Red Raiders’ passing attack offers big test for Wolf PackTexas Tech, Nevada set for shootout

RENO — UNR’s Chris Ault has seen a lot in his 23 years of coaching college football, and still he can’t think of a single team to compare to No. 12 Texas Tech and its Air Raid offense.

“They are a much different offense than the great Hawaii team of last year with Colt Brennan in charge,” Ault said as the Western Athletic Conference’s Wolf Pack (1-0) prepares to host the Red Raiders (1-0) today.

“As explosive as Hawaii was, I think (Texas Tech’s) passing game is a little more complex than Hawaii’s,” he said. “They’re a precision offense. They do so much with it that, defensively speaking, your versatility is limited.

“They’ve been probably the premier passing team in the country since Coach (Mike) Leach has been there,” said Ault, the fifth-winningest active coach in major college football (192-85-1).

Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell led the nation last year with 5,705 yards passing and 48 touchdown passes. He picked up where he left off in a 49-24 victory over Eastern Washington last week, completing 43 of 58 passes for 536 yards and two touchdowns.

One of those scores went to Michael Crabtree, an All-American who led the nation as a freshman last year in receptions (134), receiving yards (1,962) and TD receptions (22). Crabtree, Eric Morris and Detron Lewis each had nine catches last week.

“They just do a great job of spreading you out and differentiating their, what I call their single routes — being able to call a particular route and then isolating a particular receiver they want to go to,” Ault said.

UNR’s defense boasts its best pass rush in years with outside pressure from speedy sophomore ends Dontay Moch and Kevin Basped. But the secondary has only one starter back from 2007 and allowed several receivers to get behind it a week ago during a 49-13 victory over Grambling State — UNR’s first season-opening win in five years.

“The most important thing (the Red Raiders) do is consider ball control while throwing it. So they’re never out of a game,” Ault said. “Your offense talks about keeping the ball away from them, but I don’t think that bothers them a bit. It is really a terrific, terrific challenge.”

Texas Tech has scored 30 or more points in 17 of its past 19 games.

UNR is 20-5 at Mackay Stadium since Ault left his job as the Wolf Pack athletic director in 2005 to return to the sideline for his third stint as coach of the team he once quarterbacked.

UNR runs an offense Ault calls the “pistol,” a modified shotgun with one back offset and the quarterback lined up a few steps behind center. He implemented it to help the traditionally pass-happy Wolf Pack improve its running game, as evidenced last week when 426 of 629 total yards came on the ground.

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