Tech defense turns in dominating performance

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

RENO, Nev. -- Something unusual happened as the Texas Tech players left the field.
Instead of hearing cheers for the Red Raiders' vaunted offense, the Tech defense received the biggest acknowledgement. Fans stood and chanted their names and roared for the defensive performance Saturday in a 35-19 victory over Nevada.

"It was kind of cool to hear that," Tech linebacker Bront Bird said. "It was a team victory and our offense stepped up when we needed them to. But it was neat to hear our fans chanting for the defense. I've never heard that anywhere I've played."

Nevada advanced eight times inside Tech's 26 in the first three quarters, but was came away with only four field goals to show for it.

"We hear about offense this and that," Tech junior defensive end Brandon Williams said. "But we're a team and we're trying to make a point to the world that our defense can play."

The Red Raiders bent but did not break. And their biggest play came early in the third quarter when the Wolf Pack was poised to take the lead.

On a fourth-down play from the Tech 3-yard line, Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick appeared to have scored -- officials initially ruled a touchdown that would put them ahead. But after a delay of several minutes as replays were consulted, game officials ruled that Kaepernick had fumbled before crossing the plane.

"I didn't know if we would get that or not," Daniel Charbonnet said. "I knew I had gotten the fumble, but I didn't know if the camera was able to see it. I was kind of worried. I said a few prayers, and thankfully it worked out."

The defensive play was a huge improvement from last week when the Red Raiders were singed for 341 passing yards in a 49-24 victory over FCS power Eastern Washington. Those struggles made them seeking redemption when they got their chance.

"We came up with big plays when it really mattered," Charbonnet said. "That showed the character of our defense and how far we've grown."

And it left Tech coach Mike Leach with a unique description of his group's play Saturday night.

"They started out as a lightning strike, became a beetle and then became an ape," he said. "Now, I hope they don't evolve too far because they may lose their edge.

"I thought they were pretty good [Saturday]. They need to play smarter, but if you subtract five big plays, it was a huge performance. It was one of the most dominant performances in the country this week."