More Perspective on the Losing Streak: In watching the Texas Tech Red Raiders disintegrate over the past three weeks, the one team from the past that kept popping into my head was the post-Death Penalty SMU Mustangs. That was the only team I could think of that was comparably hapless. So I did a bit of research on that gutted Mustang program.
In the three years following the Death Penalty, SMU went 4-29. The Mustangs were clearly an awful football team, and they had every excuse to be. But did SMU experience a three-game losing streak as horrendous as Tech's current slide?
In 1989 the Mustangs lost to Texas A&M 63-14, Notre Dame 59-6 and Texas Tech 48-24. The combined point total of those three losses was 126 points, the same exact total as Tech's defeats at the hands of Iowa State, Texas and Oklahoma State.
In SMU's next game following their loss to Tech, the Mustangs fell to Arkansas 38-24. Should the Red Raiders lose to Missouri by more than 14 points, therefore, they will have eclipsed the ineptitude of the SMU Mustangs the year following the Death Penalty.
Warning Signs in Game One: Whatever deep-seated problems plague the Tech football team have only manifested themselves in all their true hideousness over the last three games, but the signs of future woe were there from the very beginning.
Hence, let us recall that trailed the Texas State Bobcats 10-0 after the first quarter, and still trailed by a point at the halftime break. Let us also remember that the Bobcats, who later in the season lost by 13 points to Northwestern State, rushed for 256 yards on the Red Raiders.
We have speculated that Tommy Tuberville and his coaching staff "lost the team" somewhere along the way. In actuality, Tuberville and company may never have even "had the team" to begin with.
Viewed in this light, the win over Oklahoma was simply a congeries of one team, Texas Tech, playing out of its mind, while the other, Oklahoma, failed to even show up. The win in Norman was, in other words, the ultimate fluke. The team that defeated Oklahoma was not the real Texas Tech. The team that Texas State managed to push around for a half and Oklahoma State annihilated was and is the real Red Raiders.
Does the Punishment Fit the Crime? Sawyer Vest had one terrible play in the Oklahoma game. He misjudged a pass from Landry Jones and gave up a long touchdown to Jaz Reynolds in the process. It was indeed a very bad play, but outside of that slipup, Vest acquitted himself reasonably well against the Sooners.
But since that game Vest has disappeared from the defense. If he's played any more cornerback, it has been a few snaps at most.
Meanwhile, the Red Raiders have lost starting cornerback Tre' Porter to injury, and seen dings hobble Jarvis Phillips and Derrick Mays. In a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding—so to speak—receivers Shawn Corker and Cornelius Douglas have moved to corner. And still no sign of Vest.
Now one must give Douglas some credit. Unlike virtually every other Red Raider, he actually competed against Oklahoma State and scored Tech's lone touchdown on a fumble return.
But is Cornelius Douglas, a converted receiver playing cornerback for the very first time, matched up one-on-one against Justin Blackmon really a better option than veteran corner Sawyer Vest? When Tech's cornerbacks have been giving up long touchdown receptions all season with the regularity of the rising sun, is it fair or wise to single out Vest for his lone gaffe?
If we're looking for clues as to why the coaching staff lost this team, perhaps the relegation of Sawyer Vest to the sidelines is one.