Steven Sheffield passed for a touchdown and ran for another in his first road start and Texas Tech jumped out fast to upset No. 15 Nebraska 31-10 Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
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.
Playing for the injured Taylor Potts, Sheffield went 9-for-16 in the second half and finished with 234 yards.
Texas Tech (5-2, 2-1) won for the first time in four road games since last October. Nebraska (4-2, 1-1) held the Raiders to 259 yards, 263 under their average, and mustered only 47 in the second half, but Nebraska's offense for the second straight week did next to nothing until the fourth quarter.
The Tech defense held Nebraska to 285 yards and the Huskers' lowest point total since a 41-6 loss to Missouri in 2006.
The loss further exposed Nebraska's offensive shortcomings against quality defenses. Last week they were able to rally for four touchdowns in the fourth quarter to beat Missouri 27-12. There would be no late comeback against Tech.
"We didn't execute from the beginning to the end," said Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. "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."
Tech's often-overshadowed defense, led by end Brandon Sharpe, allowed just one field goal until the middle of the fourth quarter. Sharpe had four sacks and batted down a pass and strong safety Franklin Mitchem had seven tackles and an interception.
"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."
"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."
Sheffield picked up where he left off last week against K-State, completing 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 Zac 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."
Rajon Henley and Sharpe sacked Lee on back-to-back plays before Sheffield ran in from a yard to wrap up a 12-play, 65-yard drive that put Tech up by three TDs. Tech led 24-3 at halftime after the teams traded field goals.
The Raiders generated 47 yards in the second half, but their defense never let the Huskers get closer than two touchdowns. "Second half, the offense slumped, but the defense picked up our slack," said Sheffield. "Thank God for the defense."
Nebraska backup Cody Green, who played one series in the third quarter, replaced Lee in the middle of the fourth and found Khiry Cooper for a 13-yard pass that was Nebraska's only touchdown.
Green drove the Huskers inside the Tech 15 late in the fourth quarter before getting intercepted by Mitchem.
Lee had the Huskers inside the Tech 10 early in the fourth before they self-destructed. Offensive lineman Ricky Henry got a personal foul for pushing the pile after the whistle and center Jacob Hickman was called for a false start. The series ended with Lee throwing out the back of the end zone, prompting boos from frustrated fans.
In 12 quarters against BCS opponents, Nebraska has failed to score a touchdown in 10 of them. Lee was 16-of-22 for 128 yards and Green 7-of-16 for 87.