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Red Raiders try to exorcise demons against Sun Devils

(Photo by Sam Grenadier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(TSX / STATS) -- Texas Tech created some good vibes by how well its defense and running game performed in a season-opening win over Eastern Washington on Sept. 2.

An odd, early September open date allowed those positive feelings to extend for another week. But to keep them going, the Red Raiders have to face some demons this week, when Arizona State comes to Lubbock for a Saturday evening game.

It doesn't matter much that the Sun Devils are 1-1 after a less-than-convincing win over New Mexico State and a loss to San Diego State. Arizona State still has running back running back Kalen Ballage and quarterback Manny Wilkins in its backfield.

In 2016, Ballage scored eight touchdowns and posted 185 total yards and Wilkins passed for 351 yards as the Sun Devils claimed an offensive shootout victory, 68-55, in Tempe, Ariz.

Both Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury and defensive captain Jah'Shawn Johnson were asked specifically about stopping Ballage during Tuesday's press conference.

"He's just so skilled running the ball and out in the receiver position," Johnson said. "He's a big back, he's fast, he's very powerful. He makes great moves. He can either run you over or he can juke you. We just have to prepare well this week and get after it."

Texas Tech gave up 651 total yards and rushed for only 72 in the loss at Arizona State, signaling the start of two major problems that would continue for the entire season.

However, Kingsbury pointed to another area that might have played the biggest role in costing the Red Raiders the game in Arizona a year ago.

"We started five drives (at the Red Raiders' own 8-yard line or worse), turned it over twice and got a safety," Kingsbury said. "A bunch of stuff you can't do on the road against a good football team. They dominated us in special teams and the field position battle."

--RB Desmond Nisby provided a much-needed spark for the Texas Tech rushing game in the opener as he ran for 57 yards on six carries. It's hard to tell why the Red Raiders didn't give him more of a load, especially near the goal line. That could change as the season progresses.

--S Jah'Shawn Johnson was the Red Raiders' best defensive player as a sophomore in 2016 and he continued in that role from the start of this campaign. Johnson stripped the ball from an Eastern Washington receiver on the Eagles' first play. Johnson finished the game with a team-leading five solo tackles and half a tackle for loss.

--DE Tony Jones accomplished a unique double in his Texas Tech debut as he intercepted a pass and posted a sack. The Red Raiders struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks last season and that seems to be Jones' designated role.

--RB Da'Leon Ward is back with the team after missing practice in August because of academic requirements. The was no word on when Ward, the team's leading rusher as a freshman in 2016, might be available to play. Ward did not play versus Eastern Washington

Updated September 12, 2017

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