Red Raiders Face First Real Test Against UT

With both teams sitting at 2-0, the Red Raiders and the Longhorns prepare to face off in their conference opener on Saturday. breaks down what is sure to be the first big test of 2009 for either team.

After Michael Crabtree's last second touchdown that led to a stunning 39-33 upset over the #1 ranked Longhorns, the Red Raiders are preparing to face a UT team that is focused on revenge.

With ESPN's College Gameday headed to Austin and the Longhorns ranked second in the polls, the game is already generating a lot of attention from the media. Despite the media distractions, the Red Raider players and coaching staff say that it's business as usual for the Texas Tech football program.

Defensive back Taylor Charbonnet summed up the team's attitude by stating, "We aren't putting anything special on it just because it's a Big 12 team or because it's UT. They are a great team and as a team, we are just excited for another chance to play. It's another chance to get better from week two to week three."

The Red Raiders, who are now sitting at 2-0 after beating North Dakota and Rice, feel that they have a long way to go but are encouraged by the improvement they saw from week one to week two. Especially encouraging for Tech is the improved play of first year quarterback Taylor Potts, who looked nervous in his first outing where he had three interceptions but threw seven touchdowns and zero interceptions against Rice.

Potts, who was named Big 12 offensive player of the week for his performance against the Owls, explained that his improvement was mostly due to feeling more confident and comfortable on the field.

"I was just a little nerve-wracked [in my first game]. Last week I think I dropped back there and kind of wouldn't believe in anybody else. I thought I had to get the ball right now and throw and get out of there," said Taylor. "[In the game against Rice,] I kept some confidence to stay in there and throw the ball."

With both teams sitting at 2-0 and facing their first conference opponent, Saturday's matchup will be the first real litmus test for each team to find out just how good they really are. In many aspects, the Red Raiders and Longhorns mimic each other, as both been a bit streaky in their first two games and both are relatively untested.

UT's head coach Mack Brown explained, "This is our first real test, but it's also Texas Tech's first real test. We've both played teams in the first two ballgames that we were better than. Both teams could win the game without showing their hand and their cards and showing everything they've got."

The Red Raiders are averaging 502 yards per game and 46.5 points per game, while the Longhorns are averaging 553 yards per game and 50 ppg. Neither team has faced a formidable opponent yet this season, with Texas Tech easily obliterating North Dakota and Rice and Texas winning big against Louisiana-Monroe and at Wyoming.

Texas struggled early in the game against Wyoming and actually trailed 10-6 late in the first half, but they were able to score 35 unanswered points to cruise to an easy victory after regrouping.

Quarterback Colt McCoy, who had a fumbled and an interception in the first half, said that his poor play was due to anticipating plays and forcing the ball downfield.

"I think I was trying to do too much… make something happen that wasn't there," he stated.

Defensively, the Red Raiders have allowed 232 yards and 11.5 points per game. The Longhorns, meanwhile, have given up 285 yards and 15 points per game through the first two games.

Linebacker Marlon Williams has been the leader of Tech's defense with 16 tackles, including five tackles for a loss and one sack. The Longhorns main defensive threat is senior linebacker Sergio Kindle, who was first-team All-Big 12 as a junior and was a big reason why the Longhorns were able to shut out the Wyoming Cowboys in the second half.

Red Raider head coach Mike Leach says that his main focus is on steady improvement and getting the kinks worked out, not on the in-state rivalry between the two teams or the national implications of the game.

"Well, you know, it is what it is. It's like Bob Dylan says: You are where you are. I just think that we just need to take [the second half of the Rice game] and build on it. That's the biggest thing. I mean, just keep improving all phases. There's plenty of room for work in all phases of the game. I thought that, you know, the biggest thing the second half, despite the fact there were some glaring mistakes, everybody played the next play."

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