Notebook: How to use NASCAR

Texas Tech football had a great day of practice Wednesday.
Head coach Tommy Tuberville called the practice the best one in at least two weeks.
That's a good sign because the Red Raiders are the heavy favorites going into Saturday's game against New Mexico at Jones AT&T Stadium. On top of that, New Mexico has not provoked Tech in the ways Texas State did. The Red Raiders will have to get up for New Mexico on their own, and apparently they are.
Wednesday's practice ended with a team huddle, a lot of shouting and dancing and players were slamming sleds and tackling dummies on their way off the field.
It helped the weather in Lubbock is expected to be great from Wednesday to Saturday. Wednesday's practice was about 80 degrees, the high is supposed to be slightly cooler Thursday and the high on game day is expected to be in the mid-70s.
"Guys were jumping around, our focus was a lot better," Tuberville said. "Yesterday it was real hot, but we've still got to get something out of everyday. A little disappointed about yesterday. We're about as healthy as we've been which is good.
"Amazing things happen when you win games. Guys are excited about playing and looking forward to next week. We're still working on the little things. We worked a lot on short yardage situations on both sides of the redzone."
When and where to run the NASCAR offense
Tuberville said the Red Raiders have run their hurry up offense known as the 'NASCAR' offense about every other series to start the season.
But it's all about how the defense responds to 'NASCAR.'
"We probably get 16 to 18 series a game and I'd say about half of them," the head coach said. "It depends on how the defense plays it and our focus. Neal Brown goes on how guys are moving around, the temperature, if we're handling it pretty good and they're not.
"We're much better when we play fast. But we're only as good as we are if we focus on what we're doing. The good thing this year is we have not made a lot of mistakes when we're in 'NASCAR' so it's kind of all coming together, the run game and the pass game, you've got to play both of them when you run the 'NASCAR.'"
Eric Ward is back
Tuberville said last year's leading receiver Eric Ward will play Saturday after sitting out last week with a concussion.
"He probably could have played last week," Tuberville said, "but just for caution he didn't. When you don't practice on one day during the wekk you're going to get beat out anyway because we have too many receivers. The guys are out there busting their tail and getting the game play in and there's not a lot of drop off between one or another."
Working on special teams
Tuberville said a glaring weak point the Red Raiders have right now is the team's special teams plays.
"We haven't been holding our blocks on our returns," the head coach said. "We haven't been doing a good job of holding them up on our punt return team. We've changed returners, obviously, and that's the No. 1 sin in the kicking game. For us, you let it hit the ground -- Look what Texas State did. They let the ball hit the ground and that's one of the deals we talk about is not letting the ball hit the ground.
"It's all those little things that could cost you a possession or field position. We don't know much about our punt team because we've run it once. We're working hard on it though and I like the way it is. I'd like to keep Ryan Erxleben off the field."
Starts practicing with ones and twos, traveling, but not playing
Tuberville said defensive tackle Michael Starts is following in defensive end Branden Jackson's shoes in the sense he's getting a lot of reps in practice but the coaching staff is hoping they can redshirt him.
"We're trying to (redshirt him)," Tuberville said. "If you had a crystal ball you'd say yes. He's practicing every day with the first and second team because we get into the season and one guy goes down he'll have to play. We're probably wishing too much (that he won't play). So that's the reason we're practicing him. He could play this week depending on how things go.
"We practiced Branden quite a bit and never put him in. In hindsight, about the seventh or eighth game of the season we probably should have played Branden. But you look at him and say, 'man, what will he look like in four years?'"
Other notes
*Tuberville said Eric Stephens' knee is a little sore. He might get five carries or up to 20 carries depending on how Saturday's game goes.
*Tech is game planning for New Mexico's starting quarterback B.R. Holbrook as if he is going to play. Holbrook was injured in the Lobos' game against Texas last week and New Mexico head coach Bob Davie considers him doubtful. But Tuberville said there's not much of a difference in what New Mexico will try to do between Holbrook and backup Cole Gautsche.