September 25, 2011
Tech avoids 'that' game
Make no mistake, Texas Tech's 35-34 win disappointed almost any Red Raider fan's expectations. The defense wasn't great and leading receiver Darrin Moore could be out for a lengthy amount of time with knee and ankle injuries.
But for about five minutes, the final five minutes of the game, the Red Raiders pulled themselves together to avoid its first non-conference home loss since 2002 against North Carolina State.
"Huge character builder as we all saw," Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville said. "I can't say it was a lot of fun on the sideline during the game being behind, what, three-quarters and 14 minutes and 35 seconds. But it was an interesting game, interesting game to see where on offense or defense the first half, we didn't take advantage of opportunities.
"Scoring 7 points on offense is not our forté. We gave up a lot of yards defensively. Had guys fall out. Second half we came back and played much better. Had a couple good stops on defense."
Tech looked like it was on the ropes as early as halftime, trailing 21-7. It looked like that game.
The kind of loss that would take some of the pain away from rival Texas A&M fans reeling from a Top-10 matchup loss. That game that comes around every five years or so where you just want to turn off your phone to avoid calls from friends associated with other schools and disappear until the heat is off come about
For reasons contrary to what the first 55 minutes of the game seemed to indicate, Tech didn't let its fanbase down.
The team clawed its way back to 31-28 in the final minutes, putting a glimmer of hope in the minds of 55,000 strong at Jones AT&T Stadium that somehow Tech could get out of the quagmire it had put itself in with a young, struggling defense and an offense performing so-so.
Nevada wasn't planning on folding though.
After a Tech touchdown, the Wolf Pack made their way down the field to a first and goal from the seven-yard line, getting four yards on the first play of the set. With about five minutes left on the clock, Nevada was just three yards away from a 38-28, 38-31 or maybe a 38-35 victory.
Three yards from an embarrassing loss, the Red Raider defense buckled down.
On second and goal, Nevada quarterback Tyler Lantrip's pass intended for Shane Anderson in the back corner of the endzone was swatted away by cornerback Jarvis Phillips. On third and goal, Lantrip was hurried by strong safety Terrance Bullitt and threw an incomplete pass to the middle of the endzone.
Nevada subsequently kicked a 21-yard field goal but left the door open for the Red Raiders in a one-possession ballgame, 34-28.
The game still seemed like somewhat of a long shot.
After all, quarterback Seth Doege didn't look nearly as crisp as he did a week ago and Moore had been knocked out of the game early. With 4:49 on the clock, it would have been risky to allow running back Eric Stephens to further both his career-high rushing attempts and rushing yards.
Ben McRoy helped in a big way with a 41-yard return to cap off a career-high 203 return yards.
But first and 10 from the Tech 39-yard line, Lonnie Edwards false started, again it looked like it was going to be the game Red Raider Nation feared.
Stephens got those yards back on one play with a 16-yard run to the Nevada 45.
After another first down, a time consuming one, Doege scrambled for 26 yards on first and ten from the Nevada 33 to set the Red Raiders up with a first and goal from the Nevada seven-yard line and Tech fanbase knew it wasn't going to be that game. Three-yard gains by Stephens and Doege on first and second goal further the notion.
But then a bobbled snap on third and goal for a loss of three brought all of the fears back. Tech, a double-digit favorite, was one play from losing to Nevada. A timeout prolonged the agony.
On fourth and four it was clear Tech was going to lose.
Doege took the snap, no one was open and the pocket was collapsing. Doege moved to his left side, Eric Ward broke off his busted route to the back corner of the left side of the endzone. Doege let the ball fly with 36 seconds left in the game.
Touchdown, Red Raiders. PAT, Red Raiders. 35-34, Red Raiders.
Kickoff coverage did its job and Nevada set up shop at its own 25-yard line. Three incompletions, a sack and a kneel down later, the brunt of embarrassment had been averted.
It wasn't that game.
It's one thing to beat a big underdog by one point. It's another thing entirely to lose.
Still, the win wasn't pretty and it wasn't a desirable way to win. Tech fans know it and the players do too.
However, that game could be the game the young Red Raider squad needed to grow.
"I think it was a big thing for younger guys," Stephens said. "A couple years ago I don't feel like we would have won this game. I think with all the younger guys playing, we did have a lot of them playing, I think they see how it's supposed to be done.
"It's just going to help us in the future. It's just going to help us in the future whether it be road games or home games, when we're in tough situations, we know we can overcome."
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