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Defense curtails offense in Texas Tech spring game

'D' takes advantage of scoring system for 34-28 victory

Posted: April 21, 2013 - 12:34am
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Masked Rider Corey Waggoner rides Fearless Champion during the Texas Tech Spring Game in Lubbock Saturday. (Stephen Spillman)
Masked Rider Corey Waggoner rides Fearless Champion during the Texas Tech Spring Game in Lubbock Saturday. (Stephen Spillman)
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In all the hubbub Texas Tech generated with the hiring of Kliff Kingsbury as head coach, one group might have felt overlooked: the Tech defense.

That unit made its presence felt before a record crowd at the spring game.

Rewarded with points for achievements such as turnovers, sacks, missed field goals and three-and-outs, the defense defeated the offense 34-28 Saturday in the ender to a month of Red Raiders spring practice. Repeatedly bowing up at key times, the defense rolled out to a 23-0 lead as an announced crowd of 16,116 looked on at Jones AT&T Stadium.

Key weapons such as Eric Ward, Bradley Marquez and DeAndre Washington were held out of the scrimmage. The defense showed resolve nevertheless.

“We wanted to see guys step up and make plays in the red zone and we weren’t making plays,” Kingsbury said. “To the defense’s credit, they buckled down and stopped us. We had a bunch of our playmakers out, and the defense stepped up and shut us down, predominately in the first half. It’s good to see them play that way.”

The defense didn’t score any touchdowns, but a scoring system in place for the game credited them three points apiece for turnovers, missed field goals and fourth-down stops, two points for a sack and one point for a three-and-out. That made for a competitive game as it turned out.

“It felt good knowing that we were not just playing to get off the field, knowing that they were going to (keep) score and see how we progressed since last season,” said strong safety J. J. Gaines, who made an interception. “It was pretty cool having a scoring system.”

Michael Brewer completed 26 of 43 passes for 282 yards, and Davis Webb was good on 17 of 30 for 224 yards. However, the offense didn’t cash in any chances until Brewer’s 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jace Amaro narrowed the gap to 23-7 just before intermission.

Six times in the first half, the defense was credited with points for stopping the offense in plus territory. Part of the offense’s failure to cash in stemmed from kicker Ryan Bustin missing three field goals shorter than 40 yards.

Defensive end Dartwan Bush and outside linebacker Chris Payne broke up third-down passes deep in the defense’s end, and Bush and safety Austin Stewart crunched Kenny Williams for no gain on a fourth-and-1 from the 5.

On the first series of the second half, walk-on defensive tackle Jordan Hamilton caused a Quinton White fumble and Stewart recovered at the defense’s 6.

“That’s (a result) of just playing hard. Don’t stop until they cross that goal line,” said end-outside linebacker Pete Robertson, who logged six tackles and a sack. “We’ve got this trend on defense where we never give up, playing a hundred percent. We’re attacking everything like lions.”

In all three spring scrimmages that were open to the public, defenders deflected several passes around the line of scrimmage. Linebacker Will Smith and defensive end Chris Knighton also batted passes, Smith’s coming on a third-and-3.

From day one, Kingsbury has harped on improving a defense that ranked next-to-last in the nation in turnovers gained.

“Coaches preach every day: Get four turnovers a practice or more,” Payne said. “With that, you try to get ball disruptions and stuff like that — a lot of pass deflections and INTs or strip-fumbles and stuff like that. We try to emphasize four turnovers each practice.”

All the successes by the defense meant the Goin’ Band from Raiderland was having a quiet afternoon — at least until late in the game. The score was 31-7 defense before Derreck Edwards scored on an 83-yard touchdown pass from Webb with 3:44 left in the third quarter.

Edwards ran a fly pattern, beat his man for the catch around midfield and took it on in.

In the fourth quarter, Brewer threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jakeem Grant at the 7:25 mark and third-team quarterback Clayton Nicholas found Brent Mitcham for a 17-yard TD pass with 1:36 to go.

Nicholas had the offense hurrying downfield again in the final minute, but walk-on cornerback Dawson Gamble swiped Nicholas’ pass into the end zone as time expired.

With the game being televised, defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt didn’t want to reveal much of the Red Raiders’ defensive package. He played only one defensive front and a few coverages.

Wallerstedt said he was glad to see “the guys go out and execute and be as aggressive as we played within the scheme and have as much success without having to scheme.”

“We addressed that going into this game,” Wallerstedt said. “We just wanted to see guys run and hit, play your assignment, be aggressive, play with emotion and take the football away. I think we accomplished those things.”

TEXAS TECH SPRING GAME

at Jones AT&T Stadium

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: Williams 16-68, White 14-62, Hall 8-46, Nicholas 3-17, Brewer 5-5, Talbott 2-5, Grant 1-3, Foster 1-(-1), Webb 3-(-43).

PASSING: Brewer 26-43-0—282, Webb 17-30-1—224, Nicholas 8-10-1—99.

RECEIVING: Amaro 11-80, Mitcham 8-98, Pearson 6-60, White 5-33, Grant 4-26, Edwards 3-101, Davis 3-43, Fisher 3-24, Corker 2-74, Williams 2-23, Foster 1-19, Blakemore 1-21, Hall 1-7, Davis 1-5.

don.williams@lubbockonline.com

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I like seeing the defense do well.

Confidence (or swagger, as some prefer) is a wonderful thing.

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