Three lopsided non-conference wins to open the season haven’t been enough to satisfy Texas Tech coach Mike Leach.
Before beginning their Big 12 schedule, Leach’s No. 11 Red Raiders get one more tuneup Saturday at home against Football Championship Subdivision school Massachusetts.
Texas Tech (3-0) went 4-4 in the Big 12 last season, but is 8-0 in non-conference play since the start of 2007, outscoring those opponents 386-149. The Red Raiders have ridden their prolific offense to three wins by at least 16 points to start this season, including a 43-7 rout of SMU at home last Saturday.
Senior Graham Harrell went 31-for-48 for 418 yards and five touchdowns against the Mustangs as the Red Raiders amassed 693 yards of offense, but Leach still didn’t sound pleased with the effort.
“We can’t drop balls,” Leach said after Saturday night’s win. “If you want to complete a ball you’ve got to throw it. You can’t just point it. You can’t just aim it. You can’t wait for the perfect throw.”
Perfect or not, Texas Tech is putting up impressive numbers. Harrell’s performance against SMU gave him 97 career touchdown passes, surpassing Kliff Kingsbury (95) for the most in the history of the program.
Michael Crabtree caught three TD passes from Harrell last week. The sophomore wideout, attempting an encore after a 2007 in which he had 134 receptions for 1,962 yards and 22 touchdowns - all school records - has 24 receptions for 395 yards and five scores in 2008.
“Until we get this ironed out, we’re just getting by with these guys,” Leach said. “If we have to, we’ll make changes.”
Leach, though, was impressed with a defense which intercepted SMU five times and allowed its fewest points and yards - 274 - of the season.
“Five of the best catches of the game were on defense,” he said. “I thought they deserved a shutout. I wish they would have gotten it.”
The Red Raiders are averaging 42.3 points and 584.3 yards of offense, albeit against weak competition. SMU and Nevada - which Texas Tech beat 35-19 on Sept. 6 - had losing records in 2007. The Red Raiders opened their season with a 49-24 win over Eastern Washington, like Massachusetts an FCS program.
The Minutemen (2-1) have put up 111 points through their first three games, but they’ve allowed 110 - nearly half of those coming last week in a 52-38 loss at James Madison.
UMass gained 443 yards of offense in the defeat thanks to some impressive individual performances. Sophomore wide receiver Victor Cruz caught 13 passes from Liam Coen for a school-record 262 yards and two TDs. Coen finished 26-for-39 for 339 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, while Tony Nelson ran for a pair of scores and gained 109 yards on 20 carries.
Coen’s effort gave him 75 career TD passes - the second-highest total behind Harrell among active quarterbacks in Division I.
This will be the first meeting between UMass and Texas Tech. The Minutemen are 8-19 against FBS schools, but have not beaten one since a 26-10 victory over Ball State on Sept. 1, 1984.
“When we get down there Saturday and go through our walkthrough in the stadium, I’m sure that will get the guys juiced,” said UMass coach Don Brown, whose team played respectably in a 24-14 defeat Sept. 29 against then-No. 12 Boston College. “We’ve responded well to these challenges in the past.”
Texas Tech has a bye next week, then opens its Big 12 schedule Oct. 4 at Kansas State.