Commentary

Teams make mark by playing spoiler

Originally Published: October 24, 2011
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

After bad weather delayed the start of Texas Tech's game at Oklahoma on Saturday night, Red Raiders coach Tommy Tuberville looked up in the stands and saw nothing but empty seats at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

[+] EnlargeTexas Tech
Brett Deering/Getty ImagesTexas Tech notched one of the program's biggest wins Saturday in Norman.

"I thought it was going to be an advantage for us," Tuberville said. "I looked up, and 80,000 people were gone. But when we came back out for warm-ups [after a 96-minute delay], they were all back."

About four hours later, the Red Raiders gave OU fans plenty of reason to leave the game for good. With a high-powered offense that shredded the Sooners for 572 yards of offense, Texas Tech ended OU's 39-game home winning streak with a stunning 41-38 victory.

For Tuberville, the surprising outcome was tangible evidence for Texas Tech fans that their second-year coach knows what he's doing.

It was the Red Raiders' second victory over a No. 1-ranked team (OU was No. 1 in last week's coaches' poll); they also upset No. 1 Texas 39-33 in Lubbock, Texas, on Nov. 1, 2008.

"It's one game, but it's a huge game for recruiting, for national stature," Tuberville told reporters after the game. "Obviously, you don't read too much about Texas Tech. For some reason, I haven't seen [us] much on TV. I bet you see it the next few days. We're going to be proud of that. When you go on the road and beat a No. 1 team, it's really special. That's almost impossible to do."

Tuberville walked into one of the most difficult situations in the country in December 2009, when he was hired to replace former Red Raiders coach Mike Leach, who is still very popular among Texas Tech fans.

"I think people are starting to understand," Tuberville said. "The biggest thing we're trying to teach this team is that you can win with defense. You don't have to win on offense every week."

That's a sharp contrast to the Red Raiders' former approach under Leach, who guided Tech to an 84-43 record in 10 seasons before he was fired in December 2009. Leach, who now works as a radio analyst, is best known for his colorful personality and high-octane passing attack.

Tuberville spent 14 seasons coaching in the SEC at Ole Miss and Auburn, building his teams around stingy defenses and rugged running games. But he didn't abandon his predecessor's entire system at Texas Tech.

"We kept the passing game and made it a little more conservative with a running game," Tuberville said. "We're playing defense now."

The Red Raiders showed promise in Tuberville's first season, finishing 8-5 in 2010. Last season, Texas Tech upset then-No. 12 Missouri 24-17 and defeated Northwestern 45-38 in the TicketCity Bowl.

Defeating a team like Oklahoma gives players and fans even more reason to believe.

"It goes a long way with the young kids, knowing they can win on the road," Tuberville said.

Tuberville wasn't the only coach who recorded what might be considered a signature victory this past weekend:

[+] EnlargeLane Kiffin
Matt Cashore/US PresswireLane Kiffin and USC reveled in beating Notre Dame on Saturday night.

  • Syracuse coach Doug Marrone, who has guided his alma mater out of the Big East's cellar during the past three seasons, watched the Orange upset No. 15 West Virginia 49-23 at the Carrier Dome on Friday night. It was Syracuse's first victory over a top-15 foe since 2002.

    After going 4-8 in his first season as a head coach in 2009, Marrone led Syracuse to an 8-5 record last season. But beating the Mountaineers was the high mark of Marrone's tenure so far.

    "We've been able to stay the course, never give up and keep building," Marrone said. "We just keep fighting, and I'm trying to do my best."

  • Cincinnati coach Butch Jones watched his team limp to a 4-8 record last season, a year after current Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly guided the Bearcats to a Big East championship. The Bearcats are 6-1 after defeating preseason Big East favorite South Florida 37-34 on the road Saturday. Cincinnati is bowl-eligible and moved into first place in the Big East standings after its fifth consecutive victory.
  • Danny Hope guided Purdue to a 26-18 upset of No. 7 Ohio State in his first season as the Boilermakers' coach in 2009. But Hope endured back-to-back losing campaigns the past two seasons and got off to another slow start this year. On Saturday, the Boilermakers upset No. 23 Illinois 21-14 at home to improve to 4-3.
  • USC labored through a disappointing 8-5 record in Lane Kiffin's first season as its coach in 2010. The Trojans upset No. 18 Arizona 24-21 on the road in 2010, but losses to Washington, Oregon State and Notre Dame were bigger black eyes. On Saturday night, Kiffin guided the Trojans to a 31-17 victory at Notre Dame, after last season's loss ended USC's eight-game winning streak over the Irish.

    "We haven't gone on the road with so much stuff going on," Kiffin said. "I think that's why I'd say it's our team's biggest win since we've been here because of all the stuff going on."

Like USC, Texas Tech struggled with consistency this season. With the Red Raiders playing 11 freshmen, they fell behind Kansas 20-0 in the first quarter before rallying for a 45-34 victory on the road on Oct. 1. Before upsetting the Sooners, they lost consecutive games to ranked foes, No. 16 Texas A&M (45-40) and No. 8 Kansas State (41-34).

"We felt like we were a really good team that last couple of games," Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege said. "We had opportunities to put games away and didn't do it. [Against Oklahoma], we took advantage of the opportunities."

Before Saturday night's game, the Red Raiders had very little success playing at Oklahoma. The Sooners had won seven consecutive games over Texas Tech at home, averaging 39.8 points during their winning streak. In last season's 45-7 loss at Oklahoma, the Red Raiders trailed 38-7 at the half and had 115 yards in penalties and two turnovers.

