Wallerstedt has Red Raiders on track

By Joshua Kinder

The days of all-offense and no-defense Texas Tech teams seem to be behind the Red Raiders.

For years under former coach Mike Leach one could count on two things — a lot of points scored by Texas Tech, and more often than not, a lot of points scored by the opponent. Whoever had the ball last, well, that could be your winner.

That was also the difference between good teams and great teams. First-year defensive coordinator and former Kansas State linebacker Matt Wallerstedt is hoping the 25th-ranked Red Raiders can be one of those great teams.

“We didn’t come here to ride the coattails of the offense,” he said during a phone interview with The Mercury this week.

Wallerstedt was the linebackers coach at Texas A&M last season and before that he served as the defensive coordinator at Air Force. He wound up at Texas Tech with new head coach and former Red Raider quarterback Kliff Kingsbury, who was the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M last season during Johnny Manziel’s Heisman Trophy season.

“Knowing Kliff, I knew we were going to be successful offensively, but we told the kids that its our expectation to lead the charge on defense,” said Wallerstedt, who played at K-State from 1984-87 and later returned as an assistant under Ron Prince from 2006-07. “That type of attitude probably has never been presented to them here before.”

It’s paid off too. The Red Raiders — who have lost two in a row to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State — are sixth in the Big 12 in total defense. Texas Tech (7-2, 4-2 Big 12) is second in the league on third down — stopping teams 68 percent of the time — while ranking fourth in sacks with 18.

“Championships are going to be won playing good defense,” Wallerstedt said. “We pounded away at that from Day 1 and we’re seeing that the guys have started to buy into our expectations.

“We played really well the first seven games. It was a great start, but not so great the last two games… But certainly having the right attitude and setting standards high has helped turn the defense around here.”

The Red Raiders’ start to the season — especially on defense — comes as no surprise to K-State coach Bill Snyder.

“I’ve always been proud of Matt — when he was out in Colorado and at A&M — he’s always done well. He’s a bright young guy, understands the game of football, collectively and works extremely hard it. He’s just a very talented coach.”

Texas Tech should be tested Saturday when the Red Raiders host K-State (4-4, 2-3) for an 11 a.m. matchup on ABC. The Wildcats enter the game having won two straight games, blowouts at home against West Virginia and Iowa State, and still needing two more wins to become bowl eligible.

K-State has been firing on all cylinders lately, something that’s taken some time with the adjustment of using a two-quarterback system on offense.

In the last two games, Daniel Sams has completed 12 of his last 13 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 73 yards and another score. Jake Waters has been equally as good for K-State, passing for 355 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for another 87 yards. Neither QB has thrown an interception in the past two games, either. Waters has no interceptions in Big 12 play.

“K-State really gives you a headache with this two-quarterback system they’ve got,” Wallerstedt said. “They spread you out, create another gap, you commit to the run and then they have those receivers that put stress on your DBs. It’s a good scheme and it’s working well for them.”

The two-headed quarterback didn’t start out so hot for the Wildcats, though. Finding out the best way to utilize two QBs took some time. Whether it was finding enough plays for each of them or simply not being creative enough on offense to keep defenses honest, for much of the first half of the season, K-State didn’t appear to be on the same page as an offense.

Wallerstedt said that’s changed now because K-State is asking both quarterbacks to run and pass — not relying on just one to be the passer and the other the runner.

“With Coach Snyder’s system, it’s not like they’re going to stray away from what they do because Waters or Sams is in the game,” he said. “But anytime you have two capable guys, which K-State certainly does, if one’s not on, you can plug the other guy in. Both can run and pass, but Sams can really hurt you with this legs.

“It’s a typical Bill Snyder team. They’re getting better each week. With those two quarterbacks, they’re operating within their system better. And they have an offensive line with threats on the perimeter and in the backfield to help those guys. With what they do, the schemes they run stresses you from the defensive perspective.”

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