Colossal Win: To
the casual college football fan, the notion that Texas Tech’s
conference-opening road triumph over an undefeated but unranked Iowa State team
was a must win, would seem a bit silly. But people closer to the Red Raider
football camp know better.
The reality is that Tech badly needed a dose of confidence.
The Red Raiders concluded last year’s conference slate with a five-game losing
streak. During that span Tech’s defense allowed an average of 51 points per
game and Tech’s average margin of defeat was 31 points. What’s more, it was
Iowa State that started the Red Raiders down that miserable byway with a 41-7
triumph in Lubbock.
Tech entered the most recent tilt with the Cyclones riding a
three-game win streak. And while the Red Raiders appeared impressive, the low level of competition cast some doubt
upon whether this team was actually much better than the one that dogged it
down the stretch in 2011.
Boiled down, Tech badly needed to prove to itself that it
could compete in the Big 12. And a win in Ames, where the Red Raiders were only
two-and-two in Big 12 play, would have been just the thing.
Adding to the gravity of the game was the ferocity of the
upcoming schedule. Following Iowa State, Oklahoma, West Virginia, TCU, Kansas State and Texas confronted the Red Raiders. It was highly likely that Tech
would be an underdog in each of those games. A loss to the Cyclones, therefore,
would have placed the specter of a six-game losing skid directly before the
Tech fully understood what was at stake in Ames. The season,
quite literally, was in the balance. And under this immense pressure the Red
Raiders got the job done. Disaster averted. Mission accomplished.
Resilience: And how much the pressure must have
intensified after Tech fell behind 0-7 and 7-14! The Red Raiders were playing a
tough opponent in a hostile environment, and they played most of the game from
behind yet still emerged with an 11-point victory. That performance was a real
display of mental toughness, and it should go a long way toward convincing this
team that it is for real.
Wounds: The Red Raiders entered the Iowa State game ranked No. 81
nationally in penalties per game with seven. They will drop in that dubious
category after committing 10 infractions against the Cyclones.
Is this a source of worry? Maybe. Maybe
not. On the one hand, Alabama, the nation’s No. 1 team is ranked an
impressive 16th in this category. On the other, Oregon, the No. 2
team in the country, is ranked No. 118 in penalties per game.
The Guy: Neal
Brown has stated that he would like to see a single running back separate himself from the pack and become “the guy.” If the Iowa
State game is any indication, Kenny Williams has done just that. He got 65
percent of all running back carries and accounted for 80 percent of running
back rushing yardage. Eric Stephens was reduced to a Wildcat role in this game,
while SaDale Foster got only three carries, all of
them in the second half.
The Key Play: This
contest was filled with them, but the single play that blunted Iowa State and
handed the momentum permanently to the Red Raiders came with seven minutes to
play and the Cyclones driving.
Iowa State, trailing by a single possession, 13-21, had
marched smartly from their own 25 to the Red Raider 43. The drive looked like a
mirror image of ISU’s only other touchdown drive, which happened in the third
quarter. For all the world, it looked like the Red
Raiders would soon be sweating a two-point conversion attempt to tie the game.
But on first-and-10, with Cyclone quarterback Steele Jantz rolling to his right and Red Raider tackle Kerry Hyder in hot pursuit, Jantz
banged the football off of his thigh and to the turf where Hyder
pounced upon it. Four and a half minutes later Ryan Bustin
banged home a 39-yard field goal, and slammed the door on Iowa State’s comeback
Tunnel o’ Love: Tech
ran my most beloved play, the tunnel screen, four times against the Cyclones. Jakeem Grant, Eric Ward, Javon
Bell, and Bradley Marquez were on the receiving end and netted a total of 78
yards on the play for an average of 20 yards per catch.
Incidentally, Bell was devastating on this play in fall
practice and I was wondering when he would get the chance to run the tunnel in
an actual game. After his jet-like burst for 47 yards against the Cyclones, I
suspect we’ll see it again soon.