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The Rhythm Method: 2009 Texas Tech Spring Game

Uncle Bevo braved West Texas winds and the ever-present potential for mud rain to go out and scout the Pirates of The Plains. We're hopeful dedfischer of Tortilla Retort will reply. Here is UB's report.

- SR


Most people don’t associate delicate sensitivity with football. Some things just don’t fit together in our minds, like Donald Trump and quiet dignity, Lindsay Lohan and a clean hair follicle test, or Tom Cruise and heterosexuality. In a manly game like football that relies on porn star-level machismo, playing with broken noses, dislocated fingers, jammed toes, and injuries severe enough to unemploy an oil field roughneck, there is seemingly no room for black turtlenecks, poetry, or getting in touch with one’s feelings.

But, despite the clichés, there really is sensitivity in college football. Like Ann Coulter’s femininity, humanity, intellect, and clitoris, it’s almost imperceptible, but can be seen if you really concentrate and believe hard enough it exists. The Texas Tech/Mike Leach offense is nothing if not a well-oiled machine. Problem is, that machine is so complicated, convoluted, fragile, and thin-skinned that the slightest imbalance puts the Pirate/Mad Scientologist/Riverboat Gambler’s dink-n-dunk into a tailspin.

Example One: Tech’s bowl record. Because Leach’s offense relies so much on timing, repetition, and consistency, the longer the break between the end of the regular season and the bowl game, the less efficient, responsive, and coordinated Tech’s offense will be. When Tech bowls in December, closer to the regular season, they are 4-0 since 2002. When Tech plays in January, they are 1-2 over the same period, with their single victory being a dramatic, come-from-behind win over a mediocre Virginia team.

The timing theory holds true inside the actual bowl game itself. Tech’s spread becomes more productive as the contest progresses, scoring heavily in the fourth quarters of the 2006 Insight Bowl against Minnesota (24 points) and the 2007 Gator Bowl against Virginia (17). The longer you give Tech to get back into rhythm, the more deadly the throw-n-blow becomes. The more they work it, the less they jerk it.

Example Two: early season Tech losses. If you catch Tech early enough in the season, before the offense has a chance to gel, you stand a decent chance of yanking their starter. By way of example and not humiliation, I give you Raider beatdowns by North Carolina State in 2002 and 2003, New Mexico in 2004, TCU in 2006, and early conference losses to Oak State, Mizzou, and Colorado in 2007. Hell, during last year’s nationally-ranked, on ESPN every week, be-all, end-all season for the ages, lowly Eastern Michigan was within 11 of the Raiders well into the fourth quarter – in Lubbock.

My point? Like good wine or Madonna’s yeast infection, Tech’s offense needs time to ferment. Catch the Red Raiders early in the year or, heaven help them, give them more than a month between their last regular season game and bowl game and they are ripe for plunder.

All of which makes the Horns’ early game against Tech this fall (September 19 in Austin) more interesting and Tech’s Red and Black Game this past Saturday more boring. Spring games are usually known for their white bread, bland, vanilla plainness. Because the Red Raider offense consists of roughly eight plays, each run out of two or three different formations, Tech has nothing old to flaunt or new to show. Like Sean Connery’s accent that sounds exactly the same regardless of the nationality of his character, what you’ve seen is exactly what you’ll get. The Raiders’ offense is not based on innovation, clever tweaks, or reinventing the wheel. Tech lets you know exactly what they are going to do, over and over again for the entire game, and dares you to stop them.

The Spring Game was no different. Leach plugged in four indistinguishable QB’s: Taylor Potts, a Junior from Abilene, Steven Loucks, a Sophomore from a Polish private school in Arkansas (no comment necessary), Steven Sheffield, a Junior from Pflugerville, and Seth Doege (DOE-ghee), a Freshman from Wolfforth.

As for the game, the wind blew so hard it was louder than the official’s voice over the PA system, an empty 55 gallon trash container rolled harmlessly across the field during the game, and the ball blew off the kicking tee three different times. Tech missed not one but two PAT’s, dropped at least eight passes, and gave up four QB sacks, two interceptions (the second returned 100 yards for a touchdown), and a 65 yard kickoff return.

A bright spot was Freshman inside receiver Austin Zouzalik, a slow, small Wes Welker clone who made several memorable catches on seam routes. Baron Batch, the quick, slashing Junior RB from Midland High, made several memorable runs, but dropped a pass on a sideline go route that bounced harmlessly off his hands.

Like the crazy guy in the bar who rambles about nonsensically about Viet Nam, drinks cheap gin, and shows white all around the irises of his eyes, you never turn your back on Mike Leach. But the fact that the Horns get them very, very early, both in the season and the career of Taylor Potts, leaves me with little doubt: the Tech game will be a mudhole.

Hook ‘em.