AMES, Iowa — Tommy Tuberville’s staff has said for months a big difference between his Texas Tech teams from his first two years to year three is more speed on offense.
Saturday night, just a couple of bursts bailed out the Red Raiders.
In a tight defensive game, a touchdown pass to Jakeem Grant and a big yards-after-catch play by Javon Bell that set up a touchdown boosted Tech in a 24-13 victory at Iowa State.
The Red Raiders didn’t lead until late in the third quarter when a short Seth Doege-to-Darrin Moore touchdown pass and the point-after made it 14-13. But that happened only because the 6-foot, 180-pound Bell squeezed 47 yards through a tight window on a tunnel screen pass.
The junior college transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast dodged traffic around the 20-yard line, and the Cyclones didn’t knock him out of bounds until he reached the 2.
Their first two years at Tech, Tuberville and offensive coordinator Neal Brown lamented a shortage of players who could make a defense pay with just a tiny crease. Bell and Grant, the 5-6, 163-pound slot receiver, are two they think can change that.
“We had a little speed (before), but not as much,” Tuberville said. “That’s what this offense does. Javon did it and Jakeem did it, and we’re going to be able to make more big plays. The last couple of years, we wouldn’t have been able to have done that. We’d probably be talking about a different outcome.”
Offense was a struggle much of the night for the Red Raiders, but they made it to the locker room at halftime tied 7-7 thanks to one quick flash of speed. Tech had turned a first-and-goal at the 3 into third-and-goal from the 11 thanks to a sack.
Grant then ran a crossing route and, once he caught the pass, still had 10 yards and Cyclones linebacker A.J. Klein in front of him. The redshirt freshman outran one of the Big 12’s best linebackers to the pylon, diving into the end zone.
“As soon as I caught the ball, I saw him right behind me,” Grant said. “I knew he couldn’t catch me. I’m too fast for him. He’s a linebacker that weighs 258 pounds. I’m only 163 pounds, so I knew I could beat him with my speed.”
It was the second time in his first four games that Grant’s speed showed up. At Texas State, he turned a short pass into a 42-yard gain that positioned the Red Raiders for a touchdown.
This time, he changed the momentum.
“That was huge,” Tuberville said. “The Jakeem touchdown was third down and a ton. We just caught them going against the grain.”
Bell finished with five catches for 80 yards. The play he nearly scored on was one the Red Raiders used effectively last year in their 41-38 upset at Oklahoma.
“It takes everybody on the field for that screen to work,” Doege said. “It’s real easy for me and Javon. My job is to get the ball in front. His job is to run as fast as he can. If the offensive line and everybody else makes their blocks, that thing’s going to open up nice, just like it did.”
At the beginning of the week, Brown motivated the wide receivers, saying that Iowa State’s cornerbacks won the head-to-head battle against them in last year’s 41-7 Cyclones victory in Lubbock.
Eric Ward was Tech’s leading receiver in that one with five catches for 62 yards. This time, Ward went off for 122 yards on nine catches.
He was one of the few consistent players to keep drives alive until the speed kicked in.
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