The Miners come to Lubbock looking to continue their winning ways and to get revenge on the Raiders for the heartbreaking 38-35 loss in OT in 2006. Unfortunately for the Miners, gone are Jordan Palmer and Johnny Lee Higgins and they are replaced by QB Trevor Vittatoe (Fr-RS, Euless, TX Trinity HS) and RB Trevor Jackson (Jr-transfer from Oregon). In their season opening 10-6 win vs New Mexico, Vittatoe was 6-21 for 59 yds while Jackson gained 73 yds on the ground, including a 36 yard TD run early in the 4th quarter to provide the final margin of victory for UTEP. While the Miner defense gave up close to 400 yds of offense to New Mexico, they were able to hold them to 40% on 3rd down conversions and the Lobos kicker could only make 2 of 4 FG attempts. This week will be a very big challenge for the Miners as they face the high-octane passing attack of Texas Tech.
Texas Tech Notes
Texas Tech won their season opener on Labor Day in convincing fashion, 49-9 over SMU. Graham Harrell was very efficient in his 3 quarters of play, throwing for 420 yds and 4TD's while rushing for another one. WR Michael Crabtree made a huge impact in his first game as a Red Raider with 12 catches for 106 yds and 3 TD's. Defensively the Raiders looked pretty good defending the pass but mediocore against the run. Staying true to form, they spend most of their time in a base 4-3 defense...and when I say base I really mean BASIC!!! They weren't using a lot of zones and blitzes to confuse SMU and instead preferred to sit back and wait on the run to reach the 2nd level and do their best to "protect the big play." While this worked ok against SMU it will not work in Big 12 play. Unless their is a change in defensive philosophy soon...Tech can expect another 8-4 kind of season where they win the easy ones but aren't able to dominate a good offensive team. That being said...they shouldn't have too much of a problem with UTEP in their home opener this Saturday.
The Miners' "Keys to Victory"
1. Pressure Graham Harrell!!! When he has time to throw, he is very accurate with his passes. SMU was unable to get pressure on him and he picked them apart all game long.
2. Double team Michael Crabtree. Yes he's only played in one game...but it's obvious that he's the biggest threat at wideout that the Raiders have. Force Harrell to check off to Amendola and the crew and you'll be able to prevent the big play. If Crabtree gets the ball in space...look out!
3. Use Jackson to control the clock, move the chains, and keep the Air Raid offense off the field. Establish the tone for the game in the first quarter, and then use motion and play action to open up the passing game. Tech's defense isn't very aggressive, but if you can get the LB's to stay at home on the run then you can find holes in the defense.
The Red Raiders' "Keys to Victory"
1. You're the heavy favorite in this game...so don't get anxious in front of the home crowd. Harrell needs to stay patient in the pocket, go through his pre-snap reads, and continue to execute the offense in an efficient manner.
2. Use the pass to set up the run. When a defense feels overwhelmed by the complexity of the passing game, they will be quick to overlook a good mix of running plays. Get the passing game going early and Woods and Lewis will have plenty of room to run on the UTEP defense.
3. BE AGGRESSIVE ON DEFENSE!!! The Miners have a young QB making only his 2nd start. Blitz him early and often and he will crater. New Mexico didn't blitz that often but exploited Vittatoe's rawness and he won't hesitate run around if he feels pressure and his 1st receiver isn't open. Get used to being aggressive now...and it will pay dividends once Big 12 play starts.
While last year's game in El Paso was surprisingly close, this one should be out of reach by the middle of the 2nd quarter. Harrell will have another good day throwing and he'll continue to spread it around to multiple receivers all game long as Tech wins in a rout. Count on Harrell for 350+ yds and at least 4 TD's before the backups come in to finish it off in the 4th quarter. The score in this one comes down to how long before Leach calls the dogs off. The score could go as high as 52 or as low as 35 points. I'll be a generous and say that the Tech defense extends their streak of quarters w/o allowing a touchdown to 10 quarters dating back to the 2006 Insight Bowl.
Texas Tech 45