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September 25, 2011

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Texas Tech escaped with a 35-34 win over Nevada on Saturday. The Red Raiders trailed for most of the game, as Seth Doege threw a four-yard go-ahead touchdown pass to Eric Ward with 36 seconds remaining.

THREE THINGS WE LEARNED

1. Doege can be really good (Part II). Last week, I wrote that while Seth Doege had "made a record-setting performance (against New Mexico) look effortless," questions remained because "he hasn't faced a whole lot of adversity" this season.

That changed last night.

First, let's get this out of the way, Nevada is at best probably the eighth or ninth-best team on Texas Tech's schedule. They'll likely challenge for the WAC title but the Wolf Pack isn't nearly as good as they were a year ago.

That being said, when talking about what Doege showed last night, the opponent doesn't matter as much as the situation. The Red Raiders trailed by 14 at one point in the third quarter, and entered the fourth facing a 10-point deficit. Tech's No. 1 receiver, Darrin Moore, was sidelined with an injury early in the first quarter.

Doege never panicked, nor did his teammates. His 48-yard run in the third quarter was originally supposed to be a handoff to Eric Stephens or a pass, but Doege quickly saw how much space he had and did his best Cody Fajardo impression.

"He was supposed to throw the ball if he didn't give it to me," Stephens said. "I look up and he's running down the middle of the defense. He got the job done."

Three plays later, Doege hit Jace Amaro for an eight-yard touchdown pass to cut the Wolf Pack's lead to seven, and the comeback was on.

We'll find out a little more about Doege next week in Lawrence, and a whole lot more the following weekend against Texas A&M. So far, though, Doege has performed very well -- 89-of-115 passes (77 percent) for 949 yards and 11 touchdowns -- considering he entered the season not having been a full-time starter since his sophomore year of high school.

2. Tech's defense can't afford many injuries. The Red Raiders didn't give up 562 yards and 34 points because of injuries. Injuries didn't cause missed tackles or various other mistakes. But they certainly didn't help Tech's cause.

"Nobody cares who's injured in this whole deal," defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow said after the game. "There were however many people sitting out there in the stands tonight and they care if we won or if we lost the football game. Whoever steps out there has to go play."

Glasgow wasn't interested in dwelling on injuries during last night's post-game press conference. And for good reason, the Red Raiders' defense is a walking M.A.S.H. unit. Cody Davis, Leon Mackey and Tre' Porter did not play due to injury. Pete Robertson sustained a shoulder injury. Terrance Bullitt briefly went to the locker room with a hip injury, but returned and played through the pain.

3. Eric Ward performance against New Mexico was no fluke. Both of Ward's touchdowns last week against the Lobos came after Tech was up 14-0. The Red Raiders' offense was rolling, Doege was completing everything he threw and Darrin Moore was making UNM defenders look silly.

The situation was much different on Saturday. Tech needed one of its receivers to step up, and Ward answered the bell. His go-ahead touchdown catch with less than a minute left puts him in elite company in program history -- company that includes Michael Crabtree, Robert Johnson and Joel Filani.

"It feels like a dream," Ward said after the game. "That's all I have to say. It feels like it didn't even happen, to be honest with you. When something like that happens, you've just got to dwell with the moment because things like this don't last forever. It feels great, to be honest with you."

OBSCENELY OBLIGATORY OVERREACTION

BIG 12 POWER RANKINGS
1. Oklahoma -Second week in a row in which OU doesn't win pretty -- but their still winning.
2. Okla. State - Did OSU beat A&M, or did the Aggies choke?
3. Texas A&M - Aggies seemed to go away from their identity in the second half.
4. Baylor - Griffin piling up amazing stats; big test this weekend against KSU.
5. Texas - Longhorns looking for revenge this Saturday in Ames.
6. Texas Tech - Close win against Nevada a wake-up call or sign of things to come?
7. Kansas State - Miami may not be very good, but KSU took care of business on the road.
8. Missouri - Believe in moral victories? Tigers' 10-point loss in Norman very respectable.
9. Iowa State - Cyclones have two wins over BCS AQ conferences this season.
10. Kansas - Jayhawks still having Yellow Jacket nightmares.
The Red Raiders' first two games largely followed the same script -- Texas State and New Mexico were able to move the ball, but turnovers killed any momentum they may have had and allowed Tech's offense to put them in an even deeper hole.

Nevada held onto the ball and stuck to their identity. Tech, meanwhile, couldn't buy a stop until the fourth quarter -- where they buckled up in the redzone and held the Wolf Pack to field goals. Nevada put together drives of more than 50 yards in seven of their 10 offensive possessions.

Yikes. The Red Raiders won't win many (any?) games the rest of the way if their opponents are able to duplicate Nevada's success.

WEEKEND SUPERLATIVES

Player Whose Last Name Will Soon Be Treated Like A Verb - Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo sliced up Tech's defense, rushing for 139 yards on 10 carries, completing 4-of-6 for 59 yards and accounting for three touchdowns. Fajardoed.

Overlooked Most Valuable Player - Ben McRoy set a school record with 203 yards on seven kick returns. He, and the kickoff return unit, were the unsung heroes of Tech's win as they gave Doege and the offense great starting field position in the second half. The Red Raiders' average second half drive started at their own 45-yard line.

Most Inopportune Play Calls - Chris Ault is a Hall of Fame coach for a reason, but he called some head-scratchers against Tech. The Wolf Pack gouged the Red Raiders on the ground from the get-go, but Ault called a pass on 3rd and 4 on Nevada's opening drive. Incomplete. Later in the first quarter, with the Pack facing 3rd and 2 on the Tech 14, Ault calls another pass. Incomplete. Nevada settled for a missed field goal attempt. In the fourth quarter, Nevada had a chance to put the game away -- set up on Tech's three-yard line, Ault called two consecutive passes that both fell incomplete. The Pack settled for a field goal.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

The Big 12 is now 26-2 overall in non-conference play -- the best of any FBS conference -- and 20-8 against the spread. League teams have now notched wins over counterparts from the ACC, Big East, Big Ten and Pac-12.

Texas A&M managed to choke away a 20-3 halftime lead Saturday against Oklahoma State. The Aggies were in control at the break, and fell apart in the second half. Sure, the play-calling was questionable -- run the ball, Sherm -- but the loss proves that the A&M 'Senior Quarterback Curse' is absolutely real. What started with Mark Farris, continued with Reggie McNeal, Stephen McGee and Jerrod Johnson now too appears to be impacting Ryan Tannehill.

Baylor's Robert Griffin may have been feasting on cupcakes since the Bears' opening win against TCU, but the stats that he is putting together are still amazing. In three games, Griffin has completed 70-of-82 passes for 962 yards and 13 touchdowns -- just to be clear, he has thrown more touchdowns than incompletions.

Speaking of Griffin, he will face off against Kansas State and its Big 12-leading defense next Saturday. The Wildcats rank in the top 10 in yards allowed (246) and points (10.33) per game and is No. 1 nationally in redzone defense. Not bad for a team that was one of the 15 worst defenses in the country a year ago.



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