At Auburn, Tuberville guided the Tigers to a 23-20 upset of No. 1 Florida on Oct. 13, 2001. The next season, Auburn upset No. 9 Alabama 17-7 in the Iron Bowl game. In 2004, the Tigers beat five ranked opponents en route to finishing 14-0.

"I've beat my share of top-ranked teams over the years," Tuberville said. "But this one was sweet because it was on the road. They've won some games around here and won the Texas game [in 2008]. But they haven't won on the road much before."

Tuberville can only hope his latest upset of a top-ranked team has the same effect at Texas Tech.

"It was the first time we'd beat a team of that stature," Tuberville said. "I think it helps recruiting more than anything. It gets you national exposure. It gets your name out there."

[+] EnlargeSeth Doege
Brett Deering/Getty ImagesSeth Doege came back from multiple knee injuries in high school to become a top college quarterback.

On the Mark

• Doege, a junior from Wolfforth, Texas, didn't play in his final two seasons of high school football because of knee injuries. He tore the ACL in his left knee during preseason camp before his junior season, then tore the ACL in his right knee before his senior season.

"It kind of crossed my mind -- would I ever be the same player or would I realize my potential as a Division I player because I hadn't played in so long," Doege said. "It was my motivation to stick with it and get healthy so I could play again."

In his first full season as a starter, Doege leads the country with 34 completions per game and ranks No. 2 with 2,608 passing yards in seven games. Against Oklahoma, he completed 33 of 52 passes for 441 yards with four touchdowns.

"He's a coach's son, and he works on it," Tuberville said. "He's a tough son of a gun."

• Leave it to LSU coach Les Miles to turn a potential disaster into an advantage. With starting tailback Spencer Ware and cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon suspended from playing in the No. 1 Tigers' 45-10 rout of Auburn on Saturday after they tested positive for synthetic marijuana, Miles might have found a new goal-line specialist.

Kenny Hilliard, a 5-foot-11, 240-pound freshman from Patterson, La., ran 10 times for 65 yards with two touchdowns against Auburn. Hilliard is a nephew of former LSU star Dalton Hilliard.

• It has been a tough season for NC State, which is 4-3 after quarterback Russell Wilson transferred to Wisconsin. But cornerback David Amerson has been a huge bright spot, leading the country with eight interceptions. Amerson picked off two more passes in Saturday's 28-14 victory over Virginia, returning the second one 12 yards for a touchdown.

Amerson's eight interceptions in seven games ties the NC State single-season record, which was set twice by Art Rooney in 1937 and 1938. Former North Carolina star Dré Bly set an ACC record with 11 interceptions in 1996.

• After winning consecutive road games, Western Kentucky ended the country's longest home losing streak at 18 games by defeating Sun Belt Conference leader Louisiana-Lafayette 42-23 on Saturday. Tailback Bobby Rainey ran for 206 yards with three touchdowns in helping the Hilltoppers win at home for the first time since Sept. 23, 2008.

Off the Mark

• The University of Arizona student who disrupted play in the Wildcats' game against UCLA on Thursday night told police he did it to improve his chances of appearing on the TV show "Wipeout," according to a report in the Arizona Daily Star.

Arizona senior Jace Michael Lankow, 22, now faces charges of criminal impersonation, a Class 6 felony in Arizona. He ran onto the field dressed as a referee just before halftime, tried to grab the game ball, blew a whistle and then ran down the field before stripping down to a red-and-white Speedo.

[+] EnlargeHouston Nutt
AP Photo/Austin McAfeeHouston Nutt's Rebels have dropped 10 straight SEC games for the first time in program history.

While officials and security guards were trying to chase down Lankow, a fight broke out between the teams that led to the suspensions of six UCLA players and four Arizona players by the Pac-12. Lankow also faces potential disciplinary action by the university.

• Ole Miss couldn't hold a 17-0 lead over No. 9 Arkansas in a 29-24 loss on Saturday. The Rebels have now lost 10 consecutive SEC games, their longest losing streak against conference foes since joining the SEC in 1933.

After his team's loss, Rebels coach Houston Nutt took out his frustration on reporter Neal McCready.

"They played real hard," Nutt said. "They played harder than that 49-10, right, Neal? One of my players told me. I don't read your stuff; they tell me what you say. One of my freshmen told me that Neal McCready wrote that we were going to get beat 49-10. It wasn't no 49-10."

For the record: McCready picked Alabama to beat Ole Miss 41-7 the week before. The Crimson Tide won 52-7.

• Buffalo trailed Northern Illinois 31-10 going into the fourth quarter Saturday. But the Bulls scored three touchdowns in the final 12 minutes, 38 seconds, with the last one coming on Chazz Anderson's 3-yard touchdown pass to Ed Young with 14 seconds to go. The Bulls lost 31-30 after they missed an extra-point kick, dropping their record to 2-6.

• Montana quarterback Gerald Kemp and cornerback Trumaine Johnson picked a heckuva way to celebrate the Grizzlies' 28-24 victory at Northern Arizona on Saturday. They scuffled with police after returning home and were subdued by stun guns. Police responded to a noise complaint early Sunday morning, and one of the players struck an officer in the chest. They were arrested on misdemeanor charges of obstructing a peace officer and resisting arrest.

Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

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