Six Down, Six To Go

The first half has not gone as well as many would have hoped. Is there any hope for the Red Raiders?

A 4-2 start, consecutive home losses for the first time since 1993, poor special teams play, the loss of Eric Stephens.

The list goes on and on, naming the disappointments and surprises that Tommy Tuberville and his Red Raiders have faced in the first half of the 2011 season.

"The natural thing to do is to look back at the last two weeks in which we've had a lot of disappointed young men sitting in this room two Sundays in a row, which is awfully tough, and the coaches," Tuberville said in Monday's Press Luncheon. "But I look out more for them than I do coaches because these guys are like our kids. But it's been an interesting first six weeks.
"We made a lot of progress in some areas, in some areas we haven't made as much as we'd like."
Tuberville in his first season at the helm of the program went 8-5, including a 45-38 win in the inaugural TicketCity Bowl on New Years day at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas against Northwestern.

The second season, following an impressive signing class in the spring, which ranked 16th in the country by, looked to be possibly a great season for the Red Raiders.

Starting the season 4-0 for Tech including a come-from-behind win against Nevada and a road win against Kansas, helped meet some of those expectations.

But the past two weeks haven't shaped up the way many hoped or predicted.

Crucial mistakes hindered the Red Raiders and left them wondering if a 6-0 start was within their grasps and let it slip into a 4-2 record and a lot of questions to be asked.

"I would say Sunday we were kicking ourselves quite a bit, especially going through that film. Each play was harder and harder, because we already knew what the outcome was," Tech wide receiver Alex Torres said. "So seeing the little mistakes that we made, it was rough. But as soon as we got done with that film, it was a different kind of motivation in the locker room and walking out to that Sunday practice that I felt was really good."

Getting better each week has been the message Tuberville has sent in almost every press conference this season.

Following the 4-0 start, progress seemed to be being made, but the past two weeks could be portrayed as huge steps backwards and not in the right direction by any means.

In both losses this season mistakes on the special teams, defense and in the quarterback position have cost the Red Raiders victories against two Top-25 teams at home.

Three blocked field goal attempts, one taken back for a touchdown by the Aggies, and then a 100-yard kickoff returned for a touchdown by Tyler Lockett of an undefeated Kansas State squad are some of the glaring mistakes that can be pointed at in this two-game skid.

With the two blocked field goals that Kansas State was able to get, Tuberville said it was just a fact of their guys beating Tech's.

"But it's obvious that we didn't have the focus and the accountability on those two snaps to get it done. They just outphysicaled us on that play," he said. "Bottom line, there wasn't anything other than the effort. So that's what I'm talking about. Accountability will go a long way, and it's not fun to go through when you're going through it, but I think the importance now of every snap, I think every player understands that."

With the 4-2 start and the Red Raiders going into their toughest part of their schedule, which includes trips to Norman to take on No. 3 Oklahoma and a trip down to the State Capitol to take on the Longhorns, bowl eligibility comes into question.

Mistakes, especially the ones that have been made in the past two weeks cannot continue for Tech if it wishes to continue its streak of 16 consecutive winning/non-losing season streak and 18 consecutive bowl eligible season streak in tact. 

Tech's bowl eligibility streak ranks 4th in the country among active streaks with Florida State holding the top spot with 34 consecutive seasons.

"If you ask me personally, I feel there is no question. Those two wins are going to come," Torres said about becoming bowl eligible. "There is no question in my mind. I don't have one doubt. Around the locker room I feel like the majority of our team has the same mentality as us. We're confident. We know we have a good team. We know we can play well. We've seen some of the mistakes, we've learned from some, and we continue to make some."

With just six games remaining in the schedule, three on the road, two at home and the shootout with Baylor at Cowboys Stadium the day after Thanksgiving, there will be no easy opponents for the Red Raiders to roll over to get those needed victories.

Out of the Red Raiders remaining opponents, two are ranked in the Top 25 and a couple are on the brink of breaking into that list.
Despite a tough couple of games for the team, Tuberville said he sees good things to come for this team down the road and the remainder of this season.

"I think we're coming together as a team," he said. "Whether we're going to win many more games, I don't know. It's going to depend a lot on how much better we get. I see a lot of promise how these young guys are playing.
"We've got to get to the point of accountability where we can make a lot more progress as we go along."


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