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September 12, 2011New Mexico, although certainly a winnable game for Texas Tech, is in a situation to create a perfect storm against the Red Raiders.
First, it will have been 14 days since Tech played a game when it kicks off against the Lobos. Secondly, it's a road game for a young Red Raider squad. But maybe most importantly, Tech started slow in its first game and a repeat could be problematic against an FBS team like New Mexico.
Tech spent its second-week bye trying to overcome the problems that caused it to fall behind Texas State 10-9 at halftime Sept. 3. It's worth mentioning Tech put up 50 unanswered points after falling behind 10-0 though.
"But now we've got to start putting more of it together," head coach Tommy Tuberville said Monday during his media luncheon. "One half of football is not going to win a lot of games for us in these last 11. We've got to be more consistent on both sides of the ball. Kicking game has to come through. But, again, we're really excited about the potential of where we can get to. Now, are we going to get there in spring practice this year or are we going to get there in the middle of the season, are we going to get there this week? That's yet to be seen."
Tech's coaching staff believes Lobo head coach Mike Locksley, who is 2-24 in 26 games as New Mexico's coach, can give the Red Raiders a real test if Tech doesn't play up to its potential.
New Mexico's most recent game was a 52-3 drubbing against now-No. 14 Arkansas. But Tuberville said the Lobos are improved from a year ago. After watching the film of New Mexico's season-opening game against Colorado State, Tuberville is convinced the Lobos can win some games this year.
"Last week they go to Little Rock and play one of probably the Top 10 teams in the country in Arkansas, and didn't play as well, but they didn't make the mistakes that they made the week before that probably cost the game in turnovers and sacks," Tuberville said. "So they made some improvement.
"I'm sure they're looking forward to getting us to Albuquerque seeing how we played the first game. And last year it was a very close game until, I guess, to the first part of the fourth quarter it was very close, and we were able to make some plays and get the win. So it will be a good challenge for us going into this game. We've got to play better."
Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown said he expects New Mexico to come out early and try to get pressure on the Red Raiders' young offense. If the Lobos can force a few turnovers, they can stay in the game.
The best way to do that is to knock down quarterback Seth Doege early and often via blitzes and jam the run. The problem for New Mexico is the blitz and schemes to stop the run open up parts of the field -- up top or in shallow spaces -- for the pass.
"For me, it's just stay patient with my reads and really just take what they give us," Doege said. "It's not trying to force things. Not trying to make plays when they're not really there. If they're going to come after us, we just need to take what they give us.
"If it's a shot down the field, we'll take a shot down the field. If it's a five-yard route and catch and throw, that's what we're going to do too. We're not going to try to force things. We're going to try to execute our game plan and go from there."
The common theme of the luncheon was the sentiment if the Red Raiders simply execute the game plan Saturday, they're going to win the ballgame.
That simply means limiting mistakes.
"I don't worry about whether we're playing New Mexico or Oklahoma or Texas," running back Eric Stephens said. It doesn't matter about what they have on their side of the ball. I think it all comes down to how we come out and play and execute."