Thursday, September 17, 2009
Texas secondary has grown since last season's collapse at Tech
By ESPN.com staff ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Blake Gideon has been careful to not talk too much about revenge this week as he prepares for Texas Tech.
The Texas sophomore safety says he remembers how his team lost to the Red Raiders last season in dramatic fashion.
And like most of his teammates, Gideon claims to not have any extra motivation about that game, except when asked how long he’s been looking forward to meeting up with the Red Raiders again.
Karl Anderson/Icon SMI
Texas returns all four starters from last season's game against Tech, including Blake Gideon, for this year's rematch.
“Say about 365 days,” Gideon said.
While last year’s game isn’t exactly as long ago as Gideon remembered, it remains one of the most painful endings in Texas football history.
Texas' young secondary came within two plays of being able to close out the victory that likely would have sent the Longhorns into the Big 12 championship game with a solid shot of playing for the BCS title.
But two late passes by former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell changed all of that.
On the next-to-last offensive snap of the game, Gideon dropped a sure interception that fluttered through his fingers. Harrell was flushed from the pocket before he lobbed a soft pass to wide receiver Edward Britton. The receiver got both hands on the ball, but it popped straight up in the air where Gideon appeared to have almost cradled it before it hurt the turf.
And on the play after that, Michael Crabtree beat double-team coverage from Earl Thomas and Curtis Brown for a 28-yard touchdown grab that provided the Red Raiders a wild 39-33 victory.
Thomas, thinking that he heard a whistle blow the play dead, was a step late and whiffed on a tackle that could have knocked Crabtree out of bounds as time expired.
Gideon said he remained in a funk for about 24 hours after the drop, but has largely tried to forget about it.
“I don’t think it’s any bigger than it was,” Gideon said. “It was a play that I should have made, but it would be selfish if I made any more of it. I’ve moved on.”
For his part, Texas Tech coach Mike Leach said earlier this week that too much is made of Gideon’s drop.
“I don’t think he would catch it, for one,” Leach said. “And for another, it’s always interesting to me that they highlight that play because I can probably rattle off 10 other things that would have allowed us to win by more. So, I don’t see that as being particularly significant.”
All four starters in the defensive backfield are back for the Longhorns along with nickelback Aaron Williams, providing them with more collective experience for this season’s rematch.
The Longhorns’ secondary has played well during their first two games of the season, although none of the early opponents have been as proficient in passing as Texas Tech.
Texas has not allowed more than 200 passing yards in either of their first two games. Thomas and Brown have produced four pass breakups apiece. And Texas opponents have completed only 5 of 22 passes on third down.
Harrell and Crabtree are both gone. But the Red Raiders arrive with their gunslinger du jour in Taylor Potts, who leads the nation in passing yards and touchdown passes.
The Red Raiders’ retooled passing attack will be facing a secondary that has more experience and moxie than before.
“It’s just not me, but the entire secondary has grown up a lot,” Thomas said. “We’ve been playing lights out for the last two weeks. Everybody has grown up and it’s paying off for us. We’ll be ready.”
Gideon said he’s similarly excited in facing the Red Raiders, although he doesn’t feel any personal demons will be exorcised by playing against them again.
“We’re a year better and it’s because of all the experience we had last season,” Gideon said. “Since going through the adversity of the Tech game, we’ve all grown up. It's caused us to be a lot more prepared than we were before.”