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September 22, 2013

Notebook: Defense leads Tech to victory

Kingsbury happy with defense, knows offense needs some work


We're officially a third of the way through college football season, and the Red Raiders are 4-0. Those four victories have not arrived without a few bumps in the road, including some tough stretches for the Tech offense.

The Red Raider offense, and true freshman quarterbacks, sputtered at times on Saturday night, but Kliff Kingsbury's squad was able to put up points in the second half, leading to a 33-7 win over Texas State. The first year head coach is extremely happy that the defense has been so stout early on this year, and he knows the offense has some slack to pick up in the coming weeks.

"Two weeks in a row, they've carried us. A bunch of really good players and veteran leadership. They've done a great job the first four weeks, really, of leading this team, so hopefully they can keep building on that, and the offense needs to catch up."

Both true freshman quarterbacks, Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield, played extensively on Saturday night, Webb finishing 19 for 43 with 310 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions, and Mayfield ending things by going 14 for 20 with 124 passing yards and one interception.

Kingsbury felt that both signal players had average performances, and he understands the growing pains that come with young QBs.

"Davis came in and played OK. Baker played OK. We've got to get a lot better at that position overall, but I told them both that they're both probably going to play the rest of the year, and we'll figure it out. But, you get a win with two true freshman quarterbacks who made some good plays, made some bad, and that's what you get early on, but we'll continue to get better there."

Mayfield was pulled from the game early in the second quarter after a shaky start, and Davis Webb played the rest of the game, only being pulled late in the fourth quarter. Mayfield also seemed to be limping around a bit when he left the game, leading to speculation as to whether he was pulled do to performance or injury.

Kingsbury said that both issues contributed to him being removed from the game and noted that he was confident that Davis Webb could come in and lead the team, too.

"It was a little of both. He got banged up and hit on his back, so like I said, I feel like Davis can lead us at any point. They're both going to be playing, so Davis went in, made a couple of good throws and some bad ones, but overall that position has to get better, and it will. They get a bye week to get a bunch of reps in, and then a road game, but we'll see where we're at."

It looks like sophomore QB Michael Brewer may get healthy in time for the Kansas game, so it looks like the starting quarterback race is still up in the air. Kingsbury said they'll evaluate things over the next two weeks with the coming bye week, and he's going to play the best quarterback.

"We'll see. I'm glad we have the bye week to think it over. As coaches, we'll sit down and talk it over, and we'll play whoever gives us the best chance to win Baker's 4-0 as a starter, so we'll see how it goes."

As far as Brewer's exact status, the former Tech signal caller said that he's not exactly sure when to expect the elder quarterback to return, but he does know that he's getting better.

"I don't know. Every day they give me a new update, and he's come a long way from where he was, but I still don't have a timetable exactly."


Marquez wants more redzone touchdowns


Junior receiver Bradley Marquez had another good outing on Saturday night, finishing the contest with 84 yards and a touchdown on six receptions.

Things weren't going very well early on in the third quarter, however, as Tech held only a 13-7 lead after Texas State scored their first touchdown of the game on a 49 yard touchdown run. The Red Raiders needed to come up with a big score, and they certainly did, as Eric Ward caught a 4 yard touchdown pass in the Northwest corner of the endzone shortly after to put Tech up 20-7.

Marquez had a huge 39 yard reception on the drive that landed Tech on Texas State's five yard line, and the two-sport star knew it was a huge drive for the Red Raiders.

"We knew we had to answer back. We hadn't been doing a very good job the whole game as an offense, and the defense had been bailing us out time and time again, so we knew it was our time to get that momentum kind of back on our side, so that drive was really big for us to get that momentum back and some points, so it was definitely big."

Tech put up 33 points on the night, but they were also stopped on fourth down and kicked three field goals inside the redzone, essentially leaving a minimum of 12 points on the field. Marquez was frustrated with the offenses shortcomings inside the 20s, and he knows that things have to get better.

"We definitely left a lot. We didn't finish in the redzone. We pride ourselves in that, and we can't be settling for field goals. Granted, Bustin did a great job tying the school record. He's definitely a good person to be able to have in your corner and to be able to put it through the uprights, but as an offense, we need to finish it out in the redzone when we're close like that. So, I feel like we left a lot out there. The first half was definitely not our game, and the defense just played their hearts out today."


