After Kansas State’s first drive on Saturday, many we’re wondering who the defense on the field belonged to.
Texas Tech’s defense put the Wildcats away in just five plays, giving the offense the ball back with a chance, something defensive coordinator David Gibbs preaches week in and week out. Overall the Red Raiders forced seven punts and two turnovers in one of the best defensive performances of the Kliff Kingsbury era.
What got ahold of them?
“The biggest thing is just playing together as a unit,” said Texas Tech defensive line coach Mike Smith. “One week the D-line is not playing good and the linebackers are. Next week the linebackers are struggling and the D-line is playing good. We played solid as a whole group. It was good for those guys to see, especially the young guys, if you play together and do your job the entire game then we will be successful…”
The Texas Tech offense was able to tack on a 2-play-80-yard touchdown drive to push their lead to 14 points, which pushed Kansas State out of their element. By the end of the game the defense was able to hold the Wildcats to just 123 yards rushing and only 412 total yards of offense (compared to Tech who put up 658 yards).
Although the Wildcats were forced to throw the ball and play catch up, Kingsbury thought his defense did well with stopping the run. Most impressively, Kansas State averaged only 3.6 yards per carry Saturday.
“[They] played hard, very gap sound. D'Vonta Hinton, a true freshman, had a heck of a ball game, which was exciting. We had some extra guys in the run game, which made them take some shots over the top, which they made some good throws, but I thought overall we did well against the run,” Kingsbury said.
Hinton recorded three tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss for a total of minus-10 yards. Fellow linebacker Micah Awe totaled 12 tackles.
Other defensive standouts included senior defensive back J.J. Gaines (13 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, forced fumble, pass breakup), redshirt freshman safety Jah'Shawn Johnson (six tackles, fumble recovery, interception, pass breakup) and sophomore corner Nigel Bethel (four tackles, .5 tackle for loss, three pass breakups).
When the offense went through a lull the Wildcats began to creep up late. Kansas State scored on a 33-yard touchdown pass with just over four minutes to play to cut the Tech’s lead to 52-41.
Red Raider Nation became understandably antsy when Kansas State recovered the ensuing onside kick, but the defense stiffened to hold the Wildcats to just a field goal. Tech’s Ja'Deion High would recover the next onside kick before the offense put the game away on DeAndre Washington’s third score of the game.
“It was a huge difference [in the game]. It was a big confidence builder, good for the group,” Smith said. “Again, like I said they came in and fought. Earlier this year when we would give them a big play or something bad would happen we had a tendency so say ‘oh my god, here we go’ and fold. Those guys stayed positive, had good looks on their faces on the sidelines and during the game. It was good to see.”
Will the defense be able to this momentum into Austin in 10 days? Coach Smith said it’s likely because Kansas State and Texas are very similar this year.
“Yeah, really they are almost the same offense,” he said. “If you look at it , even the run plays, what they do up front…you couldn’t ask for almost the same exact team. So yeah, we’re going to try to do the same thing. Try to get up on them on offense, and on defense try to make them one-dimensional.”