Northwestern State Nuts and Bolts

Joe Yeager breaks down the Red Raiders season-opening victory against the Demons.

Perspective, Perspective, Perspective! For those expecting a 70-point blowout of Northwestern State, Texas Tech's methodical 38-point victory will underwhelm. Heck, some folks may even read a dire future into the Red Raiders' season based on the opener.


Not so fast.


Good teams don't always start fast, even against inferior competition. We need only go back in time one year and up the road 600 miles for the perfect example.


Kansas State opened the 2011 season with a last-gasp, three-point home victory over FCS outfit Eastern Kentucky. Two weeks later the Wildcats were beating the Miami Hurricanes in Coral Gables, and they went on to an excellent 10-win season and a berth in the Cotton Bowl.


The key is weekly improvement. A team that starts a bit slowly can still do great things if it consistently improves. Here's hoping for a more dominant Tech effort against Texas State in game two.


Holding Back: What we saw against Northwestern State was hardly the whole package from the Red Raiders. As Neal Brown mentioned in the press conference, Tech played it close to the vest on offense. Brown hardly unspooled his entire offense package against the Demons, and it's safe to say that Art Kaufman played the same game on defense. No need to show all the cards. There may be no need to until the Red Raiders open conference play.


Down a Triple: There's no way of knowing how much more explosive (and physical) the Red Raider offense would have been with Darrin Moore, Jevon Bell and Tyson Williams on the field. But Neal Brown mentioned that that group may comprise three of Tech's top four receivers. Bradley Marquez and Marcus Kennard filled in admirably, but this was still a Red Raider engine missing a couple of sparkplugs.


Ground Down:  The chief concern emerging from Tech's victory is the mediocre performance of the rushing attack. Running backs Kenny Williams, Eric Stephens and SaDale Foster averaged 4.2 yards per carry. That would be marvelous against Alabama, but won't feed the bulldog against Northwestern State. To the extent that the ground game does not pose a threat, expect future opponents to drop-and-cover against the Red Raiders. Moreover, expect them to be quite effective with this strategy.


Fitty-Fitty: Tech split the play calls right down the middle between passes and runs. Prior to the season Tommy Tuberville said a fifty-fifty split would be ideal. I would certainly expect this ratio to persist at least until the Red Raiders really get clicking with their rushing attack. At that point, defenses will be forced to commit against the run which will allow Neal Brown to open up the passing playbook again.


Anchors Awe: True freshman linebacker Micah Awe entered the game for an injured Terrance Bullitt in the second half and showed why he's playing as a frosh. Although he didn't make much of a dent on the stat sheet, Awe was flying all over the field and decking much larger players. He also blitzed and forced a fumble from the Northwestern State quarterback.


Awe reminds me of an Oklahoma linebacker. He's a bit undersized, but is very fast, explosive, emotional and physical. He simply stands out. Awe is on track to be a very special player.


Statistical Anomaly: Strong safety Cody Davis led the Red Raiders with nine tackles, more than twice the number of runner up Terrance Bullitt. Normally, it's a cause for alarm when a safety makes that many tackles because he's usually making them far downfield. This decidedly was not the case against Northwestern State. Davis made the majority of his tackles within four yards of the line of scrimmage. He played like a linebacker, and he played one whale of a game.


Speaking of… tremendous performances on defense, Kerry Hyder was probably the defensive MVP. He had a sack, three tackles for loss and two pass breakups. During fall camp Hyder blossomed noticeably. He wrought havoc on a daily basis. Now it looks like Hyder is converting practice performance to games. If he can give the Red Raiders this kind of performance on a weekly basis, he will make the defense incalculably better.


What a Difference a Year Makes: In the season opener last year, Texas State rushed for 256 yards against the Red Raiders. Northwestern State, a fairly accomplished rushing team, netted only 13 steps against Tech last night. That's an improvement of close to 2,000 percent.


Brewer Makes His Case: It's looking more and more like backup quarterback Michael Brewer is a gamer. Frankly, he has never looked truly outstanding in practice, but in game situations, he moves to the fore. Brewer did this in the most recent Red/Black Scrimmage. And he sho' nuff did it against Northwestern State last night. With those sorts of tantalizing performances, Brewer will sorely tempt the Tech coaches to play him more and more as the season progresses.

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