Lewis Baker gets a little more excited during a week of practice like this one. Nic Harris, too. When you only get to play defense in passing situations, it's easy to get fired up to play Texas Tech. Against the Red Raiders, every down is a passing situation. "I love it," said Harris, Oklahoma's fifth defensive back. Oklahoma will often have five or six defensive backs on the field Saturday, which is much the same way it defended Missouri two weeks ago. That was a special day for Baker. He was on the field for 32 snaps and had a team-high nine tackles, along with one pass break-up. "I'll definitely be part of the package this week. Hopefully I'll make some plays," said Baker, who is a linebacker in a strong safety's body. And at times he plays like both. "I'm kind of a hybrid," he said. "I feel it fits me. "It puts me in a lot of positions to make plays. I've just got to be ready to make a play when I'm out there. I get limited reps, so I've just got to be ready to go." While the look of the defense will be similar to what it was at Missouri, the quarterback it faces is much different. Missouri's Chase Daniel was often a threat to run the ball. Texas Tech's Graham Harrell isn't usually looking to take off, but he's a much better passer — especially in the last three weeks. He responded to a 30-6 loss to Colorado on Oct. 14 with 1,370 yards in the next three games, including a near-upset of Texas. He became the third Texas Tech quarterback to throw for over 1,000 yards in a two-game span with 1,002 yards against Texas and Baylor. "You go back and look at his first games of the season compared to now, he's much more in command, making much better decisions, playing with a lot of confidence," defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. "He's putting it in some tight places now against good people, which is indicative of his confidence level, particularly the last month." Bob Stoops said — and Tech coach Mike Leach agreed — that the Red Raiders' recent success is as much a byproduct of the entire offense playing better as it is Harrell's individual improvement. "I would say, overall, everybody's more consistent," Stoops said of the Tech offense. "It isn't just one guy. It's everybody together being more consistent. (Harrell) is playing really well, but the guys around him are playing really well, too." Harris says there's one key to stopping Texas Tech's offense. And it must happen before Saturday night. "It's more practice than it is game time," Harris said. "Practice, you're taking all the lumps, understanding the receivers' routes and learning what we've got to do. "The game, that's the easy part."
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Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell, left, is not much of a threat to run with ball. He is the third Tech quarterback to throw for over 1,000 yards in a two-game span. Associated press
Scouting Texas TechWhere: Lubbock, Texas Enrollment: 27,996 Mascot: Red Raiders Conference: Big 12 South Last year's record: 9-3 Best player: Receiver Joel Filani. Sure, his name sounds like he should be playing hockey, but he's one of the best receivers in the Big 12. He's only recently become the best receiver on his team. Robert Johnson held that title earlier this season. Johnson ranks second in the Big 12 behind Filani in receptions per game. Why they could win: While the Oklahoma secondary appears to have sewn up its holes, it hasn't been tested the way it will against Tech. And after some early season struggles, the Red Raiders' passing attack is starting to look more like their teams of the recent past. Why they could lose: The Tech offense always seems to find difficulty scoring points against the Sooners. While Mike Leach's offense has averaged close to 35 points per game since he arrived in 2000, Leach's teams have never scored more than 25 against Oklahoma. Little known fact: The Red Raiders qualified for a bowl game with last Saturday's win over Baylor. When Texas Tech takes the field in that bowl game, whatever it may be, it will become the first school ever to start five different quarterbacks in a bowl game in five consecutive years. By John Helsley