The Red Raiders got the win, and doing so could spell the difference between going bowling and staying home for the postseason. But unless the Tech coaching staff is able to shore up a leaky defense tout suite, a bowl game will not even be a possibility. The defensive marks reflect the persistent struggles on that side of the ball.
Quarterback: Seth Doege continues to play lights out. Yes, the offense misfired in the first half, but Doege eventually rallied the troops and scored enough points to win the game. Doege makes the routine throws that all Tech quarterbacks make, but also completes extremely difficult passes such as intermediate outs to the far sideline and that's what sets him apart. And his composure and ability to extend plays, were the keys to the final and decisive touchdown. Doege has some John Elway to him, and he has some Drew Brees to him. A pretty positive comparison, I dare say.
Running Backs: Eric Stephens had all the running back carries but two, and considering how effectively he ran, it's easy to see why. I've never seen Stephens run as hard as he did against Nevada, and I've never seen him break tackles quite like he did against the Wolfpack either. Stephens has always been a scatback, but now he's adding a power element to his game that makes him so much more effective.
Wide Receivers: The loss of Darrin Moore on the first play from scrimmage was grievous but not devastating because the other receivers stepped up. Jacoby Franks filled in admirably for Moore. Eric Ward had his second straight excellent game, while Alex Torres continues to be the unsung hero of the offense. Jace Amaro now has two touchdown catches in three receptions. Cornelius Douglas started, but did not get in the stat sheet. Dropped passes were rare.
Offensive Line: Seth Doege was sacked twice, but neither was entirely the fault of the offensive line. The line,does, on the other hand, deserve much credit for the success of the Tech running game. Lonnie Edwards, and centers Terry McDaniel and Justin Keown consistently gave Eric Stephens creases, and a crease is all he needs. And speaking of Keown, he deserves mammoth praise for stepping in when Mickey Okafor went down with an injury and playing very well despite still recovering from a knee injury. There may not be a tougher guy on the squad than Keown.
Defensive Line: Kerry Hyder was as disruptive as any defensive lineman has been for Tech so far this year, but he didn't get much help. Tech's young defensive ends, in particular, repeatedly crashed down on fake dives up the middle only to watch in dismay as the Nevada quarterbacks scurried around the outside for huge gains. Play recognition and gap integrity were hardly strong suits. On a more positive note, the Red Raiders did generate a decent pass rush even though they got only one sack.
Linebackers: The freshman duo of Blake Dees and Sam Eguavoen suffered the same pratfalls that befell defensive ends Dartwan Bush and Jackson Richards. Hence, they too often failed to recognize plays and know who actually had the football. Despite that, they combined for 12 tackles and three tackles for loss. Additionally, Dees had the hit of the night, a real cruncher on a Nevada rusher on a third down play.
Secondary: Starters Tre' Porter and Cody Davis were out with injuries and the secondary suffered accordingly. Still, there is no excuse for the success Nevada, one of the most run-dependent offenses in America, had throwing the ball against the Red Raiders. Derrick Mays was particularly appalling. He played incredibly soft coverage and was then unable to make a tackle once the pass was completed as it always was. D. J. Johnson had 13 tackles, which is an index of Tech's total inability to stop the run. Terrance Bullitt made a few tough plays in run support despite playing with a bum hip.
Special Teams: Tech's kickoff return and coverage units were absolutely critical to the Red Raiders eking out a win. Ben McRoy set a school record for kickoff return yardage and would have had a touchdown had he not slipped while making a cut. The coverage unit was absolutely fierce, and pinned the Wolfpack deep all night. This is an intimidating group to return against. Donnie Carona's kickoffs were excellent, and Ryan Erxleben lofted a couple of dead stick punts that died just where they were supposed to.