Friday, November 8, 2013
Texas Tech could excel in spoiler role
By Brandon Chatmon
In a matter of two weeks Texas Tech has gone from undefeated to out of the Big 12 title race.
The three teams ahead of them -- Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma State -- have one Big 12 loss among them, along with two-loss Oklahoma, which already has beaten the Red Raiders. Thus their chances of shocking the world and getting fitted for Big 12 title rings after the season have slipped between their their fingers.
Seems like the perfect time to reassess goals. But it never has been about long-term goals in Lubbock anyway.
A lot has changed for Kliff Kingsbury and the Red Raiders since beating West Virginia on Oct. 19.
"Our goal from day one was very short term: Every time you come in this building, let's get better as a football player," Red Raider coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "We never set any long term goals where we need to re-evaluate anything."
Yet the Red Raiders still could have a major impact when it comes time to crowning a Big 12 champion. Baylor and Texas remain on TTU's schedule, as Kliff Kingsbury's squad will face the lone conference unbeatens in its final two games after hosting Kansas State on Saturday.
But if TTU has any hope of quieting the detractors who have begun to call them pretenders after back-to-back losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the Big 12's surprise team will have to get things back on track.
"We have a long way to go; we haven't played our best game yet, we know that," Kingsbury said.
The first-year coach has learned a lot about his team during those losses however.
"They're a pretty resilient bunch," Kingsbury said. "There were times in both those games where it really could have got bad, because we turned the ball over and made mistakes, but they hung in there and stayed in the game which, in the past, from the outside looking in, hadn't always been the case. There's something to be said for the way they've battled through tough situations the past two weeks."
If they do get on track they have the ability to cause havoc down the home stretch of conference play. The Red Raiders will present a challenge Baylor hasn't seen this season with quarterback Davis Webb at the helm, all-everything tight end Jace Amaro in the seam, all-purpose threat Jakeem Grant testing the perimeter and Eric Ward on the outside. It will be yet another test for a much-improved Bears defense.
Then, if -- and it's a big if -- Texas beats Oklahoma State and West Virginia, the Red Raiders could ruin the Mack Brown redemption tour on Thanksgiving night. The Longhorns could be looking past TTU with their trip to Baylor looming the next weekend.
And even though they've suffered back-to-back losses, the Red Raiders feel like they shoulder as much blame for those setbacks as the Cowboys and Sooners deserve credit.
"The biggest positive we've stressed to our team is that we haven't played close to our best game in all three phases," Kingsbury said. "A lot of these guys haven't been in a situation like this; it's new territory. Guys probably were pressing, trying to do too much instead of doing their job. That comes with learning how to win, we have to learn how to win around here."
And if they do learn how to win ... well, Bears, Longhorns, beware.
"We've said all along we're good enough to win every game, and we're good enough to lose every game," Kingsbury said. "We want to come to work each day, get better, and if you do that, everything else tends to handle itself."