Revamped Texas Tech defense hard to ignore

Associated Press Modified: September 20, 2012 at 5:31 am •  Published: September 20, 2012
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LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — For years no one disputed Texas Tech could pass.

Even after Mike Leach's departure in 2009 the Red Raiders have kept slinging it all over the Big 12. Problem was their defense was a dud.

No more, at least thus far this season. The Red Raiders have the second-best defense in the country, while the pass-happy offense continues to hum right along.

It's a strong sign that defensive-minded coach Tommy Tuberville is in charge and the pass-happy pirate of the South Plains, Leach, has moved on.

"It's a tremendous improvement in the first three games from what we saw last year," Tuberville said after Texas Tech's 49-14 win over New Mexico last weekend. "

Texas Tech has the week off before beginning Big 12 play at Iowa State on Sept. 29.

The Red Raiders (3-0) have the highest defensive ranking of the past 12 seasons. At No. 2 nationally they're giving up just 120 yards per game. Last season, they finished 114th in total defense, giving up 485 yards per game.

Tuberville knows Big 12 teams' will have bigger offensive lines and more talent than what the Red Raiders (3-0) faced against nonconference opponents. Texas Tech has more depth and experience than last season, he said.

"We're a team that can score points but we need possessions — last year we couldn't get our offense back on the field," Tuberville said. "This year, hopefully, it's different, but again it's yet to be seen if we can do it in Big 12 play. We'll find out starting next week in terms of how we react to eight- 10-, 12-play drives."

The reason behind the turnaround is defensive coordinator Art Kaufman, a longtime friend of Tuberville who coached under him at Ole Miss.

Middle linebacker Will Smith, a junior college transfer from Riverside Community College in California, said the Red Raiders' defense is still improving.

"I feel like we haven't hit our peak yet, but I feel we're on the way to get there," he said.