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
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
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.
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.