Smith Leads Defense with 42 Tackles

At one point last year, Tech's defense was ranked 117th in the nation. What a difference a year makes. Senior leadership, junior college transfers, and underclassmen stepping up at crucial times certainly contributed to this change. Linebacker Mike Smith has continued to be the core of the defense.

Tech entered the Nebraska game with two of their key defensive starters out due to injury: Adell Duckett and Brock Stratton. Mike Smith, the outside linebacker on most days, was moved to middle linebacker.

"You just can't think about it. It does hurt having those guys out, but we have good back-ups," said Smith. "We just have to play what we got."

Defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich says Smith is one of the most unselfish players they have and is willing to do whatever he can to help the team.

"Mike plays any position he has to. He's been through good times and bad times. He's the kind of guy you're always looking to coach," said Setencich.

The anchor of the 47th ranked defense in the nation, Smith leads the Raiders in tackles with 42 on the year. Modest as always, Smith says everyone on the defense is a leader.

"I just try to do my part. I have probably played more games than most on this defense, but there has to be more than one leader," said Smith.

Smith led the defense for the second week in a row with a game-high 11 tackles. He is currently ranked sixth in the Big XII in terms of tackles, averaging 8.4 tackles per game.

Seniors weren't the only ones stepping up it fill gaps. In the absence of Duckett, sophomore Keyunta Dawson made his first career start for the Raiders. Smith says the Raiders are fortunate to have him on their side.

"He's quite an athlete. He's quick, mobile, and he's definitely a player you need to watch out for," said Smith.

With both Dawson and Duckett over his standing shoulder, Smith jokingly added, "He's no Adell Duckett though." The two rush ends just laughed.

Dawson has seen the field many times, but never at the start of the first quarter. Regardless, "Key," as his teammates call him, approaches it the same.

"I've played a lot, but I don't look at it any different," Dawson said. "I just want to do my best."

Dawson made an impact throughout the game against OU, capped by a quarterback hurry and a key tackle.

After playing four of the first five games on the road, Tech is eager to get back home. There's no delay because the Nebraska Cornhuskers, a familiar foe of the Raiders, will be here on Saturday. The defense says it's just ready for some home-cookin'.

"It's just great playing in the Jones in front of all your fans," said Smith. "Nebraska's got a good team this year and we've never beaten them. We're very eager."

You can watch Smith, Dawson, and the rest of your Red Raider squad at 6:00 p.m. this upcoming Saturday as they host the Nebraska Cornhuskers on TBS.

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