Texas Tech football: November has not been kind to Red Raiders

LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 03: Ta'Zhawn Henry #26 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders gets past Tre Norwood #13 of the Oklahoma Sooners during the first half of the game on November 3, 2018 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 03: Ta'Zhawn Henry #26 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders gets past Tre Norwood #13 of the Oklahoma Sooners during the first half of the game on November 3, 2018 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images) /

As the calendar turns to November, we look at how the Texas Tech football team has struggled in the season’s final month for quite some time.

Halloween is now in the rearview mirror for another year and the holiday season is officially underway.  That of course also means that the Texas Tech football season is now in its final month.

At just 3-5 overall, if Tech has any hopes of going to a bowl game this year, it will have to find a way to go 3-1 to finish the year.  That’s something that doesn’t feel all too likely given what we’ve seen from the Red Raiders lately.

Not only is Matt Wells’ team in the midst of a season-long 3-game losing streak, but it is just 1-5 in its last six games.  It has been almost a month since this team won a game so it’s tough to envision three wins coming our way in the next 29 days.  Such late-season turnarounds haven’t been what this program has been known for.

Since 2010, the Red Raiders are an atrocious 10-25 in November.  That’s a winning percentage of just 28.5%  By contrast, they’ve gone 16-20 (44.4%) in October.

If Tech manages to somehow go 3-1 this month, it will be the first time since 2010 that the Red Raiders have racked up three wins in the last month of the season.  The difference between that year and 2019 is that the final two games in 2010 were against Weber State and Houston, not Big 12 teams.

The only other November in which Tech has put up a winning record this decade came in 2015.  That year, the Red Raiders went 2-1 by falling to Baylor before beating Iowa State and Kansas.

We could consider November of 2017 a relative success as far as this program goes.  That year, the Red Raiders went .500 with losses to Kansas State and TCU and wins over Baylor and Texas.

But the painful truth is that in the last nine seasons, Tech has been more likely to go winless in November than put up a winning record.  That’s because there have been three winless Novembers this decade (2011, 2013, and 2018).

During the Mike Leach era (2000-09), the Red Raiders were much better in November with a record of 19-11.  Whereas the program has had just one winning November this decade, it had just one losing one in the 2000s, Leach’s first season (2000).

Why has this month so beguiled the Red Raiders in recent years?  There are a number of reasons.

First, Tech has traditionally lacked the depth of other programs in the Big 12, especially in the later part of this decade.  This is where the continued decline of the program’s recruiting efforts has taken its toll.

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It isn’t necessarily in the starting lineup where poor recruiting does the most damage.  The Red Raiders have generally had a top 22 that could compete with most Big 12 teams.  But when those players are dinged up or are unable to play, as is more likely in November when the cumulative effects of the season mount, it is the inability to rely on your second-teamers that is what often brings a team down.

For instance, look at what transpired in 2018 at the QB spot.  After not signing a high school QB in 2015, bringing the underwhelming Jett Duffey in 2016, and moving 2017 QB signee Xavier Martin to inside receiver, the team was ill-prepared to handle the loss of Alan Bowman.

After Bowman guided the team to a 5-2 start (he was 3-2 as a starter), the team ended the year with five-straight losses, four of which came in November when the true freshman was sidelined.  In failing to recruit well at this position, Tech had to bring in McLane Carter (who lacked the talent to play QB at a Power 5 school) to help supplement the team’s depth.  That proved to be less than helpful.

Neither Carter nor Duffey were good enough to help the team overcome Bowman’s absence.  That is a microcosm of how poor recruiting can impact a team’s overall depth, which is usually tested in the latter portion of the schedule.

Another reason for this program’s recent struggles in November has been the schedule.  In the last 10 years, the teams Tech has faced in the final month have had a combined record of 184-135 entering their game with the Red Raiders.  That’s an average record of 5.2 wins and 3.8 losses and an overall winning percentage of 57.6% for Tech’s November opponents since 2010.

What’s more, in eight of the last nine years, Tech has played at least one ranked team in November (2015 was the exception) and in 2010-13 and 2018, there were multiple top 25 teams opposing the Red Raiders.  Going further, three were in the top-10 and four were in the top 15.

Keep in mind that every year since 2011, Tech has played either Baylor or UT to end the regular season.  That’s important when you recall that this decade saw the Bears experience their best  run in their history meaning that three of the Baylor teams Tech saw in November over the last decade were ranked with two in the top 10.

Plus, when it comes to facing the two blue-blood programs in the Big 12, Tech’s usually had to wait until November.  Eleven of the 18 combined games against Texas and Oklahoma since 2010 have taken place in the final month of the season including every meeting with the Longhorns except the 2010 game.

In the world of the Big 12, the round-robin schedule brings all 10 teams together each year.  But Tech’s late-season schedule has been heavily populated with the programs that have been the strongest in the league in recent years.  On the other hand, Tech has only played Kansas in November once this decade.

That knowledge only underscores how harmful this program’s lack of depth has been.  When facing the best competition, it is critical for teams to have as many quality players available as possible and Tech has consistently lacked in that department when playing top teams in November.

Next. All-Time West Texas Red Raider team. dark

This year proves to be a bit of a break in the sense that none of the teams remaining on the schedule are currently ranked, though Texas could be by the time the Red Raiders meet them.  Hopefully, that will give Tech a fighting shot at doing what it must to extend the season to at 13th game…something it hasn’t done in a while… play well in November.