Texas Tech on the Upswing
Proof Is in The Defense
Ever since Texas Tech defensive coordinator Greg McMackin increased from one to three the number of graduates of Corona-do High, which is only three miles from the Red Raiders' stadium in Lubbock, in his starting lineup, four games ago, Tech has been a power in the Big 12 South. Its 12-0 shutout of Texas A&M, the Aggies' fourth consecutive loss in Lubbock, raised the Red Raiders' record to 3-3 in league play, 5-3 overall, and proved there's more to Texas Tech than the throw-at-will philosophy of coach Mike Leach.
After his defense gave up 30 points per game in its first four outings, McMackin moved starting senior strong safety Kevin Curtis ( Coronado 1998) to free safety, put sophomore Ryan Ay-cock ( Coronado '99) in Curtis's old spot and made freshman strongside linebacker Mike Smith ( Coronado '00) a first-teamer. Another freshman, defensive tackle Clayton Harmon of Stephenville, Texas, also became a starter. "There's eagerness and emotion," McMackin says. "I like the way they're not hesitating. They just go play."
In the four games since the changes, which include a 41-31 loss to No. 2 Nebraska, the Red Raiders have allowed an average of 19.8 points, and Aycock and Curtis have combined to make seven interceptions. Last Saturday, the Aggies crossed midfield six times and failed to score. "When we stopped the fake field goal on their first possession," Curtis said on Sunday, "we took their best shot." The Red Raiders thwarted all five of Texas A&M's fourth-down conversion attempts and 10 of 13 on third down.
"West Texas kids are tough, hard, competitive kids," says McMackin, who worked for Dennis Erickson for six seasons, first with the Miami Hurricanes and then with the Seattle Seahawks. "They are well-coached in high school. That has to help."
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