The Texas Tech Red Raiders defeated Northwestern state by two fewer points than they beat Texas State in last year's season opener, but the atmosphere surrounding the program is far more buoyant than it was a year ago. It's amazing what a little defense can do for one's attitude.
But this year's version of Texas State, once chalked up as an easy win for the Red Raiders, now looks like a much tougher row to hoe. And that's because the Bobcats beat up on the Houston Cougars and now welcome Texas Tech to town for TSU's first ever home game as a member of the FBS.
Emotions will be at fever pitch for the home team, just as they were on Tech's fairly recent visits to El Paso to play UTEP and Houston to play the Cougars. The Red Raiders lost one of those games. And if they don't address the following issues the snake could strike them once again.
Gouge ‘em on the Ground: The Bobcats stifled Houston's vaunted passing attack and are undoubtedly confident they can do the same to Texas Tech's. And if the Red Raiders can't make Texas State pay with the ground game, Dennis Franchione's crew might be correct.
Tech's longest run from scrimmage against FCS member Northwestern State was a 17-yard scamper by Kenny Williams. The second longest jaunt was a 10-yard effort by SaDale Foster. Those numbers won't scare anybody. The Red Raiders simply must generate some explosion in the rushing attack or TSU will drop and cover and attempt to confound Tech's passing game.
Turn ‘em Over: The Red Raiders actually lost the turnover battle to Northwestern State 2-0, while the Bobcats defeated Houston 2-1 in that category. Tech has enough of a talent edge that they could commit one more turnover than TSU and still walk away with a fairly comfortable victory. But if that deficit is more than one, this game could be uncomfortably close.
Either way, Tech needs to get on track by creating turnovers and taking better care of the ball. The best way to do that is to play physical, pack mentality defense, while protecting your own quarterback. And if you can't do that against Texas State you don't stand much chance of doing it against Texas and Oklahoma.
Three Extra Jets: The Red Raider offense fought Northwestern State with one hand tied behind its back because of the absence of top receivers Tyson Williams, Javon Bell and Darrin Moore. All three are expected back for the trip to San Marcos.
And all three add something special to the Tech attack.
The Bobcats know a little something about Moore insofar as he lit them up for 221 yards on 12 receptions last year. But they are probably quite clueless about Bell and Williams. TSU may be in for a nasty shock.
Bell is the offense's heating element. If he catches Texas State in man coverage, Seth Doege will immediately look his way with the deep ball, and chances are good he will singe the Bobcats for huge yardage.
But as valuable as Bell could be in this game, Tyson Williams could be even more crucial. The Red Raiders clearly needed another physical presence in the blocking crew against NSU, and Williams will provide it. He is only 210 pounds, but has an evil disposition and a predisposition to knock the head of whoever is in his way. Williams could be Tech's Hines Ward. And if he is, he could help spring Red Raider backs for something considerably better than what we saw against Northwestern State.