Tech bearly squeezes past Baylor, awaits bowl announcement
The Ellis County Press
Texas Tech survived what could be described as an off-beat game against Baylor Saturday. The game itself was not the only thing out of balance at Jones AT&T Stadium. Most notably, the crowd was uncharacteristically dull and quiet until the second half of play.
Blame it on the lack of students back from the Thanksgiving holiday, or maybe the still-smarting sting of the OU rout the previous weekend, but the usually packed stadium was dotted with more empty seats than normal. With Tech’s incredible season thus far, there should have been a last home game buzz, but simply, there was not. Maybe the crowd was not completely to blame for the quietness of the stadium, because after all, the Raiders played the first half of the game like a team with a losing season just praying for the game to be over. In a post-game interview, Tech Quarterback, and Ennis native, Graham Harrell commented on the slow start, "Baylor outplayed us, but luckily we were able to come back."
To their credit, Tech did come out and start the game with their expected walk down the field to an early touchdown from Harrell to senior inside receiver Eric Morris. The quick and early lead should have been enough to get the crowd at least semi-interested, but any enthusiasm that might have been building was quickly extinguished as Baylor Quarterback Robert Griffin ran in back-to-back touchdowns to take a 13-7 lead after the first quarter. Although Tech answered back halfway through the second quarter with a touchdown to take a one point lead, an end-zone ruled fumble by Baylor, reviewed and then overturned in Baylor’s favor, resulted in a Baylor touchdown with one second left in the first half of play.
After a disastrous first half in which sophomore wide receiver Michael Crabtree exited the game with an ankle injury, the Red Raiders needed a clean start to the second half of play. With Crabtree out for the remainder of the game, the rest of the Tech offense stepped up to fill the gap, and they filled it quite well. On the loss of Crabtree, Harrell praised the back-ups, "Everyone stepped up in the second half. [It] hurts not to have Crab, but everyone else stepped up. The Tech defense allowed Baylor one more touchdown in the top of the third quarter before the Tech offense took over, found momentum from a finally awakened crowd, and put 21 more on the board to snag the final victory, 35-28.
Getting his point across, if even in a sometimes comical manner, Tech Head Coach Mike Leach offered his advice for deciding who should go to the Big 12 South Championship game, "They should break that 3-way tie based on graduation rate. Are we about the student athlete? Are we actually doing the proper thing and actually balancing the dual role of both being an athlete and being a student? When they do that no one is more deserving than the Red Raiders to win the Big 12 South." Leach and his players were definitely excited about the final win at home evident with Leach’s comment on the Big 12 South Championship trophy awarded to Tech post-game, "[We’re] excited today. [They] gave us a trophy because we are a part of the Big 12 South champions.
"[We] got the trophy to prove it today. We’re excited about that; I think we’re as good as any one loss team in the country. Nobody in the country can debate whether they should be higher than us if they have one loss."
Although the Red Raiders are not offering to hand over their trophy, Tech will not be representing the Big 12 South in next weekend’s championship game. Tech’s chance of going was riding on an upset of Oklahoma by Oklahoma State later the same evening. Although OSU stayed right on OU’s heels, the Sooners prevailed thus eliminating Tech from the contenders’ list. With all the speculation about BCS rankings and bowl bids, sophomore running back Baron Batch offered this about the championship game next weekend, "[It was] all on us. All we had to do was go in and beat OU. If we go to the Big 12 Championship we deserve it, if we don’t we don’t deserve it."
There will never be a perfect ranking system that pleases everyone involved. The BCS isn’t perfect, no argument there. Should Tech have gone to the Championship game? With a win over OU, there’s no question or debate they should have been there and invited to a prestigious bowl game as well. Even though the loss to OU was ugly, it was the only blemish on a remarkable and historic 11-1 season for the boys from West Texas. All of the Red Raiders deserve a pat on the back and just maybe they’ll get more than that with bowl announcements still pending.