October 17, 2011

Tech optimistic for tough road ahead

Texas Tech took quite a blow Saturday night in its 41-34 loss against now-No. 11 Kansas State and on paper the Red Raiders are a major underdog against No. 3 Oklahoma.

It's not letting up, and it's not going to get any easier through a back-heavy schedule. The Red Raiders are either going to have to man up in the next few weeks or risk missing a bowl.

But the fear of missing out on a bowl game with Oklahoma, No. 4 Oklahoma State, Texas, Missouri, Baylor and even Iowa State still on the slate hasn't even been discussed in the Tech locker room.

"No, if we were down to a couple of games, it would be different," head coach Tommy Tuberville said. "There is a lot of water underneath the bridge. We're halfway through. Just looking at the schedule for the season, we knew it was going to be tough the first half, and we knew it was going to be tougher the second half.

"This group, I like its attitude of just, 'hey, let's go play and get better.' I think our coaches have done a good job of selling that point. Not worrying about who you play, just worry about yourself and try to not let your teammates down. Play full speed, and hopefully we can stay a little healthier than we did the first half of the year in terms of play makers so we can possibly be a little bit better in scoring points and being a little bit more consistent."

Tech, currently 4-2, needs at least two more wins to be bowl eligible and it needs three wins to guarantee a bowl appearance.

A win against Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., is as daunting a challenge as the 2011 schedule can provide. The Sooners (6-0) have a 36-game home winning streak dating back to the 2005 season and have been almost entirely unbeatable there since Bob Stoops took over the program in 1999.

If Tech defeats Oklahoma in Norman, it would be maybe the signature win for the Red Raider football program.

"Signature would be an understatement," Tuberville said. "I think we're playing the best team in the country on both offense and defense… We played this team last year, and we saw how athletic they were, how versatile they were in running and throwing and playing defense, the speed that they have on the team. They're an all-around team.

"We'll have to play our best game. We'll be challenged with that. We'll tell our players that. There is no reason to tell them any different other than what they can recognize by watching film.
They're good. They're well-coached. They've got a lot of tradition. They've lost a small percentage, a very small percentage of games in their home stadium. I don't think they've lost any at night in the last 10, 12 years. So we have a major challenge."

Regardless of what happens in Norman this year, Tuberville believes it's a seasoning game for bigger and better things to come in the future. His players agree.

"I think it's our first true hostile environment," quarterback Seth Doege said. "We have a lot of young guys on the team that really haven't played in a hostile environment yet, and this is going to be their first taste. But at the same time it comes down to believing in the game plan and believing in your teammates, not worrying about what the fans are saying or anything like that.

"It's just one of those things that they'll learn. Once we kick off, they'll get comfortable in understanding that we're there to win a game, and kind of blocking out everything else."

But there's still plenty of room to exceed just accomplishing bowl eligibility. It starts against Oklahoma but runs through another five games.

"If you ask me personally, I feel there is no question," receiver Alex Torres said. "Those two wins are going to come. There is no question in my mind. I don't have one doubt. Around the locker room I feel like the majority of our team has the same mentality as us. We're confident. We know we have a good team. We know we can play well. We've seen some of the mistakes, we've learned from some, and we continue to make some."

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