Defense in the Big 12? It happens

DES MOINES, IOWA (AP) - Few teams in the Big 12 go into a league game expecting a defensive slugfest.

But old-school defense is making a comeback, at least among teams with realistic shots at the league title.

All five Big 12 teams that won Saturday held their opponents far below their season average for points. In fact, none of them allowed the opposition to score more than 21 points.

That includes Texas Tech, which grabbed everyone’s attention and jumped back into the rankings by stuffing high-powered West Virginia in a 49-14 blowout win.

“We play hard. (Defensive coordinator) Art Kaufman and his coaches have done a good job of sticking with fundamentals,” Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. “For the first six games we haven’t done anything exotic. We just teach the same things each week and we’ve gotten better at it.”

The 18th-ranked Red Raiders (5-1, 2-1) are flourishing under Kaufman, a newcomer to the coaching staff who has worked wonders with a unit previously marked by instability.

Kaufman is the fourth defensive coordinator in four years at Texas Tech and the third new one in a row for Tuberville. But the Red Raiders have been strong on defense all season, and on Saturday they held quarterback Geno Smith to a completion percentage of 52.7 _ nearly 30 points lower than his average over his first five games.

Texas Tech is second in the Big 12 at 16.3 points allowed per game, an astounding 23 points better than last year.

“One thing that he’s brought to the table is just a sense of patience and understanding of you can only go so far in a short period of time,” Tuberville said of Kaufman. “He teaches hand placement. He teaches how to play with our eyes and he teaches gap control. And we haven’t gone beyond that.”

TCU (5-1, 2-1) has the league’s top defense. It bounced back Saturday from a home loss to Iowa State with a surprisingly easy road victory over Baylor and its explosive offense.

The Bears racked up 432 yards in just over 18 minutes of possession. But the Horned Frogs forced six Baylor turnovers, including four interceptions of Bears senior Nick Florence, in a 49-21 victory.

The Red Raiders and Horned Frogs are among five Big 12 teams allowing fewer than 18 points per game.

It’s no surprise that league leader Kansas State (6-0, 3-0) is also on that list.

The Wildcats have allowed just 21 points in their last six quarters. After shutting out rival Kansas in the second half of a 56-16 thrashing, Kansas State held Iowa State to just seven points in the second half on Saturday and stuffed the Cyclones on fourth-down tries twice in the final five minutes.

Kansas State also held the ball for more than 40 minutes against Iowa State. Such a discrepancy in time of possession might be the key to slowing down Heisman Trophy hopeful Smith and the Mountaineers when they host the Wildcats this weekend.

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