Missed Opportunity; Bowl Bid In Doubt?

LUBBOCK, Texas – On a day where the West Texas wind wasn't blowing in its usual tumbleweed velocity the winds of football fortune changed for Big 12 South foes Oklahoma State and Texas Tech on Saturday. The "cardiac Cowboys" who have been used to coming from behind with monster ferocity in the second half jumped out to comfortable lead for the second week in a row.

Texas Tech, a first-half team used to building leads only to see them slip away with second half hiccups, found themselves down but as it turned out far from out. A reversal of roles worked in the Red Raiders favor as they hung on for a 30-24 win.

Texas Tech kept its perfect record at home against Oklahoma State since the inception of the Big 12 and finished a roller-coaster season on a high note at 7-5, 4-4 in the Big 12. The Red Raiders now await word on their bowl destination, which could be El Paso, Texas, or Shreveport, La.

Oklahoma State kept with its pattern of loss-win in Big 12 play and with a 6-5 record overall and 3-4 in the Big 12 are still bowl eligible. But because of the Kansas win over Kansas State on Saturday could find themselves in bowl danger.

It started so well under the bluest of Texas skies as the Cowboys held Texas Tech on a fourth down try on the Raiders first possession and then promptly moved 54 yards in nine plays with shifty Dantrell Savage punctuating the drive with a 25-yard touchdown burst through a shocked Tech defense. Later in the first quarter the Cowboys punt unit forced a fumble by Tech returner Danny Amendola and Reid polished off another short drive with a 16-yard touchdown to make it 14-0. With 9:36 left in the half Jason Ricks connected on a 47-yard field goal and the Cowboys led 17-0. This wasn't Baylor at home, but instead Texas Tech in Lubbock that the Cowboys were throttling.

At that point the wind changed, not literally but figuratively. These Cowboys couldn't stand prosperity. Their own head coach felt they coasted. Instead of putting their foot down in the middle of the masked rider's chest and forcing what air was left out of his lungs, the Cowboys helped the Red Raiders up off the turf. Tech didn't waste time thanking Pistol Pete or the OSU offense, defense, or special teams. The Red Raiders, who also could have rolled over and called it a day, did something they haven't done all season, they completed a comeback from being down double digits, and they did it in nearly a quarter of clock time.

"We started off real well," said head coach Mike Gundy. "Offense moving the ball and defense was playing well, but then we went to sleep as a football team. Offensively, we had two or three bad series where we didn't do anything, and defensively we stood around and watched them make plays and missed tackles and let them back in the game. When there was about two minutes left in the half we should have made a first down and then taken some shots downfield. Instead, we let them hold us and punted and they went down the field and scored and gave them momentum."

Nobody gets out on this one. The defense, which had done a good job of keeping the Tech offense contained, lost containment and the big plays, primarily through the air and off the arm of sometimes erratic sophomore quarterback Graham Harrell kept coming. Harrell hit Robert Johnson for 14 yards over the middle, Adrian Reese for 17 yards on the sideline, and all-purpose back Shannon Woods on the shovel for 11 yards leading to a field goal. The next series Harrell found Joel Filani for 16 yards and Grant Walker over the middle for another 16 yards on the way to a touchdown just before halftime.

"You just have to give Texas Tech a lot of credit for the offensive game plan," said defensive end Darnell Smith. "We tried to get back there, but he (Harrell) did a good job of getting the ball off and finding the right receivers, so you have to give him a lot of credit. It's troublesome playing against Texas Tech because they get the ball off so quick. They are an offense that can get going and get red hot or be ice cold, and unfortunately for us, they were red hot too much."

In the second half Texas Tech got unexpected help from one of the Cowboys' strongest units. OSU came in leading the nation in kickoff returns and Grant Jones was the nation's individual leader in kickoff returns. On the first four kickoffs the Cowboys received in the second half -- a bad sign to begin with -- a Perrish Cox fumble, a Cox return without blocking support, and a pair of blocking in the back penalties gave OSU starting field position at their own 5-, 9-, 7-, and 7-yard lines. Obviously, offensive choices become limited stuck in bad field position, but the Oklahoma State offense did little to turn the field in its favor.

