It is very rare that I write in the first-person in my duties for RaiderPower. After writing a story, I occasionally refer to myself in the third-person when around other people, which draws some interesting reactions.
However, in an effort to get across my point as best I can, this is how I will proceed.
As Tech fans (myself included) have watched this team fight through games to reach the 8-0 mark, it is often said that this team is “different.” But what does that really mean, different?
Different because some players wear white shoes, because the offensive line could push a tank, or is it something that is less-tangible, more mental?
Since I began working for RaiderPower in December of 2006, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to watch every Spring and Fall practice from March 2007 through August 2008. In these practices, I’ve seen offensive plays that make you say “wow,” I’ve seen defensive hits that can only be described as bone-jaring.
And at times, I’ve seen a few examples of selfish players, players arguing amongst themselves, not supporting teammates.
That, in my opinion, is the difference about this team.
No suspension for starting offensive players, no quarterback controversy, certainly no proclamation of “BCS or bust”, and a unified mission, from the lowliest manager to the star players, to win every game this year.
Michael Crabtree not only scoring touchdowns but turning into a ferocious downfield blocker, Edward Britton contributing more and more on the receiving end to go along with his tremendous blocking, Tramain Swindall becoming a chain-moving machine, Shawn Byrnes moving to second-team with no grumbling.
On defense, there is no finger pointing or fragmenting when things don’t go right. Ruffin McNeil is like an experienced blacksmith, knowing when the metal (the defense) needs more fire and beating or a little water to harden it.
Special teams have been, and still are to some extent, a serious concern. Freshman Donnie Carona was inaccurate and broke a four-season (minus one missed extra-point by Keith Toogood against SMU on the first touchdown of the 2004 season) continuous extra-point streak and has struggled greatly when attempting field goals.
Enter Matt “Lynnwood” Williams, a student who went from a year of free rent to the most talked about kicker in the entire country. While his range on field goals isn’t a known quantity, he seems to be able to make extra-points (the sigh of relief from Tech fans was audible across the nation during the Kansas game).
I suppose, though, the point I’m trying to make, is this team is in a unique, once in a life-time opportunity. They’re poised to be the first team since 1938 to go 9-0, defeat the number 1 team in the country, and make themselves immortal in Tech history.
Yet, if you were to talk to some of the players, you’d think they were preparing for a scrimmage and not the biggest game of their lives, unlike so of the Tech teams of old.
The 2003 team, if they had won one more game, would have been in the running for the Cotton Bowl. The 2004 team was undoubtedly in the Cotton Bowl if they had beaten A&M. The 2005 team is playing in the Fiesta (or is it Corn Chip) Bowl if they beat Oklahoma State. The 2006 squad lost to Texas and OU by a combined 14 points in two games that could have sent Texas Tech to the Big XII Title Game. The 2007 squad lost to Oklahoma State by 4 points and had they won, would have broken the 10 win mark for the first time under Mike Leach.
I’m not Nostradamus and I certainly can’t say who will win Saturday (if I could I’d have a lot of money with the bookies) but what I can say is that the “difference” this year has led Tech to an 8-0 record and that maybe, just maybe, the difference will become a permanent change.
Mike Leach always talks about the “routine play,” “swing your sword,” and for Tech to win Saturday and going forward, the “difference” will have to remain.