Two days after Halloween, Red Raiders of all ages flocked to Jones AT&T Stadium in costume to watch their team take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
But it was all a trick. With under five minutes to play, and Texas Tech trailing Oklahoma State by 18 points with no life left, fans quickly made their way to exits. One particularly disapointed fan behind me yelled, “Hey look, it’s Jones AT&T Stadium dressed up like the Tuberville era!”
Nail. Head. Hit.
Last night’s loss looked painfully similar to what fans grew accustomed to from 2010-2012. With all the momentum in the world, tremendous fan support, a record-breaking crowd, national television spotlight, and over 70 prospective recruits across all sports in attendance, the Red Raider football team took the field and laid a big, fat egg.
After trading punts with the Cowboys to start the game, Tech eventually allowed Oklahoma State to score first, then twice more before the Red Raiders finally managed six points of their own courtesy of Eric Ward’s 38-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
Prior to that, the Cowboys put together three consecutive trips to the end-zone off two turnovers and long drive, finally interrupted by a Ryan Bustin field-goal – his record-breaking 18th of the season – to put Tech on the board.
Pulling within four just before the half, Tech had a couple of opportunities to take the lead and the momentum to start the third quarter, but the offense never found their rhythm and only managed 10 more points the rest of the game. Conversely, Oklahoma State did exactly what they wanted to do on offense all night long (281 rushing yards, five rushing TDs).
What all the yards, points and turnovers add up to is a wasted opportunity for Kliff Kingsbury and the Red Raiders. The loss in Norman earned Tech a lot of respect nationally, but they needed to beat Oklahoma State in Lubbock. A win not only keeps their conference title hopes alive, but proves to fans and the college football world that this team and this season is different.
Since 2010, Tech is an embarrassing 2-14 against former Big 12 South teams, including Texas A&M. Last night was a chance to not only beat the Cowboys for the first time since 2008, but finally start throwing muscle around with the conference’s top teams.
In the same vein, Tech started the 2011 season 5-2 before losing five straight to finished 5-7 with no bowl game appearance. Last year, after a 6-1 start, they dropped four of the last five games to finished 7-5. Now, just two weeks after winning 7 consecutive games and earning a top 10 ranking, the 2013 Red Raiders are in danger of losing their last five matchups, including two more against former South division opponents.
61,836 fans – a new Jones AT&T Stadium record – turned out to cheer on the Red Raiders, and cheer they did. With noise and atmosphere to rival any Tech game I’ve been to, the crowd never wavered till late in the fourth quarter when all hope of a comeback was lost.
How did their team reward such energetic support? By playing one of the most undisciplined games we’ve ever seen from a truly talented Tech football team.