The Offensive Defense at Texas Tech


Sep 13, 2014; Lubbock, TX, USA; Former Texas Tech Red Raiders defensive standout Gabe Rivera

I’m not exactly sure why last Saturday’s game against Arkansas made me think about the defensive problem surrounding Texas Tech’s football program. Sure, the Razorbacks rushed for 438 yards and made the Red Raiders defense look completely outmatched and out manned. Sure there were times during Saturday’s match up that made Tech fans think that the Hogs could literally run any formation and rip off 15, 20 and 25-yard runs with their offensive line manhandling Tech’s undersized defensive line, but is this really anything new?

Back in the mid-90’s Texas Tech’s defense was a strong point of the Red Raiders program. It wasn’t dominant, but it was something the coaching staff relied on to keep them in games against more talented programs. What exactly caused such a downturn in defensive size and talent?

I’d like to preface this by saying I’m a huge fan of the Air Raid offense. Some of my favorite memories of Texas Tech football involves quarterbacks like Kliff Kingsbury, Sonny Cumbie, Cody Hodges, B.J. Symons and Graham Harrell slinging the ball all over the field to wide receivers like Wes Welker, Robert Johnson, Michael Crabtree, Danny Amendola, Carlos Francis and Nehemiah Glover.

As exciting as the Air Raid has been, the Red Raiders defenses since 1999 have been equally as embarrassing the majority of the time.

I don’t think the lack of prowess on the defensive side of the ball can be attributed to one single cause. It could be that the defense has taken a back seat to the offense for so long, a lack of size along the defensive line, failed junior college recruits or a plethora of other reasons. To me, its due to a culture of completely lacking defensive confidence

This article isn’t to poke fun at the Red Raiders defense, or to offer up my “experts” (ha) advice on how Kliff Kingsbury and Matt Wallerstedt can fix this long standing problem, but rather to delve into the root of Texas Tech’s defensive struggles to see why it has happened.

For reference, below is a chart showing Texas Tech’s defensive statistics for the past decade according to


2004(Lyle Setencich)

Texas Tech1125.7347.0193018871108225325019

2005: (Lyle Setencich) (9-3)

Texas Tech1119.4328.218901720120002891715

2006: (Lyle Setencich) (8-5)

Texas Tech1223.8323.121081769112003061832

2007: (Lyle Setencich/Ruffin McNeil) (9-4)

Texas Tech1225.8367.123532052100006315826

2008: (Ruffin McNeil) (11-2)

Texas Tech1226.3371.628571602183003882434

2009: (Ruffin McNeil) (9-4)

Texas Tech1221.8348.826851500100000N/A0

2010: (James Willis) (8-5)

Texas Tech1230.3463.136731884151000N/A0

2011: (Chad Glasgow) (5-7)

Texas Tech1239.3485.62721310650000N/A0

2012: (Art Kaufmann) (8-5)

Texas Tech1231.8367.32350205781000N/A0

2013: (Matt Wallerstedt) (8-5)

Texas Tech1231.2419.12697233281

2014: (Matt Wallerstedt) (2-1)

Texas Tech336.7432.74058930

A few things really stand out from these stats to me. First is that there was a belief that during the Mike Leach era, the defense was basically non existent. The Tuberville era proved this myth wrong, as “The Riverboat Gambler”‘s defenses actually gave up an average of 33.8 points per game while “The Pirate”‘s defense gave up an average of 23.8 points per game (from 2004-2009), a significant 10 points per game less.

Now, the culture of offense within the Big 12 has drastically changed since Mike Leach was head coach in Lubbock. While he was there, Tech was really the only true “Air Raid” offense in the league (although several of the Texas Longhorns, Oklahoma Sooners, Missouri Tigers and Oklahoma State Cowboys offenses were very potent). Since his departure, and the subsequent tenure of Tommy Tuberville and now Kliff Kingsbury, the Baylor Bears have become the cream of the crop of Big 12 “Air Raid” offenses (sorry guys and girls, but its true).

Its been tough to watch three programs which were considerably lower on the Big 12 totem pole (Cowboys, Wildcats and Bears respectively), leapfrog the Red Raiders and win the Big 12 title for the past three years. In order for the Red Raiders to make that next step that these programs already have made, the defense needs good coaching. The defense needs an identity. The defense needs leadership and above all else, the defense needs some confidence.

In Texas Tech’s two best years in the past decade, they’ve had one key difference than any of the other teams the Red Raiders have fielded: defensive play makers and guys who can lead and take control of the game.

In 2005, Texas Tech went 9-2 in the regular season and if it wasn’t for a last second field goal win in the Cotton Bowl by the Alabama Crimson Tide, they would have eclipsed the double digit win mark. Sure, Tech’s offense was potent that year (as it was nearly every year under Leach), but there was an “x-factor”. That guy was Dwayne Slay. Appropriately named, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound safety provided an intimidation factor for opposing offenses that you rarely see in college football. He laid big hit after big hit and brought a sense of confidence to that side of the ball that Tech almost never sees.

One of the more memorable moments in Slay’s short collegiate career was when he knocked out Kansas State’s Allen Everidge. It was a perfect moment that showed the intensity and excitement he brought to a program that prides itself on its offensive explosiveness.

In 2008, Tech went 11-2 and Graham Harrell/Michael Crabtree (deservedly) got a lot of the credit for that season, but the Red Raiders defense allowed just 26.3 ppg in probably one of the highest scoring divisions in college football history and had 18 (!) interceptions on the year. Tech didn’t just have a good offense, defensive leaders like Jamar Wall, Darcell McBath and Daniel Charbonnet gave that side of the ball a sense of pride when it walked out onto the field.

Its been obvious that so far this season, there’s been no leadership on defense. I haven’t seen leadership from defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt nor from senior linebackers Sam Eguavoen and Kenny Williams. The culture of the Texas Tech defense must change in order for the Red Raiders to take the next step and win the Big 12, and right now, they seem as far away from that as I’ve seen in a long time.

Tech honored Red Raider defensive legend Gabe Rivera last weekend before the Arkansas game, and wore another legends (Zach Thomas) throwback jerseys for the game. Its time someone on the defense steps up and puts some of Rivera and Thomas’ heart and grit into their own defense.