With Texas State using an option rushing game that can be dangerous, Texas Tech will need run support today from Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson.
That’s OK, because last week the senior safeties showed they can provide it.
Tech (1-0), which squares off with Texas State (1-0) at 6 p.m. today in San Marcos, opened the season beating Northwestern State 44-6. Among the standouts in that game were the Red Raiders’ two safeties. Davis made nine tackles and was the coaches’ choice as the Red Raiders’ defensive player of the game. Johnson had a sack and another tackle for loss.
The reasons for their stellar play?
“I would have to say confidence,” Davis said this week. “Coach (Art) Kaufman coming here — I’ve probably said it before — but him coming in, setting the standards high and then letting us play.
“You’ve seen the excitement out on the field now from game one. It’s a different atmosphere for the defense and a different feel. We really rallied around him and went out there and played our best.”
Texas State’s an 18-point underdog. Other than expecting a sellout in a newly expanded stadium, the Bobcats have some reason for optimism.
They hung 256 rushing yards on Tech last year in Lubbock, losing 50-10 but leading 10-9 at halftime. They’re coming off a 30-13 upset of Houston in which running back Marcus Curry, a senior from Lewisville Hebron, ran for a career-high 131 yards and scored three touchdowns.
Though Curry had the hot hand that night, his backup, sophomore Terrence Franks is the team’s top returning rusher with 863 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011.
Texas State quarterback Shaun Rutherford, a senior from Bay City, isn’t the same style as a lot of passers Tech sees in the Big 12 Conference.
“I think the triple option and things like that are really different for us,” Davis said. “They really spread you out on the dive, the quarterback (keeper), the pitch. Not all 11 people are going to be chasing the ball, so we have to be really technique-oriented.”
Though Tech outclassed Northwestern State in talent, the Red Raiders were sound last week, allowing no rushing play longer than 7 yards and 13 rushing yards altogether.
Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said Davis played his best game in Tuberville’s 26-game tenure. Tech’s safeties didn’t merely pile up tackles — they made a lot at the point of attack. Davis stopped running plays for 3, 2, 2 and minus-1 yard.
In the first quarter, Johnson read off a Demons guard and tackle, correctly diagnosed a run play, and swooped in for a tackle in the backfield. Late in the game, the Demons had a first down at the Tech 19.
Kaufman, the Red Raiders’ new defensive coordinator, called a blitz for Johnson and he got the sack.
“The DBs did a great job by making him hesitate, making him pump fake,” Johnson said. “The linebackers and the D-line hit their gaps the right way, and I was able to come free.”
The Red Raiders would love it if their safeties could make half a dozen plays around the line of scrimmage every game. Maybe it’s the result of blending two DBs with ample experience with a defense that’s been easy for both to grasp.
“I think part of it is the simplicity of the defense,” Davis said. “We get the call and we know what we’re going to do. The second part is our experience reading the offense — coming downhill when it’s a run and dropping back when it’s a pass. We’re getting our reads fast and making a decision.”
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