LINCOLN, Neb. _ There was a time when Texas Tech and defense were never mentioned in the same sentence.
But those days are over.
The Red Raiders polished off the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 31-10, Saturday at Memorial Stadium with some good old fashioned defense. Tech held Nebraska to 285 yards and sacked quarterbacks Zac Lee and Cody Green five times, and harrassed them on many other occasions.
Most of the pressure came from defensive end Brandon Sharpe, who registered four sacks and was downright aggressive all day long.
"The whole game you have to have pressure,'' Sharpe said. "There's not one time when the defense is supposed to let up.
"Just play every play through the whole play and through the whole game.''
The game against Nebraska was the perfect time for the Raiders to show their defensive prowess. Nebraska entered the game ranked second in the nation in total defense, while there's a lot of talk about Cornhuskers defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh being a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate
Tech's defense, meanwhile, has hardly gotten any respect.
That is, until Ruffin McNeill took over as the Raiders' defensive coordinator _ on an interim basis in 2007 and full time in '08. Since then, the Raiders have been a beast on defense.
The Cornhuskers, which got just four tackles from Suh, can certainly attest to that after suffering through a miserable day on their home turf.
"We just want to make sure that we do our part by doing our job,'' McNeill said of the defense. "And one of the things is trying to get the ball back to our offense by forcing punts or by forcing turnovers.
"Nebraska has great tradition and a really good football team. Trust me, we know the magnitude of this victory.''
Tech needed superb play from its defense on a day when its offense kept stalling. In all, the Raiders compiled just 259 total yards, a week after rolling up 739 yards during a 66-14 blowout victory over Kansas State.
The Raiders' defense even scored a touchdown when defensive end Daniel Howard picked up a fumbled lateral and dashed 82 yards to paydirt.
"We respect Nebraska because of their great tradition,'' McNeill said. 'But as far having a challenge _ us versus them _ it has not really been about that.
"We have talked to our team about not watching the scoreboard and just play the next play. The other thing we talked about was just worry about ourselves, be the best at being the best team, be the best at being the most exciting team to play, and be the best at doing their job.''
The Raiders definitely did their job against a Nebraska team that was ranked No. 15 in the country. Tech led 24-3 at the half and coasted to the finish line.
"The effort wasn't good enough,'' Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. "There wasn't any phase of what we did that was good enough.''
Tech is now 5-2 overall and 2-1 in Big 12 conference play, while the Cornhuskers dipped to 4-2 and 1-1 respectively.
With three straight wins under their belt following consecutive losses to Texas and Houston, the Raiders have back-to-back home games against Texas A&M and Kansas before entering the Nov. 7 bye week. It's an ideal time for Tech to make an impression and remain a factor in the Big 12 South race.
Sharpe, though, said: "One game at a time. We''re just enjoying ourselves right now. We're just playing hard and having fun'.''
_ Dwain Price