Ward makes key play, breaks into top 10 for receptions

Senior wide receiver Eric Ward was able to make a few key plays against Texas State after finishing with zero catches against TCU a week ago, catching four balls for 35 yards and a touchdown. The big touchdown catch in the third quarter helped put the Red Raiders up 20-7 and regain the momentum, but Ward actually had a hard time seeing the ball.

He lost the ball in the lights of Jones AT&T Stadium when Webb threw it, but he then saw the ball for an instant, making a highlight-reel one handed catch.

"I really couldn't see the ball to be honest with you. The lights in the stadium are so bright at nighttime, but when it came out of the light, I just had an instant reaction to it. I just stuck my one hand up and came down with it."

When Webb came into the game to relieve Baker Mayfield, Ward had full confidence in the true freshman. He loves the way the QB approaches the game and his attitude out on the field.

"Davis is incredible. In practice, he's always consistent, and he throws a gorgeous ball. I really like Davis and the way he plays. He really has a positive attitude no matter what the situation is, and I just look up to that guy."

Ward also pushed his way onto Texas Tech's top ten all time receptions list in Saturday night, placing himself among some very prestigious names in Red Raider football lore. The senior was very proud of the achievement, but noted that you can never be satisfied with what you've already achieved.

"It's very exciting because that's very hard to do. Top ten, you look at all the great receivers that played here, Crabtree, Amendola's, the Welker's. It's very nice to be mentioned with them in that top ten, and I always think to myself about it, steadily improve each week. It's never good to be content with anything you do in life, and I just always want to be better at everything I achieve and move forward."


Smith plays best game of career


It is not often the Texas Tech defense scores the first touchdown of the game (or at all, for that matter) but veteran linebacker Will Smith mixed it up Saturday when he picked up a loose ball and ran it nine yards into the end zone.


"It just opened up, really," Smith said. "Kerry Hyder picked it up first and we were just trying to push him in. A guy punched it out, and it was like a blessing from the skies, it just dropped right there, I just picked it up and scored."

With the offense struggling much like it did against TCU, Smith's defense was relied upon heavily, particularly in the first half.

"It was definitely a collective effort," Smith said. "We live for moments like that. So we just took that as a collective unit to make a stand right there."

Smith led the team in tackles with eight, once again putting on a display of his all-around improvement from last season.

"I just feel more relaxed," he said. "A lot of things were up tight last year. I just feel like the defense as a whole, we're all very relaxed this year so we all just fly around and if you make a mistake it's on to the next play."


Goal line stands were huge in Hyder's eyes


Hyder only recorded one tackle on the night, but it was clear the Texas State coaches made a conscious effort to avoid running at him. Hyder and his defense line came up with two big goal line stops in the first half, taking away two opportunities where the Bobcats could have taken the lead.

"It was big," he said. "The offense had a slow start, and as a defense, we take pride in the end zone and we don't want to give up any points. We were disappointed we gave up those seven points. Any time you get a chance to get a stop and get a takeaway, we're at it, we step up for the challenge."

During the first half, Hyder and the Texas Tech front seven limited the Bobcats to just nine yards on the ground, a stat he said he was impressed with.

"We played great the first half," he said. "We gave up nine rushing yards and it's a real great collective effort. We're competing with each other to get the tackle, that's why you see us swarming."


Bullitt says D just keeps getting better


Raider linebacker Terrance Bullitt continued his domination against the Bobcats, tallying three tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery in Tech's win. The senior linebacker said the team came into the game with an aggressive mentality.

"Once again, we felt like this is our game," he said. "And that's every week. That's just the mentality we have going into the game. When the offense isn't rolling like they should be, we just know we have to step up for them, we have their back."

The defense has taken strides of improvement each game, Bullitt said, but there is still work to be done.

"We're definitely improving each week, but there's also things we need to improve on," he said. "Always have room for improvement for any defense and any player on defense."

After missing time last season with a shoulder injury, Bullitt said he is grateful for the opportunity to play each snap without holding back.

"You don't know what you have until it's taken away from you," he said. "I learned that last year, had a shoulder injury, so when I step on that field, I just go all out. I have nothing left to lose, it's my senior year."


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