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October 5, 2011Texas Tech defensive end Leon Mackey, a Delaware native, didn't know much about the Tech-Texas A&M rivalry prior to arriving in Lubbock.
All he knew was the Red Raiders were capable of beating anybody and it all starts up front.
"The key, just like any game, it starts up front," Mackey said. "Anybody can say anything about D.B.'s or whatever, but it all starts up front. Their offensive line against our defensive line, our offensive line against their defensive line. We're going to just have to bang them around.
"We know they're going to run the ball and they have good running backs and a good offensive line. Their offensive line does a great job getting to the second level so we'll basically just have to go out there and play ball. They're going to step up and we're going to step up as a unit. The key to the game is controlling that line of scrimmage."
Good news on the defensive side of the struggle, the Red Raiders should bring forward their deepest defensive line combination of the season with the return of Scott Smith. Saturday's game will be Smith's first game of the 2012 season.
The 6-foot-6, 256-pound senior defensive end was instrumental in a good defensive performance against Texas and a bright spot in the loss to Iowa State last year before being suspended for a full season's worth of games for a violation of team rules.
Smith was not made available for comment leading up to the Texas A&M game but Mackey said Smith is ready to play.
"Someone like Scott, we're just counting on him to bring his mentality onto the field," Mackey said. "He's my roommate so I talk to him all the time. He's going to bring that physical thing that we need. We had that out of the guys that were out there, but now that Scott is out there he's a great addition to the defense and the d-line. We've got more depth, more leadership with Scott on the field.
"We have the opportunity to become that much more of a family with him in the game rather than him sitting in the meeting room with us knowing that he can't play. We've got everyone back now."
Judging from Smith's performances last year and Mackey's performance early this season, having the two defensive ends on the field at the same time could spell trouble for Ryan Tannehill and the Texas A&M offense. Both ends have demonstrated great bull rush capabilities and will have to be accounted for when they are on the field.
Mackey said he understands Red Raider fans' strong desire to beat Texas A&M but the duo's effort will always be the same no matter who's across the line.
"I know that Texas Tech doesn't like A&M," Mackey said. "But from a football player point of view, they're coming to play so we'll have to play. The best team will win. I can't predict anything, but I know the best team will win. They'll have to play four quarters with us, that's for sure."
Mackey added losing the battle up front simply isn't an option. Especially considering the circumstances around the game.
"You're fighting for respect," Mackey said. "Regardless of who wins or who loses, you're really fighting for that respect. Anytime you see this dog in the yard you're going to get a fight out of him. Whether you beat me or I beat you, we'll demand mutual respect."