Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Out to Ransack Raiders; Pressure from Cavaliers' Long Is Key in Halting Spread Offense

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Out to Ransack Raiders; Pressure from Cavaliers' Long Is Key in Halting Spread Offense

Article excerpt

Byline: GARRY SMITS

GATOR BOWL: TEXAS TECH VS. NO. 21 VIRGINIA

When: 1 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Jacksonville Municipal Stadium

TV: CBS

Records: Texas Tech is 8-4, Virginia is 9-3.

Texas Tech enters Tuesday's Konica Minolta Gator Bowl with the nation's leading pass offense, and, statistically, the top quarterback.

Virginia can counter with Atlantic Coast Conference defensive player of the year Chris Long, a relentless, sack-happy end in the mold of his father, Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long.

It sounds basic: If Chris Long gets to Red Raiders quarterback Graham Harrell, the Cavaliers should contain an offense that averages 537 total yards and 475 passing yards per game. If Long doesn't, it will be a long day, no pun intended, in Jacksonville.

However, it's not going to be that simple. Texas Tech's spread offense hardly ever calls for Harrell to make anything more than a three-step drop when he passes. That, combined with a starting offensive line that averages 331 pounds, negates strong pass rushes.

The Red Raiders have given up only 15 sacks this season, the third-fewest per pass attempt in the NCAA Bowl Subdivision. Long has 14 sacks and Virginia has 39 in all, tied for sixth in the Bowl Subdivision.

However, will that matter if Harrell throws the ball before even the fastest defensive end can get to him?

Long said all it means is that he and Cavaliers end Jeffrey Fitzgerald (six sacks) and linebacker Clint Sintim (eight sacks) will have to work harder.

"We have to be in shape and get ready for a high-tempo game," Long said after one of Virginia's workouts last week at Jacksonville University. "Maybe we won't get to the quarterback before he releases the ball, but that means we'll have to work that much harder to make plays on the ball downfield."

Long also said that it makes no sense to give up on the pass rush just because no other team has been able to get to Harrell on a consistent basis. …

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