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September 3, 2012

Notebook: All about the option

MORE: Notes from Monday's presser | Free 30-day trial

Texas Tech cruised to a 44-6 season-opening victory over Northwestern State Saturday, but things are going to heat up this weekend against a Texas State team still flying high after pulling a big road upset of Houston.

The Red Raiders are riding some momentum of their own following its defensive performance against the Demons -- one of the most statistically impressive outings in program history. Art Kaufman's unit has no time to rest on its laurels, however, as it will face a Bobcat option attack that will challenge the team in ways NSU didn't.

Saturday's game will be a sign of things to come for Tech, as other teams on its schedule incorporate some option elements into their offense.

"It gives you an idea of what you'll face," middle linebacker Will Smith said, referring to taking on a mobile quarterback in Northwestern State's Brad Henderson. "But I feel like the quarterback at Texas State, Shaun Rutherford, is more versatile. Like I said earlier, just staying disciplined in what you're assigned to do."

Last season, the Red Raiders couldn't stop the Bobcats' runs that went outside the tackle very effectively, but adding an extra linebacker into the mix in the new 4-3 defensive scheme as opposed to the 4-2-5 scheme last year should help make that a little easier. Northwestern State certainly did not gain many yards rolling outside the tackles.

Stopping the option is as much about being in the right position as anything else. Last year, the Red Raiders failed that task more often than not.

"We talk a lot about knowing what your job is," first-year defensive coordinator Art Kaufman said. "We stressed that in the spring and through fall camp and now 10 days out we have to know our job. You just have to fit into the system. You know what your job is and I think as the (Northwestern State) game went on they saw the difference between the plays made and the plays that weren't made."

While Texas State's offense is definitely ground-centric, they the Bobcats will still take shots downfield.

"They're an option team and it's going to come down to assignment football," Kaufman said. "Everybody has to make sure they take care of their job. Our D-tackles will have to keep their pads down. Their quarterback is an excellent runner. What they do is they play run, run, run, run and then they go up top and hit you with a play action pass or some type of pass. So we've got our work cut out for us."

Bullitt's injury is not serious

Linebacker Terrance Bullitt, who played most of last season with an injured shoulder that eventually required surgery over the offseason, left Saturday's game against NSU after apparently injuring the same shoulder.

Tuberville said Monday that Bullitt's injury was less severe than first thought.

"He'll be fine," he said. "He'll practice this week. No structural damage at all, so glad to see that. He wants to play."

With concerns about a potentially serious injury alleviated, the situation turned into a teaching moment for Tuberville.

"He'll tell you he got himself in the wrong position reaching instead of moving his feet," Tuberville said. "So he gets another chance. So now he's got to become more under control, but it's frustrating when I felt like we just couldn't get a break. But looks like we got one or Terrance got one."

The type of balance Tuberville wants?

The Red Raiders were balanced on offense against NSU, registering 46 rushing attempts for 179 yards and 47 pass attempts between Seth Doege and Michael Brewer that resulted in 321 passing yards.

Should fans expect this kind of balance moving forward? Maybe not. Tommy Tuberville expressed interest in getting Darrin Moore and Javon Bell involved against Texas State creating more big plays.

"We need to make more big plays," Tuberville said. "We didn't do a lot on the offense this game. We were a little bit more conservative. We had two offensive prospective starters out in Javon Bell and Darrin Moore who will be back this week and add a little fire power to what we can do, a little speed.

"But we went into that game trying to be fundamentally right and technically right, doing the right things. Not putting our two guards into a situation where they didn't know what was going on. They're much farther along. We just did that in precaution. We could have played another team that's better, and I think they would have done just as well. But you just go in and try to create an atmosphere of being positive and something positive happened. We had 500 yards."

Stephens will eventually ditch the brace

One last note regarding the return of running back Eric Stephens.

Stephens said part of the reason he doesn't look as fast this year is the knee brace he is wearing on his left knee. He's going to try to practice without it a few times in the near future and may not wear it in games later this season.

"The biggest thing with the knee brace is I don't get full flexion so I can't really run.," Stephens said. "I feel like I'm scooting my leg when I run. I've been running with it for a couple of months, so I got used to do it. I just want to get off of it, because I'm able to run a little better without it."

Hostile territory

The Bobcats and their fans are understandably excited about their upset win against Houston. It has been called the biggest win in Texas State football history.

Tuberville didn't seem that surprised by the Bobcats' success.

"Texas State has done it right," he said. "They put money into it. They've hired a coaching staff, and they've hired a coach that's been there and done that. They're not a wannabe. They're putting their money where their mouth is, and we're walking into a tough situation. We'll have several of those this year, and we have to learn how to do it. It will be a good experience for us."

Tech players admitted they were a little surprised that Franchione's team topped UH.

"You could say that," Smith said. "You wouldn't think Texas State would come out as strong as they did. It's a wake-up call, but no matter who it is, we have to come out ready to play."

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