"When we started in the second half we had too many penalties on special teams and gave them great field position," said Gundy. "That forced our offense into a more conservative mode, when you are on your own 5-yard line you have to be careful with what you are doing. We had a punt that was shanked and landed on the 30 and that gave them momentum."

"Personally, we didn't finish," said quarterback Bobby Reid. "We started off real fast, which is unusual for us. We take about two or three series to get going. We just ran out of it and then when it was time for us to dig deep we came back, but we came up with the short stick at the end. We had some drops that hurt us and we had guys hanging their heads because of drops. As the quarterback I just told them I'm coming back to you. Sometimes we didn't come back to them because of play calls and other things we had going."

It wasn't until Texas Tech owned a 27-17 lead, after scoring 27 unanswered points, that the Cowboys re-engaged in this Big 12 South dogfight. It was admirable when they did as Reid scrambled for 22 yards, something he could have and should have done a lot more of. He then connected on the longest pass play of the day for a 34-yard touchdown to Adarius Bowman.

"Just going out there trying to make a big play," Bowman said of his catch. "We knew our team was down by a touchdown and a field goal and just trying to make a play."

Actually, the Red Raiders aren't real good with prosperity themselves as they did a three-and-out giving Oklahoma State the ball with 10:30 left down 27-24. On fourth-and-three at the Texas Tech 31, center David Washington thought he heard Reid bark the signal and snapped the ball before the quarterback was ready and it rolled through Reid's leg all the way back to the Tech 44, a 13-yard loss. After Tech failed on a first-and-goal at the OSU 5 and settled for a field goal, the Cowboys had the ball again 80 yards from victory with 4:46 left.

This time Reid threw an interception that seemingly put the game away, but on the Darcel McBath return, Tech was guilty of both a personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct moving the ball all they way back to the Tech 33. Three-and-out and a convoluted punt situation later, that included an inadvertent whistle that cost OSU 10 seconds on the clock and 18 yards in field position, the Cowboys had the ball again 77 yards away with 1:18 left. It was admirable as they drove to the Red Raider 17 only to throw in the end zone in vain on the final play.

"Unfortunately, we came up short," said Reid. "I tried to put the ball up for D'Juan (on the final play), and I really didn't see what happened. We didn't catch it and I'm sad we didn't win the game."

The Red Raiders' plain vanilla defense bowed up and played hard enough to keep the OSU running game from opening up the game and leading to big plays in the passing department. Give the Tech defenders credit because they were the main reason Tech won its home finale.

The Cowboys had a season low four "chunk plays." Chunk plays being plays of 20 yards or more. Tech had six of those. Tech had 18 plays of 10 yards or more to the Cowboys 16. Close, but the score was close and it was in favor of the home team. OSU also averaged 3.4 yards on first down plays meaning they rarely were in favorable second-and-medium or short situations where big plays after spring from.

"They did a real good job today," Bowman said of the Tech defense. "They played a lot of cover four so sit routes were there and they were in our game plan. They just came out and made plays today."

"It was disappointing for me because that was a game we could have won," said Gundy. "We prepared well, but now we have to rally and get ready for the next one. Was it a close game yes, but in college, football games are won or lost."

A good lead gone bad, another opportunity missed, and thanks to the Jayhawks' 39-20 win over Kansas State, a bowl bid in doubt. The Big 12 has eight bowl ties, including the champion to the BCS. There are now seven Big 12 teams with seven wins and two others -- Oklahoma State and Kansas -- with six wins.

If Kansas beats Missouri next Saturday they would have seven and the Cowboys would need to win at home in Bedlam to guarantee their spot. KU and Mizzou kick off at 11 a.m., so the situation will be clear shortly after Bedlam kicks off at Boone Pickens Stadium at 1:30 p.m. If Kansas wins and the Cowboys don't they will have to shop for a bowl, and the NCAA regulates that all seven win teams have to have a bowl before a six win team can be chosen. There could be much more than pride at stake this Saturday with Bedlam.

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