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Thursday, September 6, 2012
Matchup intrigue changed quickly for Tech

By David Ubben

Texas State playing the part of overachiever? Excuse Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville if he's unsurprised to see the Bobcats, in their first year playing FBS football, making waves.

Last season, the Bobcats came to Lubbock and did exactly that during the season's first game.

Heading into halftime, Texas State pitched a second-quarter shutout and led the Red Raiders, 10-9. Texas Tech rallied in the second half for a 50-10 victory, but for the game's first 30 minutes, the point was made.

Last week, Texas State did the unthinkable for 60 minutes, rolling over Houston on the road, 30-13, despite being a 36-point underdog.

"Houston’s lost a lot of players from last year, and Texas State’s got a lot of guys back. They do a good job of coaching and the offense they run is pretty unique to what everybody does," Tuberville said. "Those two-three big plays early got Houston behind."

Running back Marcus Curry scored on a 21-yard catch and 73-yard run to put the Bobcats ahead early, a lead they never handed back to the Cougars.

Texas State will be returning home to San Marcos to face the Red Raiders for its first home game as an FBS member. Record crowds are expected, and win or lose, it'll be an unforgettable day at Texas State.

"You wouldn't think Texas State would come out as strong as they did," Texas Tech linebacker Will Smith told reporters this week. "It's a wakeup call, but no matter who it is, we have to come out ready to play."

Tuberville's got reason to believe his defense won't be giving up the big plays Houston did, though. The Red Raiders ranked last nationally in rush defense a year ago, giving up more almost 259 yards per game on the ground.

Last week, the defense surrendered just 13 rushing yards to FCS visitor Northwestern State, a marked improvement regardless of the quality of opponent. Smith's speed earned him a starting spot in the middle of the defense, and he'll be needed in Saturday's matchup.

"We just played technique. We were real bad last year at basics and fundamentals," Tuberville said. "From the spring on we’ve been going back to techniques you have to do on defense to stop the run, and that’s been one of our main goals."

Last week's upset turned this Saturday's game from a snoozer into an intriguing, dangerous matchup between a pair of Lone Star squads, but this early in the season, the importance of Saturday is clear for Tuberville.

"It’s still more about us than who we play. We’re not a great football team. We’re playing better, but we’ve got a lot of young kids we’ve got to get ready to play. We’ve just got to try to get better," he said. "All three phases of our football team is better than it was last year, but Texas State’s going to be a tough game for us. It’s a big game for them, it’s going to be a big game for us."