October 26, 2011

A.C. playing for immortality

Aaron Crawford looked all the parts of a champion Monday, just two days after defeating a No. 3-ranked Oklahoma team for the second time in his career.

Maybe it had to do with the toy wrestling championship belt, 'The Hustle Award,' a semi-gag gift offensive players reward each other after every game, that was slung across his shoulder. It looked like something better suited for a 10-year-old WWE wrestling fan on first glance.

"We have awards that we give out," Crawford said, laughing. "'The Hard Hitter Award' where you get a bat and keep it for a week and you have to defend the title. This is the belt, 'The Hustle Award,' basically just getting after them and being physical, running the ball tough and just doing your job. Then there's 'The Best Sideline Award' for the most excited on the sideline. We just use these as fuels and just to have fun and be motivators."

It's good to see Crawford, a fifth-year running back, having fun again after he nearly melted down on the podium just nine days before when Texas Tech somehow found a way to lose against Kansas State, 41-34.

After that loss, the Red Raiders' second in two games with a seemingly imminent loss coming up at Oklahoma, Crawford talked about wanting to gain immortality within Tech football lore.

Just a week later, Crawford was a leading force in the running game and defeated a No. 3-ranked Oklahoma team for the second time as a starter. On this occasion, Crawford rushed for 65 yards, some pivotal first downs and sealed the win with an onside kick recovery with 1:10 left in the game.

"Going into the game we knew we could win any game, but we finally came together as a team," Crawford said. "We want to play together, we want to believe in each other despite if anybody else wants to believe in us or despite adversity. We're just going to keep playing.

"I felt like it was critical to catch that ball because OU -- they don't sleep. None of the other teams will. We have to take advantage of every single moment and every opportunity we can because the margin in this league is so small. Five or six teams in the top offenses are in the Big 12 so the margin of error is pretty small. So, yeah, felt pretty immortal on that night."

Crawford is trying to make a legend out of himself in a very short amount of time. When all is said and done, he'll have started less than 26 games in a five-year career due to injuries.

The fifth-year senior will always be admired, and subsequently remembered, by the Tech fanbase for his perseverance, but Crawford really has a chance to do some special things in his final four-to-five games as a Red Raider.

For starters, Crawford has proved to be a strong replacement for the injured Eric Stephens.

While Tech allowed Oklahoma back into the game late, Crawford and true freshman running back DeAndre Washington proved the Red Raiders can finally escape from a game they've dominated up until the final quarter and a half by using a ball control offense to run the clock out rather than relying on more scores.

But no matter what other accomplishments Crawford picks up in the remaining back half of the season, will always be remembered for turning the tide against Oklahoma.

As a true freshman in 2007, Crawford led the Red Raiders' running attack to an upset victory of No. 3 Oklahoma in Lubbock and denied the Sooners a National Championship appearance.

After Saturday's loss Oklahoma's National Championship hopes appear slim again and the Sooners are now 3-4 against Tech since 2005.

More importantly though, recovering that onside kick drastically changed the outlook of Tech's season.

"To beat them at home, my senior year to end it on that note, is great," Crawford said. "I think this is more special because of the fact we fought adversity. We kept fighting and took it to their house. We proved everybody wrong despite what they said. I saw numerous articles where people were saying we could go 5-7. I took that a fuel and drive to prove we're here to play and we're not just some pushover team."

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