LUBBOCK — The hardest thing about the start to Texas Tech's 2010 football season is that it is uncharted territory for many fans that have cheered the Red Raiders on for the last 12 years.
It just always appeared to be a 4-0 start through non-conference play, bumps and turns during the treacherous road through Big 12 Conference games before eventually arriving at a nearly-guaranteed bowl game each season.
And the expectations grew even more after Michael Crabtree caught his magical touchdown pass he dreamed about just seconds before it arrived from Graham Harrell to help lead Tech to an 11-1 season, ending with a bittersweet loss to Ole Miss in the 2009 Cotton Bowl.
Ever since that Texas game, Tech fans just assumed the Red Raiders could beat any opponent they faced — not matter who was playing quarterback or receiver.
Even after a 2-2 start last season that included road losses to top-ranked Texas and underrated Houston, Tech fans still thought they had a contender in the 2009 Red Raiders — a confidence regained from the legs and swagger of Steven Sheffield and their Pirate head coach.
The bowl week arrived and all was well in Raider Nation.
Then the bottom fell out and the Tech Market crashed with the firing of its head coach, leaving the once proud and loud Raider Nation divided.
Getting rid of a winning coach over a complaint from a parent? Who would fathom such a thing?
Faith appeared somewhat restored with Tommy Tuberville taking the reigns and mentioning words like "championship." For a moment, all was well once again, but there were still plenty of grumblings out there.
Tech (2-2, 0-2 Big 12) find itself in the same spot through four games this season, but the reaction from Red Raider Nation makes it appear as if this team was coming off an undefeated season and the favorite to win a national championship this year.
To get a realistic picture of what kind of team Tech is this season, you have to take a step back, shut up for five seconds and listen.
"We are getting better in some areas, and about half of this football team has never played before," Tuberville said on Monday. "So we have to keep their confidence up and understand that there is going to be some setbacks. When you come back on Sunday you get that game behind and keep going."
There in everything lies the statement few fans for any team ever want to hear: "There is going to be some setbacks."
Nobody likes the idea of having to rebuild — especially being only two years removed from a one-loss regular season. But it is now a reality in Lubbock. Tech is learning a new offense, new defense and doing it with the different types of players than the coaches who run the defense would like to have.
I'm not saying there is not any talent on the Red Raiders team. If anything, the players proved that during their sporadic spurts of greatness against Texas and other teams this season.
For almost 35 minutes on Saturday, Tech appeared to be an unstoppable force, gaining nearly 400 yards of offense while scoring 31 points — things that were familiar with last season's team and previous ones. But just as the offense finally got clicking, a turnover made the bottom fall out once again and the defense could not find the same mojo it had the previous game against the Longhorns.
Why the Tech offense and Tech defense can't get going at the same time is the one million dollar question in West Texas right now. But players and coaches insist there is no urge to press the panic button and put every Tech fan on alert to wait until next season.
But the same coaches and players know that talk will do very little for passionate college football fans like the ones in scarlet and black — you have to show it on the field, as well.
So even thought the entire season is not on the line Saturday against a talented and explosive Baylor team, it may sure feel like it when you talk to a Red Raider fan.
Tech has not lost to Baylor since the inception on the Big 12 in 1996 and does not want to do it in Dallas, at Cotton Bowl Stadium — a stadium that almost feels like a curse to some Red Raider fans, knowing their team has tried and failed each time Tech made it to the Cotton Bowl.
No, the panic button has not been pushed — but that cover over it appears to be lifted for the first time.
"We are going into this game thinking our backs are up against the wall, and we have to change something," Potts said. "We're not to the point where we're like hey, we know we're good we are alright let's just keep pushing, we are confident that we can get it done.
"We are going into the game thinking we need to start winning some games. There's a time when you start thinking you have to get it done, and I think that's where we are. It's time for us to show everybody who we really are."
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