Chizik Looks To Get Physical Against Tech

Call him crazy, but the way Texas Co-Defensive Coordinator Gene Chizik intends to slow Texas Tech's record-setting passing attack is to, initially, stop the run. And then head them off at the pass.

"You're going to look at me like I've got ten heads but you've got to stop the run," Chizik said Tuesday. "You have to stop the run and you have to be physical. You have to play the game physical and then you have to be sound in your coverage. To me, every week your team has to be physical. If you play a team that throws it 70 times a game, you can't let that make you a finesse team. You've got to be physical and get vertical pressure and play the game the right way. And that's being physical and that's being fast."

Again this season, the (Air) Raiders lead the nation in passing offense (472.3 ypg) and scoring offense (53.7 ppg). Meanwhile, Texas is ranked in the Top 10 in four key defensive categories: scoring defense (14.0 ppg, NCAA No. 7), pass defense (147.7 ypg, No. 6), run defense (92.3 ypg, No. 9) and total defense (240 ypg, No. 3).

And, again this season, Tech's rushing offense is ranked dead last in the Big 12 with its 100.5 ypg average (NCAA No. 99). The Red Raiders are running the ball, on average, about 24 times per game (or, near half of Texas' 46 rushing attempts per game). Then again, Tech coaches consider shovel passes and screens to the running back as part of their running game. It's part of the reason why Tech's Taurean Henderson set an NCAA record this past Saturday for the most career receptions by a RB. He posted 10 catches against Kansas, giving him 272 all-time.

"You have to include shovels and screens in the running game but they've made some yardage on true running plays where they're going to run the football," Chizik said. "You have to be sound on those things. Their running back is really good. He's a really good open-field runner. They've created ways to get him the ball on their short passing game, but you've got to stop him in the running game as well."

Strictly speaking, Henderson averages 71 rushing ypg (NCAA No. 70) but is one of four Tech receivers to lead the Big 12 in receptions per game. Henderson has been good for six grabs per outing and 53.7 receiving ypg. Sophomore WR Joel Filani leads the Big 12 with 109.7 ypg while averaging 209 yards the past two ballgames.

Tech's high-powered scheme is predicated upon spreading the field with its huge offensive line splits, pushing the DE anywhere from 10- to 15-yards farther away from the QB than against more traditional offenses. Chizik has scrapped last season's read-and-react scheme by unleashing his D-line (a unit that was previously instructed to engage O-linemen, establish containment and direct the flow of the play toward backside support), and this week's contest doesn't change a thing. His counsel to his D-line is "Blast right through there."

And if Tech hits a screen?

"Turn around and run after it."

A constant in Chizik's approach this season is to pepper the QB with disruptive blitzes from every angle and confuse him with zone blitzes as well as showing nickel and dime packages on passing downs.

"Getting sacks is always our goal but you can be effective in other ways," Chizik said. "We hit the (Colorado) quarterback all the time Saturday. That is really big because, in a quarterback's mind, he begins to wonder if he has time to throw it. And a lot of those times when we were hitting (Joel Klatt), it was with a four-man rush."

Cody Hodges is Tech's fourth QB in as many seasons and the latest in an assembly line of signal callers who absorbed the system for three or four seasons before given one year to direct the offense. His 410.8 ypg makes him the national offensive leader. All told, he has thrown for an NCAA-leading 2,420 yards, including 22 TDs and five INTs.

"I haven't seen anything like this in so long it wouldn't even count if I had seen it," Chizik said. "This is a whole different world."

Chizik has studied last season's 51-21 win over Tech, noting that Texas "played a good amount of zone. They went into the game feeling like they could get some pressure from the front three once they loosened the protection up with some blitzes. Obviously, it worked."

"It's a fine tuned machine and we've got to find a way to disrupt it," Chizik said.

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