Okay, so Texas Tech's defense has yet to face the likes of West Virginia, Texas and Oklahoma State. Still, after holding Iowa State of the Big 12 to 189 total yards and seven points, the Red Raiders stoppers have passed their stiffest test with flying colors and remain the nation's number one defense. The grades reflect the stellar showing. Marks for the offense won't qualify that unit for the Dean's List.
Quarterback: When Seth Doege finally got rolling, he played well. But these slow starts—and they've been a hallmark of his Tech career—will eventually catch up with the Red Raiders. Doege's two interceptions highlight his on-field astigmatism, and the sack he took in the red zone could have hurt Tech badly. There are times when he seems to play the game in a fog, and for a quarter and a half against Iowa State, that was the case. Still, credit Doege for not cratering. He battled through and helped lead the Red Raiders to a tough win.
Receivers: Despite struggling to get open early on, this unit was the offense's salvation. Eric Ward was clearly Seth Doege's security blanket early in the game when the quarterback was struggling. Without Ward, Tech could have been in a hole at halftime. First-time starter Jakeem Grant had only two catches, but one was for a critical touchdown. His speed got him in the end zone. Javon Bell, a shorter version of Randy Moss, kicked up Tech's octane rating, while Jace Amaro and Darrin Moore were reliable options for Doege. A holding penalty by Tyson Williams was the only serious blunder by this group. Downfield blocking was the best we've seen this season. And yet again, no drops.
Offensive Line: This group got a rather rude introduction to Big 12 football. Tech's o-line was a pass blocking machine against the likes of Texas State, Northwestern State and New Mexico, but could not handle Iowa State's front in the first half. Seth Doege was sacked three times and pressured five others. Much of the pressure came through the B gaps but the tackles struggled as well. Interestingly, the line may have done a better job of run blocking than pass protecting. At any rate, the ISU game must serve as a wakeup call because Oklahoma will be every bit as tough as the Cyclones.
Running Backs: With the exception of one drive-killing dropped pass, Kenny Williams had a very good game. His balance, which is off the charts, is his best asset. And the ability to stay on his pins when by all rights he should have gone down, netted him 15 to 20 extra yards. Eric Stephens ran the Wildcat effectively and picked up a couple of crucial first downs.
Defensive Line: Kerry Hyder has been a monster all season and his effort against Iowa State may have been the best of his career. Thing is, Hyder had lots of help from his boys up front. Jackson Richards was a rock against the run, while Dartwan Bush and Leon Mackey created some havoc. Pete Robertson finally showed us his semi-legendary speed with a late sack of Steele Jantz. That is precisely what Tommy Tuberville envisaged when him moved Robertson to defensive end. All in all, this unit spent a great deal of time in Iowa State's backfield.
Linebackers: Will Smith may have had his best game as a Red Raider, leading the team with seven stops. Terrance Bullitt left the game very early with an apparent shoulder injury but came back and played well. Blake Dees continues to show why he may be the defense's most valuable backup.
Secondary: Cornelius Douglas' time off recuperating from an abdominal strain, was time well spent. In his first real action under heavy fire this season, Douglas picked off a pair of passes and spearheaded a pass defense that held Iowa State to three passing yards in the first half. Cody Davis had another excellent game, while Tre' Porter also did good work. D. J. Johnson was burned for a TD by ISU tight end Ernst Brun, but made up for that gaffe by later belting belting Brun just as he caught the ball, allowing Douglas to get his second pick. Eugene Neboh, in his usual quiet way, had a very solid game.
Special Teams: Ryan Bustin missed his second makeable kick in as many games, and that is worrisome. Nevertheless, he connected on a 39-yarder when the chips were down. Ryan Erxleben averaged 45 yards per punt, and Austin Zouzalik had one very nice punt return up the middle of Iowa State's coverage unit. Javon Bell showed some spunk on kickoff returns, while Kramer Fyfe, deploying a variety of kicks, helped hold ISU to eight yards per kickoff return.