Texas DBs Look To Control Red Raider Offense

Texas Tech's spread offense is like "an animal out there running wild" Longhorn coach Mack Brown said. That's why Texas' most experienced Animal Control experts, SS Michael Huff and RCB Cedric Griffin, have been summoned to muzzle the Red Raider passing game.

Saturday's game at DKR represents quite a contrast in offensive schemes relative to what Texas saw during it's 42-17 thumping of Colorado last week. The Buffaloes featured a power running game behind a fifth-year senior QB, often employing a two-TE set, that emphasized play-action pass. Meanwhile, Tech's freak show of a multiple-set offense annually leads the nation in passing even with its flavor-of-the-month quarterback.

"You have to flip from one mentality completely to the other," Brown said.

The Red Raiders lead the Big 12 in eight statistical categories while leading Division-I in passing (472.3 ypg) and scoring offense (53.7 ppg).

"Those stats are just freakish," said Brown. "It's just phenomenal."

Brown will sleep better this week knowing that Griffin and Huff have logged 80 starts between them. The two seniors are riding a two-game winning streak against Tech and will face its high-octane offense for the fourth time Saturday. Co-Defensive Coordinator Gene Chizik concedes that he has never coached against anything resembling the Texas Tech offense, but said having a seasoned veteran like Huff is "really huge."

"You would not want to go into this game with a lot of young people in your secondary," said Chizik. "Our secondary has been through this game numerous times. They know what to expect. They know how it unfolds. They know all these things that a young guy may not, and that's huge."

For Griffin, it's a matter of been there, done that.

"To tell you the truth, they run the same offense and the same sets," Griffin told Inside Texas. "They just run it from different sides of the field. We've got a pretty good idea of what they're going to run. It's not that they're running so many different formations. They're running the same formations. It looks all the same."

Added Griffin: "I've been seeing it for five years now. I'm used to it. I know that when I line up there on the corner, they're going to be running some drag routes or some Z-routes. They're going to have the back coming out the backfield to run a route. It's pretty much all the same right now."

And should the Red Raiders throw a new wrinkle at the Longhorn D, the Texas head coach expects his seasoned secondary to make pre-snap adjustments.

"Michael Huff has become a coach on the field," Brown said. "He has a very settling effect because if they showed something that we had never seen, and that's hard to do as much as he's been out there, he would line us up in something that was safe until we could get a different call on the field. He's very level-headed and very confident. He seldom makes a mistake and he never panics."

Obviously, familiarity breeds confidence. But it was a different day during Griffin's RS-freshman year in 2002 when QB Kliff Kingsbury picked apart a short-handed Longhorn defense to the tune of 473 yards passing and six TDs on a 38-of-60 afternoon.

"We were running everywhere and it was always hectic," Griffin recalled.

The Horns held on for dear life in 2003, as B.J. Symons completed 32-of-56 for 365 yards and three TDs in a wild 43-40 Longhorn win. The outcome was salvaged by QB Chance Mock's game-winning TD toss to FL B.J. Johnson with 46 seconds remaining. Texas' bend-but-don't break approach last season allowed Sonny Cumbie to complete 34-of-51 for 403 yards, but 176 of the total was generated in the final frame. The outcome was seldom in doubt as the underdog Horns sprinted to a 51-21 win in front of the largest home crowd in Texas Tech history.

"We had a better scheme last year but I can't really remember what it was," Griffin said. "I guess it had more to do with the attitude and the way we went into the game. We came into the game with the attitude that we needed to stop these guys, and they weren't better than us."

As a reminder, former DC Greg Robinson unveiled his zone blitz package at Tech. Texas got outstanding pass rush from its front four. The Red Raiders were held to negative-17 yards rushing as the Horns stopped the Raiders on three-of-four fourth-down conversion attempts.

This week, Brown has had his first-team WRs run the opponent's offense more so at practice this week than they have previously simply to simulate game-day speed for Texas' DBs (not to mention the size of some of the Tech wideouts).

"Their receivers over there are pretty big," Griffin said, "but (SE) Limas Sweed is a big target (6-5). They've got some quick guys, but we've got guys like Brian Carter and Billy Pittman. Those guys provide us the routes they might run and get us ready for the game."

The only concern Brown has about his DBs is the unit has dropped too many potential INTs as balls have glanced off the fingertips of several members of his secondary.

"That will be key this weekend," Brown said. "You can't get your hands on the ball and not get turnovers. There were two or three Saturday (against Colorado) that we had a chance to get but didn't."

For Griffin, it's a matter of knowing that Tech receivers will make their share of receptions but not allowing them to convert those grabs into significant yards-after-catch.

"What we thrive on this year is giving up no YAC yards," Griffin said. "Whenever they catch the ball, we will try to tag them."

And isn't tagging them one of the primary responsibilities of Animal Control experts.

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