Texas Tech 31, No. 15 Nebraska 10
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP)Texas Tech took a break from its win-with-offense style.
The Red Raiders' 31-10 upset of No. 15 Nebraska clearly belonged to the defense.
Steven Sheffield passed for a touchdown and ran for two in his first road start, but the offense went dormant for long stretches of the second half, and the defense never let Nebraska back in the game.
"We were losing yards as fast as we were gaining them there for a while," Tech coach Mike Leach said. "We tested them in about every way that we could. Bad field position. The offense goes three-and-out and then three-and-out. It was like, 'What are you going to do about this, defense?' They just kept stepping up."
Texas Tech (5-2, 2-1 Big 12) won for the first time in four road games since last October. The Raiders came to Lincoln with the nation's second-ranked offense, but they managed just 259 yards - 263 under their average - and mustered only 47 in the second half.
Still, the effort was good enough, largely because of a defense that held Nebraska (4-2, 1-1) to 285 yards and the Huskers' lowest point total since a 41-6 loss to Missouri in 2007.
The loss further exposed Nebraska's offensive shortcomings against quality defenses. For the second straight week Zac Lee and the Huskers did next to nothing for three quarters.
Last week they were able to rally for four touchdowns in the fourth and beat Missouri 27-12.
There would be no late comeback against Tech.
"We didn't execute from the beginning to the end," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. "On offense, we didn't come off the ball. We didn't catch the ball. We didn't make the right reads at quarterback. We didn't run the ball effectively.
"On defense, we didn't make plays. You can sit there and ask all of the questions you want in the world. It comes down to we got beat because we didn't make plays. We got outplayed and outcoached."
Lee was pulled in favor of Cody Green in the middle of the fourth quarter, but offensive coordinator Shawn Watson wasn't ready to say whether he would re-open the competition for the starting quarterback's job before next Saturday's game against Iowa State.
Lee and Green were harassed all afternoon by Tech's front seven. Defensive end Brandon Sharpe had four of Tech's five sacks, running his season total to eight. Sharpe also batted down a pass. Brian Duncan added eight tackles, and strong safety Franklin Mitchen had seven stops and intercepted Green after the Huskers had driven inside the 15 in the fourth quarter.
"I was just out there having fun, running hard, trying to get noticed," Sharpe said. "We were just working hard. Come off the ball and good things will happen."
Sheffield, who passed for 490 yards passing and seven touchdowns in his debut as the starter against Kansas State last week, was nearly perfect early, completing 14 of his first 16 passes against the Huskers. Playing for the injured Taylor Potts, Sheffield went 9-for-16 in the second half and finished with 234 yards.
"Second half, the offense slumped but the defense picked up our slack. Thank God for the defense," Sheffield said.
Sheffield picked up where he left off last week against K-State. He completed all six of his passes while leading the Red Raiders on an 80-yard touchdown drive to start the game, finishing with a 16-yarder to Baron Batch.
"He went out there and elevated his level of play, marched down there and scored," Leach said. "That electrified the whole defense. The entire offense for sure. And, I think our team.
Sheffield couldn't get anything going on his next series, but Tech's defense provided a big lift. Nebraska's Niles Paul fumbled after taking a lateral from Lee, and Daniel Howard picked up the ball and ran it back 82 yards for a 14-0 lead.
"After I fumbled, that was a big letdown," Paul said. "Nobody knew what was going on. It threw us off our game."
The loss comes a day after Pelini finally handed out the Blackshirts, a tradition dating to the 1960s where the defensive starters wear black practice jerseys as a symbol of excellence.
Pelini waited until midseason for the second straight year to unveil the Blackshirts, and nose tackle Ndamukong Suh said Pelini should take them back.
"It had nothing to do with our black shirts, yellow shirts, white shirts or whatever ....," Pelini said. "It's not about blackshirts."