Graham Harrell and Texas Tech's Air Raid offense was off, so the Red Raiders got big plays from their defense and special teams to pull away from Nevada.
Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree hooked up for an 82-yard touchdown pass and Eric Morris returned a punt 86 yards for a score to lead No. 12 Texas Tech to a 35-19 victory over Nevada on Saturday night.
Shannon Woods also ran for two touchdowns for the Red Raiders (2-0), who overcame an off night for Harrell to score 30 or more points for the 18th time in their last 20 games.
Tech's defense limited Nevada to four field goals until Wolf Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw a 48-yard touchdown to Marko Mitchell with 10:30 remaining and the game largely out of reach.
"The day was carried by our defense," Tech coach Mike Leach said. "We had some tough periods out there, we had some tough everything. But to win this game the way we did, I'm proud of our guys."
Nevada (1-1), which had 488 yards total offense to Tech's 421, appeared to take a 15-14 lead in the third quarter on quarterback Colin Kaepernick's 3-yard score and the officials signaled touchdown, but after a lengthy review, they overturned the decision and ruled he had fumbled the ball away to Texas Tech.
"That was a big, big play. We really dodged a bullet there," said Tech defensive end Brandon Williams, who had two of the Red Raiders' four quarterback sacks and deflected a ball into an interception when Nevada was threatening early in the game.
"The thing about our defense, we have confidence in the player who is playing next to us," he said.
Kaepernick completed 24-of-35 passes for 264 yards and ran for another 92 yards on 13 carries.
Harrell, who threw for 536 yards last week and led the nation with 5,705 passing yards a year ago, was intercepted twice and completed only 19-of-46 of his passes for 297 yards -- 132 on two passes to Crabtree.
Harrell was 10-of-25 for 119 yards in the first half, but his 50-yarder to Crabtree set up Woods' 1-yard touchdown run to give Tech a 14-6 lead 5:18 before the half.
"We struggled a little bit but we knew it was only a matter of time before we'd find our rhythm. Nevada did a nice job but we just were a little out of rhythm," Harrell said.
Leach said the team has come to expect Harrell to finish strong despite a slow start.
"That's what makes him what he is, with all of the comebacks in his career he has," Leach said. "He's a guy that never gives up. He never gets rattled and just stays in there and tries to make a play."
Nevada coach Chris Ault said his defense did a good job of pressuring Harrell and played well for three quarters but had some "major breakdowns" in the final quarter.
"They have a great offense and a lot of people underestimate their defense," Ault said.
Kaepernick completed 24-of-35 passes for 264 yards and ran for another 92 yards on 13 carries for Nevada.
"We let one get away from us," he said. "Offense got in the red zone too many times unsuccessfully but our defense stepped up and did great."
Brett Jaekle made a 31-yard field goal to cut the Texas Tech lead to 14-12 with 6:40 left in the third quarter.
Nevada then tried an onside kick but Texas Tech recovered it at Nevada's 39 and after Harrell passed 15 yards to Tramain Swindall, Morris went in motion, took a hand off and ran 13 yards for a touchdown and a 21-12 lead at 5:20 in the third.
Jonathan Amaya intercepted Harrell's pass at Nevada's 47 with 14 minutes left in the game but Nevada failed to make a first down and Harrell passed to near midfield where Crabtree hauled it in, juked a defender and took off for the 82-yard scoring play and a 28-12 lead with 12:59 left in the game.
Marko Mitchell scored on a 48-yard pass from Kaepernick to cut the lead to 28-19 with 10:30 remaining but Woods answered with a 21-yard TD run to make it 35-19 with 6:18 on the clock.
Morris went 86 yards with a punt to give the Red Raiders a 7-3 lead midway through the first quarter.