Texas Tech coaches and players remain confident their usual high-scoring offense will show up when it matters. For now, no one seems to mind seeing the defensive players build confidence.
They more than held their own for the second spring football scrimmage in a row.
The Red Raiders went at it for 108 plays Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium, and there were no touchdowns until the 80th play. For the second week in a row, the only touchdowns came on drives that started in plus territory.
“It’s not a secret we were bad on defense last year,” Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said, “and we’ve got to get a lot better or it’s not going to get any better in the win column. You can’t win on offense. You’ve got to play defense. It’s good to see them step up.”
Quarterbacks Seth Doege and Michael Brewer each threw for a little more than 200 yards, but had trouble turning yards into points. The Red Raiders stalled often in scoring position, which led to Ryan Bustin making six field goals in nine chances.
Ronnie Daniels turned some hard runs into 83 yards, and flanker Bradley Marquez caught eight passes for 90 yards. But a slew of penalties kept derailing drives.
“I think we definitely took a step forward as an offense,” Doege said. “We moved the ball well. We didn’t finish in the red zone like we wanted to. All we need to do is eliminate the penalties, but we’re getting better every day.”
In an 85-play scrimmage last week, the offense scored three touchdowns — two on red-zone sequences that started at the plus-20-yard line and the other on a series from the plus-40. This time, they punched it in only while working red-zone sequences from the plus-25.
Daniels caught Doege’s check-down pass into the left flat and turned it into a 15-yard touchdown. Brewer flipped a 7-yard TD pass to Aaron Fisher, and Kenny Williams went in from 3 yards.
Those scores came after the offense repeatedly settled for field goals.
“We just weren’t very physical today, for some reason, on offense,” Tuberville said. “The defense challenged them coming out of practice on Tuesday, and the offense kind of spit the bit, so to speak. They did a little bit better, I guess, the last 20, 30 percent of the practice, but the first part of the practice was all defense.”
Doege led the opening series from his own 20 to the plus-33, but then came back-to-back penalties and the first of Bustin’s three field goals longer than 40 yards. Cornerback Jeremy Reynolds blew up a swing pass on a three-and-out second series.
As the scrimmage progressed, defensive linemen made some timely plays deep in their own end. Defensive end Dartwan Bush batted a pass. Defensive tackle Lee Adams and ends Leon Mackey and Jackson Richards all broke into the pocket to get third-down plays whistled dead.
Yet another field goal came after safety J.J. Gaines stopped receiver Jakeem Grant for a 1-yard gain on third-and-4 from the 26.
The defense’s success notwithstanding, it’s worth noting again that the offense is without running backs Eric Stephens and DeAndre Washington and receivers Alex Torres, Eric Ward and Marcus Kennard.
But linebacker Terrance Bullitt said Red Raiders defenders need to have some success and carry themselves with confidence.
“We have to have something,” said Bullitt, who is limited to non-contact work after offseason shoulder surgery. “Last year, our defense was bad. That’s just how it is. We have to do something. Our attitude has to be different.”
Tuberville said the Red Raiders seem to have improved in coverage, playing the run and limiting missed assignments while they learn from new defensive coordinator Art Kaufman. They threw in more coverages and blitzes Saturday than they used in the first scrimmage.
“Mentally, it looks like they’re much further than I ever thought they’d be after eight practices,” Tuberville said. “It’s good to see that. If we can make that much improvement in the next seven, we’ll be off and running to make this defense a lot better. The jury’s still out.”
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TEXAS TECH SCRIMMAGE
at Jones AT&T Stadium
FG Bustin 46
FG Bustin 39
FG Bustin 27
FG Bustin 37
FG Bustin 42
Daniels 15 pass from Doege (Bustin kick)
Fisher 7 pass from Brewer (Bustin kick)
K.Williams 3 run (Bustin kick)
FG Bustin 46
RUSHING: Daniels 12-83, K.Williams 9-35, Foster 3-1, Brewer 7-(-8), Costilla 1-(-9), Doege 5-(-20).
PASSING: Brewer 24-33-0—227, Doege 16-27-1—215.
RECEIVING: Marquez 8-90, Amaro 5-56, T.Williams 4-45, Daniels 3-46, Davis 3-31, Grant 3-20, Foster 3-10, Fisher 2-38, Moore 2-21, Bell 2-19, Edwards 2-18, Ontiveros 1-33, K.Williams 1-10, J.McRoy 1-5.