Big 12 teams with a quality win against TCU on national TV. Suddenly, the Red Raiders are predicted to start the season at least 7-0 with a defense that was overlooked.

"It felt good to see we put together a real team win like that," defensive tackle Kerry Hyder said. "Everybody played their part from secondary to linebackers to D-line. It felt great to put together a win like that."

Cumbie is a big fan of what has been done on defense.

"Our scheme is really good and our guys have bought in," he said. "I think that one of the things about being with lots of different coordinators over the past few years is they're able to pick up the next one. They've done that. They're able to show a little bit more than in years past.

"The main thing is the guys are playing hard. This team is as good as they want to be."

Gray uniforms

Tech debuted an all-gray uniform Thursday against TCU that drew both praise and criticism.

Some fans didn't see the point in dressing in black when the team showed up in gray while the traditionalists want the squad to wear school colors at all times.

Recruit feedback, however, was extremely positive.

With two free days to kill, the coaching staff went out recruiting. Uniforms were a topic players brought up after seeing the game.

"I think from a uniform standpoint, you've gotta have something that just catches their eye," Cumbie said. "It's hip. They're able to identify with it. I think the uniform combination we wore Thursday had great reviews from the kids we're recruiting and kids who are committed.

"It's a sign of the times. It's what kids like. We just try to stay ahead of the curve and give them some neat things to come here and wear. It separates us as a program."







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