YEAGER: Signals From The Static - Nevada

Should it have been a blowout at Jones AT&T Stadium on Saturday night? Is Nevada better than everyone thought? How many worries are with Texas Tech heading into Big 12 Conference play? Joe Yeager takes a look at all of it.

Numerous themes may emerge from any football game, some more obvious than others. And what's clear about Texas Tech's wild 35-34 victory over Nevada is that it will divide the Tech fanbase into two schools of thought.

The first, the flagon half full crowd, will focus on the fact that the Red Raiders are 3-0, and that, despite youth and an unbelievable rash of injuries, they fought back from a two-touchdown deficit to gut out the win.

The second, the tankard half empty gang, will argue that the Wolfpack had no business even leading the Red Raiders in the second half, will point to some ugly defensive stats and claim that Tech will be in terrible trouble against Big 12 competition if the defense doesn't improve dramatically, and in a hurry.

I belong to the latter.

Texas Tech is a two-sided football team right now, and the side that's letting the whole side down is the defense. The Red Raider defense looks just about as discombobulated this year as it did last, and it has not improved so far.

Injuries have hurt the defense's cause, but they are no excuse. Injuries don't cause busted coverage's and tight ends running wide open all night. They don't cause cornerbacks to cover receivers as if they've got the bubonic plague and then whiff on tackles. They don't cause misalignments and poor reads. And they don't excuse the Wolfpack scoring 34 points against Texas Tech when they could only muster 17 against San Jose State.

If the Red Raider defense cannot get its act together Texas Tech is staring at no more than two wins in the Big 12.

Kudos to Special Teams: Tommy Tuberville, with assists from Ty Linder and Chad Scott, have worked wonders with the Red Raider special teams. This unit, a liability in 2010, has become an undoubted strength. And Tech would have lost to Nevada had the special teams not dominated their game within the game.

The highlight of special teams play was the kickoff return and coverage units. Ben McRoy averaged 29 yards per return while the Tech coverage unit stoned Wolfpack return men, allowing only 17 yards per return.

The Red Raiders outgained Nevada on kickoff returns by 119 yards. And that advantage almost certainly facilitated a couple of Tech scores while preventing the Wolfpack from scoring at least another field goal or two. Without this special teams advantage, the Red Raiders would have suffered a gutting loss.

Special Stephens: Junior running back Eric Stephens is making a bid to become one of the best backs in Texas Tech history. He's now No.10 on the school's all purpose yardage rankings, but there's more to Stephens' budding greatness than that.

Stephens just runs so doggone hard. And with each passing game he just seems to run harder and more decisively.

Now Baron Batch, last year's starter, and a Pittsburg Steelers draftee who was making big waves in training camp before suffering an injury, ran hard and tough. Stephens runs just as hard as Batch, but is shiftier than Batch and loses no speed when he makes a cut.

Stephens is also showing an ability to run through tackles, which is quite a trick for a 195-pound back. He is turning into a better runner between the tackles than outside them, too. Stephens' inside running talent is a welcome development and a pleasant surprise.

Assuming he returns for his senior season, Stephens will be in the conversation with Donnie Anderson, Byron Hanspard and Bam Morris when talking about Tech's greatest backs.

Stat Madness: Nevada outrushed the Red Raiders 312-219, outpassed them 250-222, had a 562-441 advantage in total yardage, averaged 6.8 yards per carry to Tech's 5.8, averaged 10.4 yards per pass attempt to Tech's 5.8, averaged eight yards per play to Tech's 5.8, enjoyed five more minutes of possession than the Red Raiders, and had one more sack than Tech, yet still lost the game.

Those stats point up the critical importance of the aforementioned special teams play. Additionally, the Red Raiders converted all five of their red zone opportunities into touchdowns, while the Wolfpack converted five out of six, and two of those conversions were field goals. Now field goals are better than nothing, but having to settle for them often comes back to haunt you.

Noted Absence: Freshman defensive tackle Delvon Simmons did not participate in the game. The Red Raiders could have used him.

38/38: No, I'm not referring to the old Lubbock steakhouse on 50th street. That number refers to the fact that the Red Raiders passed and rushed the football an equal number of times. For the season Tech is passing the football around only 55 to 60 percent of the time. True balance has come to the Red Raider offense. The days of throwing it 85 percent of the time are gone.

A Clean Mark: Seth Doege has now played three games without throwing an interception. Moreover, Doege has yet to throw an interception in his Tech career. He has thrown the ball 180 times without a single pick. Amazing. And one would think that has to be some kind of a record.

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