LUBBOCK — Texas Tech feels its back against the wall more than ever this season, sitting at 4-4 with just four games remaining on the 2010 regular season schedule.
A blowing 45-27 loss in College Station left plenty of questions surrounding the Red Raider offense and defense with No. 12 Missouri (7-1, 3-1 Big 12) coming to town on Saturday and a road contest with No. 8 Oklahoma just around the corner.
Yet down the road off Interstate 20, there was proof how just how much it takes for a team to reach the "championship" level Tech (4-4, 2-4) hopes to be at in the near future under new head coach Tommy Tuberville and his staff.
The Texas Rangers long have been the whipping boys of Major League Baseball with sub-500 seasons being the norm and a chance at a postseason often appeared further away than closer.
But the Rangers won their first playoff series in just their third season under Ron Washington then did the unthinkable by defeating the might New York Yankees to capture the first American League Championship in club history, bringing baseball's biggest stage to Arlington this season.
Being at the World Series and seeing the more than 53,000 fans in attendance this past weekend brought about a realization that I never thought was possible after following the Rangers for more than 20 years as an Arlington native. Though the World Series did not turn out in Texas' favor, it was proof that any team with the right players and attitude can reach the proverbial "championship" level Tuberville began his tenure talking about when he was hired back in January.
But it's been a tough road for Red Raider fans, coaches and players to walk down as the season continues this weekend.
Losing wide receivers Alex Torres and Jacoby Franks for the season along with others was another blow on Monday as Tech tries to take another look at its quarterback situation that turned back into a controversy when Steven Sheffield came back into the picture on Saturday near the end of the loss to rival Texas A&M.
Sticks appears to at least be somewhat of a morale booster to a team that can't point its finger directly at starter Taylor Potts for every problem. Potts did not fumble the ball at the goal line for what would have been a momentum shifter for Tech in the early stages of Saturday's game or give up more than 600 yards to A&M's offense while it tallied 45 points.
But a change at quarterback could be the easiest fix for now while Tech searches for a season-defining win.
We've seen wins like this in the past few years from Tech teams.
The Red Raiders suffered a similar defeat in 2006 on the road when winless Colorado held the high-powered offense to just six points and had some calling for a quarterback change to hopefully cure all ills. It wasn't until the biggest comeback in bowl history was complete that a 7-5 Tech team felt that defining win but the following season was even bigger.
Tech appeared to have lost the momentum in 2007 that started off with the attention growing around phenom Michael Crabtree and the Red Raider offense when Tech was again beat in back-to-back games against Missouri and Colorado. All appeared to be hopeless when a No. 3 Oklahoma team came to town with hopes of still making the national championship were on the line. Tech answered and played better on that Saturday with a win that started a roller coaster heading into the 2008 season.
This Saturday could be that win that defines a season where Tech still can win two games to be bowl eligible for a record 16th season but the QB under center on Saturday will either clear up the picture more or leave even more questions once again.
Just because it's improbable, doesn't mean it's impossible. But Tech must stay away from the mistakes it has routinely put in the way of other possible wins this season that now add up to four losses. Not one loss felt more impossible to overcome during the game until Saturday, as A&M literally ran away with the win in the third quarter behind Big Spring product Ryan Tanehill who admitted after the game he wanted to play at Tech like his father, but was never recruited by the Red Raiders.
It will take more than just a gutsy performance by Potts or Sticks to give Tech a win against Missouri, who has outscored its opponents by an average of almost 22 points this season with defense giving up only 15.4 points per game. Tech's depleted defense must stay at full speed through four quarters — a task that is easier thought about than done when you look at the lack of depth on the Red Raiders' defensive bench right now.
Yet if Tech can put all the pieces together for one more battle on Saturday before heading back on the road, a 7-5 season could be possible and maybe get the ball rolling in the right direction toward the 2011 season along with an incoming recruiting class ranked as high as No. 11, should all players sign and qualify this next year.
Improbable, but not impossible.