While the Texas Tech football team’s season opener against Montana showcased the Red Raiders’ fast-paced offense, the game against University of Texas at El Paso highlighted Tech’s defense.
After the Red Raiders defeated UTEP 38-3, head coach Matt Wells credited the win to Tech’s defense.
“We celebrate all wins, but it was a really, really good night,” Wells said. “The whole night belonged to our defense.”
The Red Raiders defense only allowed UTEP to score three points as the Miners nailed a 45-yard field goal in the last five minutes of the game. Tech’s defense, under defensive coordinator Keith Patterson, gave up just 131 yards against the Miners.
“All the success goes to Patterson, for sure,” junior defensive lineman Eli Howard said. “As far as it being different than last year, I think (the defense is) a little bit more aggressive. I think what helps us a lot is we have a lot of experience coming back and Patterson, you know, he really knows how to get through to us and teach his scheme to us so we can play for him. But I think (the defense) is a lot more aggressive and everyone loves Patterson, so it’s really fun playing for him because he really cares about you and really wants you to be successful.”
Patterson’s new defensive scheme paid off for the Red Raiders, as the Red Raiders forced UTEP to punt 10 times, only allowing the Miners to convert on third down twice in their 15 tries.
“We seen everything they did, and so it wasn’t a surprise on the field and throughout our preparation. We saw everything that they did multiple times,” senior defensive lineman Broderick Washington Jr. said. “So, when we saw them line up in certain formations, like we already knew what was coming, so it was just the preparation, really.”
Each week, the defense has a set plan it follows in order to be well-prepared for the Red Raiders’ opponents, Howard said.
“At the beginning of the week, we just do corrections from the game, stuff that, whether it be alignments or missed assignments, whatever it is we work on that,” Howard said. “Then we build up the game plan and stuff like that and then around the game plan, we really try to see what we can attack and exploit and whatnot.”
While Tech’s defense prepares for its next opponent’s offense, Howard said practicing against the Red Raiders’ offense has helped him more than he can describe.
“The pace in practice is not legal at all,” Howard said jokingly. “They always have people spotting the ball before they even say ‘hut’ on the first play. But I think its just, you just can’t put value into that because it’s just so so valuable for us. I really appreciate it.”
As the defense has to practice at a fast-paced offense, Howard said lining up against an experienced offensive line has also helped his game.
“One thing I really appreciate is our offensive line,” Howard said. “They have like 115 starts or whatever, well more than that now, but to start the season it was like 115 starts. So, you have a lot of experience and I don’t think we’ll probably see a more experienced group all year than what we see every day in practice. Yeah, the offense is fast, but we play a really good talented group of guys as well.”
In Tech’s last two games, senior linebacker Jordyn Brooks led the team with 11 total tackles in each game. Along with his 22 total tackles, Brooks also leads the team with 10 solo tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. Junior linebacker Evan Rambo and Washington also have recorded 2.5 tackles for loss.
“I think (Brooks) pops off the tape,” Howard said. “He’s incredibly talented, and I think anyone can just, whether you know football or not, can just be like ‘Wow, that guy’s really good.’ I’ve said this a few times, pound-for-pound, he’s probably the fastest dude on the team. He’s an incredible athlete, and he’s just completely bought in right now to the scheme and to just living and breathing football, and I think it’s really paid dividends for him because he’s making a lot of plays and been a heck of a ballplayer.”
After the first two games of the season, Tech’s defense has only allowed 13 points as the Red Raiders’ offense has recorded 83 points, according to Tech Athletics. With the defense in full effect, Howard said the team takes the same approach each game as conference play will start soon.
“I think more than anything, it’s a really good basis for us,” Howard said regarding Tech’s defense in non-conference matchups. “We really try to focus on what we can do and how we can improve and what we put on tape and stuff like that. I think we’ve had some good opponents as far as Montana State and UTEP.”
The Red Raiders defense has only allowed 420 total offensive yards as Tech’s offense has recorded 1,115 total yards on offense after playing Montana State and UTEP. Although Tech’s defense has forced opponents 4-31 on third down, the Red Raiders have not forced a single turnover.
“Obviously, we need to force more turnovers,” Howard said. “We haven’t had one turnover in the past two games and that’s something we really try to pride ourselves on. So yeah, of course, you know, we do emphasize turnovers but more than anything we just try to play really disciplined and fundamental defense.”
With forcing a turnover on the defense’s mind, head coach Matt Wells said he is anxious for the team to get its first takeaway.
“I’m not going to over-dramatize it, I mean, we’re coaching the heck out of (forcing turnovers),” Wells said. “Last place we coached, we led the country in turnovers. We’re doing the same drills. We’re going to continue to coach it and emphasize it, and I truly think when they come, they will come in bunches.”
As the defense shut its opponents down in the last two games, sophomore quarterback Alan Bowman said it takes the pressure off of him while leading the offense.
“Obviously we never want to punt but to walk off the field and know, probably like they are not going to score, they are definitely not going to score,” Bowman said. “The way Jordyn (Brooks) and all them guys have been playing is huge. For them to have our back like that on offense just makes it more of, okay, we can try to make this throw because we know they are going to field and they are going to make a stop in the next possession. So, it definitely opens up a lot more for us and gives us a little bit more confidence.”
Following Tech’s first two wins of the season, the Red Raiders will travel to Tucson, Arizona to play the Arizona Wildcats at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday.