UND preparing for Texas Tech's passing game
GRAND FORKS -- One of the most lasting images in all of college football last season was Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree hauling in a pass from quarterback Graham Harrell and eluding a pair of Texas defenders to score a last-second touc...
GRAND FORKS -- One of the most lasting images in all of college football last season was Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree hauling in a pass from quarterback Graham Harrell and eluding a pair of Texas defenders to score a last-second touchdown as the Red Raiders beat the Longhorns.
It was a reminder why Texas Tech has led the nation in passing six times in the past nine seasons.
That's a little of what UND co-defensive coordinator John Kelling and his defensive backs have been grappling with this week as the Sioux prepare to play Texas Tech on Saturday in Lubbock, Texas.
"Obviously, watching the highlights you can see that (Texas Tech) has really, really good athletes," UND safety Joel Schwenzfeier said. "The ball is going to be in the air a lot."
The Red Raiders love to throw the ball -- even in lopsided season openers.
Since 2003, Texas Tech has defeated its first opponent of the year by an average of about 45 to 10. In those games, the Red Raiders have averaged 55 pass attempts a game for 445 yards.
"The passing game isn't over-complicated in what they do," Kelling said. "They put lots of responsibility on the quarterback to make the correct reads. They literally might only have 30 routes, but they perfect them and run them over and over. To be that prolific, coach Mike Leach has been really committed to that style."
That style is the spread offense, which features a shotgun formation with three, four or five wide receiver sets.
Texas Tech's version, sometimes referred to as the "Air Raid," utilizes short underneath routes that rely on the playmaking ability of the receivers.
Tech also likes to use the running backs in the passing attack.
"Those offensive linemen can get out there on screen plays," Kelling said. "That's what probably scares me the most."
UND players and coaches, though, say their main focus is on themselves and not Texas Tech.
"As a defense, we have to play our game," UND cornerback Dominique Hawkins said. "We need to make sure we're in our right alignments."
Said Kelling: "It's really quite simple for us. We have to make the best breaks and best reads that we possibly can."
Texas Tech no longer has two Heisman Trophy candidates in Crabtree and Harrell. Crabtree was drafted in the first round by the San Francisco 49ers, while Harrell plays with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL.
Over the years, however, Leach has proven capable of reloading the passing game. This season might not be any different.
Red Raider wide receiver Detron Lewis, who caught 76 passes for 913 yards and three touchdowns last season, was named to the preseason Biletnikoff Award list. The Biletnikoff Award goes to the top receiver in college football, an honor Crabtree captured the past two seasons.
Lewis will be receiving the ball from 6-foot-5 quarterback Taylor Potts, who some say is a much better NFL prospect than past Red Raiders signal callers.
"The best thing Tech does is quickly get the ball in their athlete's hands," Kelling said. "Then they just let their athletes be athletes. If you're not close enough as a defender ..."
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