NCF Nation: Terrance Bullitt

Tech plays to win in huge road victory

October, 19, 2013
10/19/13
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- With a chance to run the clock out and kick a field goal, Kliff Kingsbury went for the kill instead.

And with a freshman quarterback, no less, in his first career road start.

But in the final minute of the fourth quarter, Davis Webb answered his coach’s cool confidence with a cool, confident touchdown pass, clinching Texas Tech’s 37-27 win Saturday at West Virginia.

[+] EnlargeDavis Webb
AP Photo/Chris JacksonFreshman quarterback Davis Webb, making his first road start, was 36-of-50 for 462 yards and two touchdowns in the Red Raiders' win over West Virginia.
“We talk about it all the time, fortune favors the bold,” Kingsbury said. “We’re going to go try win the game.

“We’re not going to leave it on anybody else.”

Kingsbury’s play-to-win attitude has the preseason pick to finish seventh in the league sitting at 7-0. And it has solidified the Red Raiders as legit contenders in a wild, wild Big 12 season heading into next weekend’s showdown at Oklahoma.

“That call showed how much trust Coach has in us,” said tight end Jace Amaro, who hauled in the 10-yard touchdown pass from Webb at the back of the end zone that put the Red Raiders up by two scores with 1:01 to play.

Kingsbury’s call especially showed trust in Webb, who has blossomed since losing the starting job in the preseason to freshman walk-on Baker Mayfield.

In Webb's first start last week, he broke the Texas Tech freshman passing record in a victory over Iowa State.

In Morgantown, Webb broke the record again.

He completed 36 of 50 passes for 462 yards and two touchdowns to also become the first Texas Tech freshman to throw for more than 400 yards in his first two starts.

“Losing the job really kicked him into overtime as far as determination and work ethic,” Kingsbury said of Webb, who, as a freshman, remains off limits to the media. “He has handled himself very well since.”

Webb was far from perfect Saturday. And his fumble at the West Virginia 1-yard line in the second quarter completely reversed momentum of the game. The Red Raiders led 13-3 and were primed to make it 20-3. But off a quarterback draw, Webb tried to embody his coach’s play-to-win attitude and went for the touchdown instead of sliding. At the goal line, three Mountaineers converged on Webb and popped the ball loose and West Virginia recovered. The Mountaineers answered with a 99-yard touchdown drive, and scored on five straight possessions to take a 27-16 lead in the third quarter.

“That one I was mad about, because we talk about sliding all the time; he's not the most nimble to try and do something like that, either,” Kingsbury said. “But he said, ‘I got you, Coach. I’ll make up for it.’ That’s the kind of kid he is.”

Webb more than made up for the fumble.

And the Texas Tech defense, which was on its heels for two quarters, finally gave him the opportunity to do it.

After the Mountaineers took the 11-point lead, the Red Raider defense allowed just one first down the rest of the way over West Virginia’s final five possessions.

Losing the job really kicked him into overtime as far as determination and work ethic. He has handled himself very well since.

Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury on quarterback Davis Webb.
“West Virginia had a lot of opportunities there (to put the game away),” linebacker Terrance Bullitt said. “But we never panicked. We were like, ‘Let’s go, let’s get this.’ We knew we were going to stop them. We stepped up as a defense, then the offense stepped up and put the game away.”

The drive before Webb’s final touchdown pass, West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett completed all three of his passes. But the Mountaineers still went three-and-out, as Texas Tech’s Bullitt, Derrick Mays and Bruce Jones all made sure tackles to force yet another punt.

“We knew if we got that stop, we were going to win the game,” said Amaro, who had another monster performance with nine catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns to fuel Texas Tech’s comeback.

“We got that stop.”

After that stop, the Red Raiders got the ball back with 4:30 still to play. But instead of just sitting on the ball, Tech gunned for first downs. On 3rd-and-6, Webb lofted a pass 27 yards downfield to Jordan Davis, who came down with the reception in coverage at the West Virginia 5.

Then three plays later on third-and-goal, Kingsbury called another daring pass. And Webb delivered.

“When we’ve had to have big drives, Davis has made them,” said Kingsbury, who was the first to meet Webb at the hashmarks to celebrate the score. “I’m really proud of how he handled himself in the fourth quarter.”

