Texas Tech safeties coach Trey Haverty said Wednesday his players had an OK first game, but with plenty of room for improvement. SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert passed for 388 yards in Tech’s 41-23 victory Friday, though 149 of that came in the fourth quarter.
Haverty inherited mostly young players, except senior free safety Tre Porter.
“The best thing they did was not let the ball over their head,” Haverty said. “There were a lot of mistakes made that the regular people didn’t necessarily see. Not a bad first appearance, but definitely not where we need to be.”
Porter was credited with five tackles and two assists. Sophomore strong safety J.J. Gaines had three tackles in his first career start.
After Tech took a 41-16 lead in the fourth quarter, freshmen safeties Keenon Ward from Snyder and Tanner Jacobson from Southlake Carroll played the last two series.
“Tanner was solid,” Haverty said. “Keenon is hard on himself like I am. He’ll tell you that he’s got to play a little bit better. He knows that. For a first game, it wasn’t bad, but we’ve got to get better.”
Tech faces Stephen F. Austin at 6 p.m. Saturday, and though the Red Raiders haven’t faced the Lumberjacks since 2001, the preparation’s made easier because they’ve seen teams with similar offenses.
SFA’s quarterbacks coach and passing-game coordinator is Landon Hoefer, a former Tech player during the Mike Leach era. Hoefer worked on staff with Ruffin McNeill and Lincoln Riley at East Carolina and spent last season with Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia. All those coaches were with Leach at Tech.
“We’ve seen all the stuff they’re going to throw at us,” Tech co-defensive coordinator Mike Smith said. “We’ve just got to line up and do our job and everything will be fine.”
Weapons to be wary of
Though Stephen F. Austin finished 5-6 last season, the Lumberjacks boast some of the top skill-position players in the Southland Conference. Senior quarterback Brady Attaway led the league last season in completed passes (334), passing yards (3,671) and touchdown passes (29).
“Great quarterback,” Tech co-defensive coordinator Mike Smith said. “He has a great arm. He has a quick release. He throws for a bunch of yards.”
Attaway is from Whitehouse, the school from which Tech signed receiver Dylan Cantrell in February and has a commitment from quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
SFA running back Gus Johnson, from Gilmer, was all-SLC last season after he rushed for 954 yards and 14 touchdowns. Johnson picked up where he left off with 24 carries, 110 yards and a touchdown Saturday in a 50-40 loss to Weber State.
“I really like the running back,” Smith said. “He’s 5-10, 215. He runs hard. You can’t arm tackle him. You’ve got to bring your feet and swarm tackle him.”
Top receiver D.J. Ward caught 62 passes for 762 yards and four touchdowns a year ago. Ward and Mike Brooks caught nine passes apiece last week, Brooks for 166 yards and two TDs and Ward for 132 yards and a TD.
Brooks played at Irving MacArthur, in the same district with Tech strong safety J.J. Gaines, who starred at Irving Nimitz.
Compiled by Don Williams