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October 10, 2008

Red Raider offense more balanced than you think

Under head coach Mike Leach, Texas Tech's spread offense has earned the reputation for being a high-octane, pass-happy machine.

They've won the last five NCAA passing titles so it isn't surprising that the undefeated and No. 7-ranked Red Raiders are leading the nation once again in passing (439 yards per game) in 2008. However, what makes the Tech offense even more difficult to defense this season is that the Red Raiders have developed a solid running game to compliment the passing of senior quarterback Graham Harrell.

"That was a point of emphasis going into this year," offensive lineman Brandon Carter said. "Running wasn't really much of an option in the past - third down and short, here and there. Running wasn't really a tool that we could use.

"My coach, Coach (Matt) Moore, and Mike Leach, they got together and decided they wanted to make that another weapon. That way we're dually armed, being able to run and pass."

In his interviews with reporters this week, Leach has downplayed the Red Raiders' improved production on the ground, insisting that it's an aspect of the game that's always been a part of his offense.

The numbers, however, speak for themselves. Tech is averaging 144.4 yards per game rushing this season, the highest mark of Leach's tenure in Lubbock. When the Red Raiders do run the ball, they're picking up 5.6 yards per attempt.

Carter doesn't believe the improved rushing numbers are just happening by chance.

"We worked on it a lot during spring ball and we worked on it a lot during camp and throughout the season," Carter said. "We all got on the same page. We trusted our coaches and they trusted us and right now we're having success with it."

Harrell, who last week became Texas Tech's all-time leader passer with 12,709 yards in his career, said having a running game that defenses have to pay attention to makes the Red Raiders' offense even more dangerous.

"This year, we're running the ball better than we've ever ran it since I've played here and that's been huge for us," Harrell said. "That's huge for any offense, I think, but especially in this offense where we're so pass happy and teams focus so much on the pass. We're able to hurt them with the run. If we're able to run the ball effectively, it really puts teams in a bind because what are you going to try to take away?

"It puts teams in a predicament and makes them try to do things they're not always comfortable doing. We just have to attack them where they're not."

The two running backs Husker fans should expect to see carrying the ball on Saturday are senior Shannon Woods (5-11, 194) and sophomore Baron Batch (5-11, 200). They've combined for 654 yards and 10 touchdowns in the Red Raiders' first five games.


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