A fourth quarter Texas Tech played to win. And a win that stamped the Red Raiders as Big 12 contenders.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 3

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
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Oklahoma and Oklahoma State rolled, Texas capitulated, Texas Tech prevailed, TCU scuffled, West Virginia and Kansas State cruised, Iowa State and Kansas faltered and Baylor watched. The third weekend that was in the Big 12:

Team of the week: Texas Tech. So far, the Red Raiders have been the big surprise of the Big 12. The first two games Tech won with quarterback Baker Mayfield and its air assault. Thursday, the Red Raiders beat TCU 20-10 with hard-nosed defense. Tech is off to a phenomenal start and could keep it going with four winnable games coming up next. Those games will be even more winnable if this defense proves to be the real deal.

Disappointment of the week: Iowa State. After a disappointing opening performance, the Cyclones had high hopes they could turn their season around against their instate rival. Instead, Iowa jumped to a 27-7 lead, then withstood Iowa State’s mild fourth-quarter rally. The Cyclones have not looked good offensively through two games, and outside Sam Richardson throwing the ball up to Quenton Bundrage, have really shown no pop. The Cyclones desperately need a running back and a running game to emerge. So far, neither has.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsBlake Bell took charge as quarterback for Oklahoma.
Big (offensive) man on campus: Blake Bell. After losing the preseason quarterback battle to Trevor Knight, Bell roared back to recapture the job for good. Bell completed 27 of 37 passes for 413 yards and four touchdowns in Oklahoma’s 51-20 win over Tulsa. Accounting for both rushing and passing, Bell finished the game with a QBR of 96.7. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that’s the highest single-game QBR (before opponent adjustment) by a qualifying Oklahoma quarterback since Sam Bradford recorded a 99.0 at Baylor in 2008.

Big (defensive) men on campus: Terrance Bullitt and Will Smith. Several different Red Raiders qualified for the honor, but the senior linebackers were instrumental in the win over TCU. Bullitt collected six tackles and batted down four passes, which helped prevent Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin from generating any rhythm on his shorter passes. Smith, who led Tech with nine tackles, helped stuff TCU’s run up the middle. With Tre’ Porter anchoring the secondary and Kerry Hyder wreaking havoc up front, the Red Raiders have the makings of a very solid defense, if this level of linebacker play from Bullitt and Smith continues.

Special teams player of the week: Anthony Fera. Don’t blame the Texas kicker for the Longhorns’ 44-23 loss to Ole Miss. Fera nailed all three of his field goal attempts in the defeat, including a 47-yarder that put Texas up two scores just before halftime. Of course, the Longhorns failed to score the rest of the game. Fera was effective punting, too, pinning Ole Miss inside its own 20 twice. The Longhorns don’t have much going for them at the moment, but at least they have a reliable kicker and punter.

Play of the week: Texas Tech’s DeAndre Washington appeared to have scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 49-yard pass in the fourth quarter against TCU. Washington, however, let go of the football just before crossing the goal line. The ball rolled into the end zone and came to a stop, but no one touched it after the field judge signaled touchdown. The play was reviewed and the touchdown was overturned, but Tech was given the ball at the half-yard line (though a celebration penalty pushed the ball back to the 15). The Frogs have a beef about the field judge signaling touchdown prematurely, but, according to the rulebook, officials made the right call on the replay. Had a Frog picked up the ball or had the ball rolled out of the end zone, TCU would have taken over possession, but none of that happened. Instead, Tech was given back the ball, and Davis Webb found Bradley Marquez for the game-winning touchdown -- a play that could have long-lasting effects for both the Red Raiders and TCU.

Stat of the week: After giving up 272 rushing yards to Ole Miss, Texas now has the third-worst rush defense in college football. The Longhorns are allowing 308.7 rushing yards per game. No one else in the Big 12 is giving up more than 223.

Quote of the week: “Forget the coaches, come for the kids. Come for the young guys who are really trying, and come watch them try to beat Kansas State, which we haven't done very often.”

-- coach Mack Brown, in a plea to Texas fans to keep filling the stadium despite the Longhorns’ 1-2 start.
We've taken a look at the Big 12 offensive skill positions in our position rankings, and we'll circle back along to the lines eventually. For now, though, we'll flip to the defensive side of the ball, starting with linebackers.

There's a lot of turnover in this space, and the bottom half was pretty hard to sort out. We haven't seen a lot of these new faces on the field for extended periods of time, so it's somewhat of a crapshoot. I don't feel like there's a wide gap between teams 7-10, and each of those squads have at least one linebacker who could be due for a huge year and shoot them up this list.

I see Nos. 1-3 possibly being great, with dropoffs before the No. 4 and No. 7 teams.

