HOUSTON (AP) — After a sluggish first half, Texas Tech needed a rousing halftime speech before rallying from an 11-point deficit for a win over Texas-El Paso last week.
Coach Mike Leach hopes his Red Raiders (2-0) don’t find themselves in a similar situation Saturday against Rice (0-2).
“The biggest thing is just understanding we expect to play for 60 minutes no matter what,” he said.
Leach said his halftime address wasn’t “some dramatic thing,” but simply a reminder that everyone needed to work together to beat the Miners.
“I think everybody, all of our players and coaches, wanted the same thing and then all we needed to do is organize a clear-cut plan and just go out and be clear-headed and do it, and that is what happened,” Leach said.
Tech quarterback Graham Harrell has thrown for four touchdowns and more than 400 yards in each of the first two games. Now the junior, who has surpassed his career high in completions for two straight weeks, faces a Rice secondary that ranks 93rd out of 119 teams.
The Owls, who are in their first season under coach David Bailiff, allowed Baylor’s Blake Szymanski to throw for 412 yards and six touchdowns, both school records in the Bears’ 42-17 win last week.
“That was the first time a lot of those guys were asked to play coverage,” Bailiff said. “I think each week defensively we will get better. We’ve got an unbelievable opponent coming in with a similar offense, but they’re a little bigger, faster, and stronger. We’ve got to improve.”
The Red Raiders lost three starting receivers from last season, but haven’t seen any drop-off with the emergence of freshman Michael Crabtree. His 294 yards receiving through two weeks rank fourth nationally, and his five touchdowns are tied for sixth.
He is the first Tech freshman to score multiple touchdowns in each of his first two games.
As good as he’s been, Leach isn’t ready to call his start the best he’s seen in his time in Lubbock.
“There has been several. Wes Welker did some good things as a freshman,” Leach said. “He (Crabtree) is a redshirt freshman, Wes was a true freshman. I don't know. It’s hard to compare. He is off to a good start. He adjusts well and adjusted to playing receiver well and has a good sense of space and getting where he needs to be and does a good job.”
The Owls have their own receiving threat in Jarett Dillard, the Conference USA preseason offensive player of the year. Last season he had 91 receptions for 1,247 yards and 21 touchdowns, all school records.
Dillard has 134 receiving yards this season but has yet to score a touchdown after catching at least one in 15 straight games before this year.
Bailiff said he and his staff are still getting to know the players and hopes they can get through the growing pains of the change before C-USA play begins.
“We’re going to show them what they’ve done wrong, and we’re going to challenge them to do the right thing,” he said. “Football is important to these young men. They’re going to rise to the challenge. They want to win, and they’re going to do everything we ask them to do.”
Saturday’s game is the first meeting between the former Southwest Conference opponents since 1995 and will mark the 900th game in Tech’s 83-year history. It is the second of three straight Big 12 opponents for the Owls, who face Texas next week.
NCAA FOOTBALL: Texas Tech (2-0) at Rice (0-2), 2 p.m. (FSN) — Rice Stadium