Upfront, the Red Raider offensive line will be challenged by a talented Nevada defensive line. Led by sophomore end Dontay Moch, who recorded two sacks and another tackle for a loss, the Wolfpack finished last week's game against Grambling State with six sacks and 17 tackles for a loss.
If QB Graham Harrell has adequate time to go through his reads and doesn't get caught up in trying to force the ball downfield, he has the ability to play close to perfectly. Against Eastern Washington, Harrell let pressure get to him a few times and consequently threw one interception and nearly threw another. Today the Red Raiders signal caller must eliminate mistakes and avoid forcing the ball when his receiver isn't open.
Running backs Shannon Woods, Baron Batch, and Aaron Crawford will need to hit the holes hard to gain yards on the ground. While the Wolfpack's secondary is shaky, their D-line and linebackers were outstanding against the run in their season opener, allowing only 5 yards rushing.
Texas Tech's receivers should give the Wolf Pack's inexperienced secondary fits. Michael Crabtree is on everyone's radar as the best receiver in college football, but sophomore Detron Lewis and senior Eric Morris both had superb showings in the game against Eastern Washington and will punish defenders who cheat off of them to double Crabtree.
Keys to Success:
1. Keep the crowd out of it
Saturday's game will be the first road test for the Red Raiders in 2008, and they will need to stay focused at Mackay Stadium if they want to come out with a 2-0 record. The offense must play at its own pace and not let the hometown crowd become a factor in the game.
2. Solid O-Line protection
The Red Raider offensive line must do a better job of blocking to allow QB Graham Harrell time to go through his reads and find the open receiver. After left guard Louis Vasquez left the field early in the EWU game with an injury, Texas Tech's offensive line struggled and Harrell was forced to dump the ball off early or scramble to get away from pressure.
3. Move the chains
Graham Harrell and company will be most successful if they will take what the defense gives them rather than trying to force for big yardage plays. Harrell needs to get in a rhythm early and capitalize on the defense's mistakes if he is going to lead the Red Raiders to victory.