Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville grew weary last season of reviewing in seemingly every post-game news conference how his defense got manhandled.
If the first spring football scrimmage is any indication, maybe he’ll have to do it less next season.
The Red Raiders scrimmaged for 85 plays Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium, scored three touchdowns and two of those were in red-zone sequences; in other words, on drives that started at the plus-20-yard line. The other was on a drive from the plus-40.
At least that’s a starting point for a defense still smarting from all those triple-digit rankings in 2011.
“We can’t do anything but go up,” Tuberville said, “but we’ll go way up. I like the temperament of our defense. They were embarrassed last year. It wasn’t a lot their fault. It’s just we weren’t able to stop the run, so we’ve been really focusing on playing run technique with our defensive front and linebackers the first five (practices).
“It looked like the offense was a little rusty, and the defense was a little bit more prepared.”
Cornerback Jarvis Phillips and linebacker Will Smith both intercepted starting quarterback Seth Doege. On third-and-3 plays, safety Tre Porter broke up a pass and safety Cody Davis and defensive tackle Delvon Simmons teamed for a tackle behind the line. Defensive tackle Dennell Wesley and linebacker Daniel Cobb combined for a stop in the backfield on a third-and-1, and linebacker Blake Dees broke up a fourth-down pass at the goal line and had a tackle for loss.
Tuberville said the defensive line play looked improved from the end of last season, but coverage was the area that impressed him most.
“I saw a lot of balls knocked down on the outside by corners,” he said. “The thing I think everybody recognized, we were a lot closer to receivers in most situations than we have been in the past. We were able to break on the ball, knock the ball down, and it looked like we challenged receivers a lot more, which was good.”
They did it without the pass rush getting any extra help. By design, Tech coaches looked at blitzes for the first 10 plays and then did without them thereafter.
Tuberville challenged the Red Raiders’ cornerbacks in the offseason, both by recruiting a lot of new ones and offering the veterans few assurances. Maybe that’ll lead to something positive.
Early in the scrimmage, Phillips jumped an out route to steal Doege’s pass for Jakeem Grant. Later in the day, redshirt freshman corner Jeremy Reynolds blew up a screen pass to Ronnie Daniels for a 7-yard loss.
“I was impressed defensively with how we played our zone and man coverage,” Tuberville said. “It was pretty impressive for the first scrimmage.”
One of the head turners on offense was JC transfer SaDale Foster, who was the scrimmage’s leading rusher and second-leading receiver. The 5-foot-8, 190-pound running back flashed quickness as he bounced outside for a 25-yard touchdown and toughness as he barged through a wall of three defenders and ran another dozen yards on a 23-yard gain.
Foster’s touchdown was the first of the day. Late in the scrimmage, the offense scored twice in the red-zone sequences: Darrin Moore caught a fade-pattern pass from Doege for an 8-yard touchdown, and tight end Jace Amaro snagged a 10-yard TD from Michael Brewer, making up for dropping an earlier pass that hit him right in the hands.
Brewer finished with 71 yards on 13-for-16 passing, and Doege finished with 70 yards on 10-for-25 passing.
Sophomore kicker Ryan Bustin, the heir apparent to Donnie Carona, made a field goal from 41 yards and was just short from 57 yards.
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TEXAS TECH SCRIMMAGE
at Jones AT&T Stadium
FG Bustin 41
Foster 25 run
Moore 8 pass from Doege
Amaro 10 pass from Brewer
RUSHING: Foster 7-59, Daniels 9-46, K.Williams 12-26, J.McRoy 1-(-1), Doege 6-(-3), Brewer 3-(-4), team 1-(-3).
PASSING: Brewer 13-16-0—71, Doege 10-25-2—70, Costilla 2-3-0-(-9).
RECEIVING: Moore 6-38, Foster 4-24, T.Williams 4-18, Fisher 3-24, Amaro 3-23, Edwards 2-5, Daniels 2-(-9), Grant 1-9.