Also, if you missed them, here are the other position rankings we've done so far.
So, without further ado, here's how I ranked the linebackers. (Nickel backs are included in this list, hybrid DE/LBs will be with defensive lines)

[+] EnlargeTravis Lewis
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireOklahoma's Travis Lewis is the Big 12's top returning defender.
1. Oklahoma -- The Sooners boast the Big 12's top returning defender in Travis Lewis, who has notched at least 100 tackles in each of the past three seasons, and he'll be joined by the Big 12's co-Defensive Freshman of the Year, Tony Jefferson. Tom Wort and Corey Nelson are both loaded with potential, and will fill out the rotation, after the starter at middle linebacker, Austin Box, died on May 19.

2. Iowa State -- The Cyclones boast two of the Big 12's best in Jake Knott and A.J. Klein, who combined for more tackles than any two teammates in the Big 12 last season. They had 241 stops, and, after healing from a broken leg suffered midseason last year, Matt Tau'fo'ou should join them at middle linebacker.

3. Texas -- Texas' offense may be lacking, but the defense will be strong once again, led by two others likely to earn spots as some of the Big 12's best. Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho were Texas' top two tacklers last year with 187 stops, and return as likely captains come fall camp. Texas' depth chart is wide open, but look for former blue-chip recruit Jordan Hicks to emerge as another star this year, despite being forced to sit out spring camp with a broken foot. Dravannti Johnson played some defensive end last year at the Buck position for the Longhorns, but may find his way back to linebacker. Tevin Jackson was ineligible last year, but he's ready for 2011, and could make an impact.

4. Oklahoma State -- The Cowboys "Star" linebacker is occupied by co-Defensive Freshman of the Year Shaun Lewis, and sophomore Caleb Lavey is charged with replacing Orie Lemon, the leader of last year's defense. Oklahoma State has questions on the weak side, but LeRon Furr and Chris Dinkins will compete next fall. Kris Catlin could be a factor, too.

5. Texas A&M -- The Aggies must replace their leading tackler, Michael Hodges, and don't have a clear replacement heading into fall camp. The good news: They've got two others with lots of experience in the linebacking corps that look like budding stars. Garrick Williams should be one of the defense's leaders and Sean Porter returns after making 74 tackles last year to rank third on the team.

6. Missouri -- The Tigers have lots of experience at middle linebacker, where a pair of seniors (albeit frequently injured seniors) Will Ebner and Luke Lambert will be on the field a lot. One of the Big 12's most exciting players, junior Zaviar Gooden, will hold down the weakside and perhaps become a household name by season's end. Sophomores Andrew Wilson and Donovan Bonner, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, will likely compete for strongside duties in fall camp. Andrew Gachkar, the team's leading tackler, is gone, but here's guessing Gooden emerges as the defense's top playmaker.

7. Kansas -- The Jayhawks linebackers were solid last year, and could be pretty good again, despite losing Drew Dudley and Justin Springer, two of the team's top four tacklers. Steven Johnson, the team's leading tackler in 2010, is back and he'll be joined by possible star Huldon Tharp, who missed all of last season with a leg injury. Fellow sophomore Darius Willis earned a starting role after spring.

8. Kansas State -- K-State's front seven struggled last year, but will get a big boost from Arthur Brown. One man won't be enough to totally fix the Wildcats rush defense problems, though. K-State gave up 26 more yards on the ground per game than any other team in the Big 12 (more than 231 per game) but Brown may be playing in a 4-3 next fall rather than the 4-2-5 the Wildcats have employed since Snyder's return. Alex Hrebec, Emmanuel Lamur, Tre Walker and Blake Slaughter will likely fill the rotation along with Brown.

9. Baylor -- Baylor's defensive depth chart, like Texas', is a bit amorphous after bringing in a new coordinator, but Elliot Coffey figures to be the Bears biggest playmaker at linebacker. Chris McAllister should be solid and Ahmad Dixon is promising at nickelback, too. Brody Trahan is a great story, but him going from third-string quarterback to starting linebacker isn't a ringing endorsement for Baylor's depth at the position.

10. Texas Tech -- Tech will be moving to a 4-2-5 this year under new coordinator Chad Glasgow, and could rise up this list, but the Red Raiders lose a lot of talent from last season's team, which ran the 3-4. Bront Bird and Brian Duncan are both gone, and youth will be a big factor with this group. Cqulin Hubert's outstanding potential is matched by his more outstanding first name, and freshman Blake Dees showed promise after arriving early this spring. They'll likely be the rotation at middle linebacker spot alongside Daniel Cobb and Zach Winbush. Terrance Bullitt could be a playmaker at his new safety spot, listed as a strong safety but with plans to spend lots of time near the line of scrimmage, a la nickelback.

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