Texas Tech's role players step up in big victory

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Earlier this summer, a collective "who's that" went through the assembled media corps when Texas Tech safety Daniel Charbonnet was sent to represent the Red Raiders at the Big 12 preseason media day.

Understand that Tech coach Mike Leach didn't send Biletnikoff Award winner Michael Crabtree or record-setting quarterback Graham Harrell to talk about his developing program. He chose instead to send role players, an indication he thought his team was more than those two stars.

"People wanted us to send Crab and Graham and were a little disappointed when we sent Daniel," defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill said. "But I can tell you that Daniel and a bunch of others are good players, too."

Harrell and Crabtree had their moments Saturday night, punctuated by a wild 28-yard touchdown pass that gave Tech a dramatic 39-33 victory that still had fans buzzing in the parking lots more than two hours after the game.

But to even get to the point where Harrell and Crabtree could work their magic, the Red Raiders needed a big lift from a lot of players that most of the nation had never heard of.

The biggest came from Charbonnet, who provided an 18-yard interception return for a touchdown midway through the third quarter. It was Tech's only second-half touchdown until Crabtree's late score.

Charbonnet also broke up a pass, forced and recovered a fumble and provided four tackles.

Defensive tackle Colby Whitlock contributed a safety less than five minutes into the game that helped start a strong first-half defensive performance.

The Red Raiders limited Texas to 4 of 12 on third-downs. That number is even more impressive considering that Texas had clicked on 17 of 27 third downs and was 5-for-5 on fourth down against Tech in the last two seasons.

Wide receiver Edward Britton emerged from Crabtree's shadow to snag seven receptions for a team-high 139 yards.

Tech was able to consistently run the ball, something that they had struggled with during previous games with Texas. The backfield combination of Shannon Woods and Baron Batch produced 122 yards on 25 carries. It made the Longhorns respect the run, which is something they hadn't done during a five-game winning streak over Tech.

"These contributions show that we're a pretty good football team," McNeill said. "And we can count on each other. These guys don't want to let anybody down and they play like it. They all want to do their best and we saw that tonight."

Tech's collection of talent has pushed them into first place in the Big 12 South. They still have tough games against Oklahoma State and Oklahoma sandwiched around a game against Baylor.

"This win obviously gives us a lot of confidence," Charbonnet said. "We always felt we could play with anybody and beat anybody. But tonight proved that. We have to enjoy it, but also come back and learn from it."