Hard to Take: Football is not life or death; it's not war or peace. It is not foreclosure, bankruptcy or cancer. That is obvious. However, there is no escaping the fact that Texas Tech football is a big part of many people's life. Rational or not, it means a great deal to lots of folks.
That being the case, everybody in the Red Raider galaxy, from Kent Hance, Kirby Hocutt and Tommy Tuberville right down to you and me must understand the psychic toll massacres such as the 59-21 debacle in Stillwater take on those who care. These sorts of losses, where a once proud program doesn't even look like it belongs in the Big 12, poison the air. Fans choke in the acrid atmosphere and they become angry. Very, very angry.
Now these things happen. Even very good football programs have bad days. It is virtually impossible for a team to play its best week-in and week-out. Occasionally a team will come out flat. Sometimes the opposing team's players and coaches just have your number. Maybe the matchups are bad. Maybe the other team is just better prepared on that given week.
Those unpleasant scenarios are particularly common in the Big 12, which may be the best football conference in America, and which certainly features the highest concentration of offenses that can make a defense look silly. It is a tough, perilous league.
But Big 12 coaches are paid huge sums of money to make sure that their teams are competitive. With the exception of the people down in Austin, nobody expects their coach to win conference titles on a regular basis, but they do expect the coach to at least field credible teams practically every Saturday.
Unfortunately, that minimum requirement has not been met at Texas Tech over the past two seasons. Consider a few facts and figures:
1. In the last 23 games Tech has played, the Red Raiders have surrendered 50 points or more 22 percent of the time. Twice they've given up 60 points or more.
2. The average margin of defeat in Tech's last 11 losses has been 24 points. In other words, the Red Raiders have not merely lost, they simply have not even been competitive in the majority of those losses.
3. Tech has lost by 30 point or more five times in the last 23 games. And with a downtrodden Red Raider squad confronting a resurgent Baylor team next week, the possibility of another disastrous loss to lop onto the statistical compost pile seems high.
These losses are spirit-killers. And they've poised Red Raider football on a dangerous precipice. Texas Tech football fans are furious. But with a couple more losses like what we saw in Stillwater they will transition to an even more ominous state: apathy.
Resiliency No More: Modern athletes tend to be much more resilient than old-school fans. While the fans stew in their bile and whiskey for weeks following a bitter loss, players usually put defeats behind them after a few days and move on to the next game. Part of the ability to psychologically recover is necessity; part of it is likely generational—competition and winning are just not as important as they used to be.
Occasionally, however, a team experiences a loss so grievous, so traumatic, that its effects linger, and to terrible effect, for weeks to come.
The nine-point loss to Texas was such a defeat. The Red Raiders pointed to that game. Fully expected to win it. And when they suffered an unexpected reverse, were unable to cope. The loss to the Longhorns snuffed this team's morale, vaporized its motivation, crushed its confidence, and knocked out its heart.
Off the Draft Board? It has not been a good year for Tech's offensive line. Going into the game with Oklahoma State, the only player on the line who was having a good—although not great--season was LaAdrian Waddle. That all changed in Stillwater. Whether or not because of a preexisting knee injury, Waddle was a mess against the Cowboys. He simply could not block OSU's Nigel Nicholas who entered the Tech game with a modest 3.5 sacks. Waddle made Nicholas look like Chad Greenway. All he could do was commit personal fouls, a tactic he has perfected late in the season. If Waddle's problems were not due to the knee injury which shelved him later in the game, he may have played himself out of the NFL draft.
Blitz on the Fritz: Texas Tech blitzes rarely, but when it does, the results are seldom pretty. Hardly ever do blitzing safeties or linebackers reach the quarterback, and on those rare occasions that they do come free, they usually miss the QB who leaks out for long scrambles. Cowboy quarterback Clint Chelf feasted heartily on Red Raider blitzes.