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Wallerstedt, returning Raiders take a crack at slowing Kansas run game

Jayhawks' 390-yard rushing performance fresh on Tech minds

Posted: October 1, 2013 - 10:28pm  |  Updated: October 2, 2013 - 12:26am
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Texas Tech will be tasked with slowing down a Kansas rushing game that racked up 390 yards last season in Lubbock. (Zach Long)  Zach Long
Zach Long
Texas Tech will be tasked with slowing down a Kansas rushing game that racked up 390 yards last season in Lubbock. (Zach Long)
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Matt Wallerstedt wasn’t even coaching at Texas Tech last year, which an outsider might not guess by listening to him this week. The team’s new defensive coordinator has been saying “we” and “us” a lot, almost taking ownership of the Red Raiders’ lousy defensive performance last year against Kansas.

Wallerstedt wasn’t present for Tech’s 41-34 double-overtime victory, but he’s seen it more than enough on tape.

“KU came in here and ran it for 390 yards against us,” Wallerstedt said. “(It was) kind of an embarrassing performance, watching what we were putting on tape last year. We really have been stressing we’ve got to stop their run game.”

No. 20 Tech visits KU at 11 a.m. Saturday, a good litmus test to show whether the Red Raiders’ perceived defensive improvement is legitimate. After all, the cast of characters is largely the same. The Jayhawks still have Tony Pierson, who ran for 202 rushing yards last year in Lubbock, and James Sims, who added 127 — his sixth straight 100-yard performance at the time.

Tech has virtually the same personnel in the front seven, but the Red Raiders look a lot different in scheme and style of play.

Linebacker Blake Dees says Wallerstedt will make more adjustments than Tech defenses of the recent past have.

“We’re not just in a 4-3,” Dees said, referring to the team’s base defense in 2012. “We’ve got all kinds of fronts and looks that they can’t sit there and beat us in one look, because we have multiple fronts. They’re going to have to adjust just as well as we do, and I think that’s going to be a big aspect.”

Kansas has a 21-game losing streak in Big 12 games, a tailspin that nearly ended last November thanks to Tech’s incredibly bad rushing defense. KU broke off runs for 49, 69 and 44 yards as well as 10 runs between 10 and 18 yards.

How did that happen?

“We just didn’t play as aggressive as I think you need to play,” Wallerstedt said. “Just technique maybe with the front. I know (new defensive line coach) John Scott’s done a great job with our guys this year, and I know what we inherited. I know how maybe they went about business last year. I just think 390 yards is a lot of yards, for anybody to do that.”

Tech took a 41-34 lead by scoring first in the second overtime. Shortly thereafter, Dees made the defensive play of the game.

With KU looking at third-and-5 from the Tech 20-yard line, Dees saw Pierson come in motion and diagnosed the option pitch the Jayhawks had run so well. He bolted from the box to the perimeter and nailed Pierson, the pitch man, for a 4-yard loss.

Then D.J. Johnson’s pass breakup on fourth-and-9 ended the game.

“When I saw him motioning, I adjusted myself out of the box and I kind of went downhill because I knew he was going to pitch to No. 3 (Pierson),” Dees recalled. “I just shot toward him, and (the play) landed in my lap.”

Tech is ranked No. 32 in the nation in rushing defense this season. Wallerstedt said his goal is to allow no more than 3.3 yards per carry, a standard the Red Raiders have met in three of their first four games. The Red Raiders gave up 4.7 yards per carry to TCU, allowing 101 rushing yards by quarterback Trevone Boykin.

“But overall, I think our guys are overlapping mistakes by playing physical and violent and playing hard,” Wallerstedt said.

Kansas wore out Tech with the speed option last year. Dees said he expects less of that, because the Jayhawks have been using more pass-oriented Jake Heaps at quarterback rather than option-oriented Michael Cummings, who was at the controls last year.

This time, the challenge might be more between the tackles than on the edge.

“I think they’re going to try to pound it up the middle and see if we can stop the run,” Dees said, “because of the big yards they had last year on us.”



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College football

Who: Texas Tech at Kansas

When: 11 a.m. Saturday

Where: Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, Kan.

Records: Texas Tech 4-0, 1-0 in the Big 12; Kansas 2-1, 0-0.

Rankings: Texas Tech No. 20 in The Associated Press Top 25, No. 22 in the USA Today coaches poll. Kansas unranked.

Last game: Texas Tech 33, Texas State 7; Kansas 13, Louisiana Tech 10.

Last meeting: Tech 41, Kansas 34 (2OT) last year in Lubbock.

TV: Fox Sports 1 (Suddenlink Cable channel 51)

Line: Tech by 17

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Stop the run!!

Kansas will run up the middle. SMU, TCU and Texas State scored running up the middle and they were long runs as well. That is the main concern with this defense. We are a lot better than last year and I think we will be ready for it. This is the best DC we've had since Greg McMackin (2000 - 2002) was here.

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