Coming off a 44-24 loss to UAB, the Rice Owls make their first trip back to Lubbock, Texas since the Southwest Conference folded after the 1995 season. Owls’ sophomore QB Nick Fanuzzi will get the nod to start after a strong performance last week.
An uninspiring start by Mike Leach’s Red Raiders makes this week’s game a little more interesting than some previously thought. Chalk up the Red Raiders’ slow start to first game jitters or perhaps a little bit of rust.
The aforementioned Fanuzzi was 12-20 (60 percent) with one TD and no INT's. John Thomas Shepherd was 10-22 last week and will serve as the primary backup after earning the start over Fanuzzi in last week’s contest. Fanuzzi also added three rushes for seven yards and a TD. Shepherd gained 48 yards on six carries.
Aside from Shepherd’s 48 yards, Rice’s leading rushers were Tyler Smith, who tallied 37 yards on 11 touches and Charles Ross, who also chipped in 37 yards on five carries. Marcus Knox added two carries for 12 yards, and added Rice’s other rushing score. In all, the Owls rushed the ball 34 times for 156 yards (4.6 yards per carry).
Senior Toren Dixon paced the Owls receivers with nine catches for 65 yards (seven yards per catch) with a long of 15. However, it was Luke Wilson that provided the highlight.
The freshman from Lasara hauled in a 52 yard touchdown pass from Fanuzzi. Taylor Wardlow and Pierre Beasley each caught three passes and no other Owl managed more than two. Collectively, the Owls caught 22 passes for 235 yards (10.7 YPC).
Texas Tech Passing
Taylor Potts’ debut as the starter for Texas Tech had mixed results. On the positive side, the junior from Abilene was 34-48 (71 percent) for 405 yards and showed some toughness by running for two TD's. On the other hand, he made some bad decisions and finished the game with three INT's.
It’s doubtful that Potts and head man Mike Leach were fired up about completing passes to the other team. Touchdown passes to Adam James and Detron Lewis showed glimpses of a promising future for Tech’s top gunslinger.
Texas Tech Rushing
The dynamic duo of Baron Batch and Harrison Jeffers had its moments. However, much more is expected out of them and both are likely highly motivated by last week’s results. Batch ran the ball nine times for 30 yards (3.3 yards per carry) and one score. Jeffers, in his first collegiate game, tallied two carries for 12 yards.
Batch’s punishing running style and elusiveness make him a real threat in Leach’s spread offense. Jeffers’ combination of world-class speed and smaller frame could spell disaster for opposing defenses eager to blitz. Just as it was mentioned last week, fans should expect big things from the running game this year.
Texas Tech Receiving
Although they play different positions, teammates and media members alike have compared Detron Lewis to former Tech All-American WR Michael Crabtree. Lewis did little to eschew the comparisons by catching eight passes for 146 yards (18 yards per catch) with a dazzling 49-yard score.
Alexander Torres, in his first action since transferring from Air Force, caught five passes for 51 yards. RB Jeffers hauled in five for 39, and speedy senior Ed Britton managed four for 42. Potts’ favorite target from high school, Lyle Leong, snagged four balls for 55 yards and Adam James caught two for 24 yards and a score.
Cornelius Douglas caught two for 11 yards and Jacoby Franks caught one for three yards. Freshman Austin Zouzalik caught one pass for 16 yards and also showed some nifty moves in the return game. Zouzalik has a bright future—both as a receiver and as a return man.
Though Crabtree no longer dons the red and black, Tech has assembled a solid combination of sure-handed receivers and added some depth. Opposing defenses may not have a star to prepare for, but they can’t go to sleep on the Red Raiders or they’re going to see six points added to the scoreboard.
Texas Tech leads the all-time series with the Rice Owls 26-20-1. The last time a Rice team beat Texas Tech, Bert Emanuel was quarterbacking the Owls in the early 1990’s.
Last week's win gave Mike Leach a career record of 76-39. He is now just six wins away from becoming the school's all-time wins leader. Spike Dykes currently holds the record with 82.
Expect the Red Raiders to come out blazing in this one. Last week’s win against North Dakota was not quite what coaches, players, and fans want to see from the 2009 Texas Tech squad.
Texas Tech: 45
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