Alarming Trend

As the Oklahoma Sooners were sluicing inexorably toward a touchdown like a blowtorch through butter on their opening drive of the second half, I had a sinking sense of déjà vu all over again. And a bit of research confirmed that yes, I had seen this dismal scene before. Three-and-a-half times, to be precise.

As the Oklahoma Sooners were sluicing inexorably toward a touchdown like a blowtorch through butter on their opening drive of the second half, I had a sinking sense of déjà vu all over again. And a bit of research confirmed that yes, I had seen this dismal scene before. Three-and-a-half times, to be precise.

In eight games this season, the Red Raider defense has allowed scores on the opening drive of the second half four times. In the season-opener, SMU marched 55 yards for a field goal.

The Texas State Bobcats, not an offense to be confused with Baylor or Oregon, plowed 80 yards for a TD to inaugurate second-half proceedings.

West Virginia, another team with a flyweight offense, managed to gash Tech for 74 yards and a touchdown.

And finally—we hope—Oklahoma made mincemeat of the Red Raider defense to the tune of 86 yards and a touchdown. During OU's Tour de Tech, the Red Raider defense conjured up memories of Lyle Setencich's units. And those of us who haven't managed to purge our mental hard drives of the Setencich years know this is a very bad thing.

Tech's poor defensive performance on opening second-half drives is very significant. Many coaches believe the beginning of the third quarter is the most important part of the game because it sets the tone for the second, and usually decisive half of football. This is why so many coaches who win the opening toss, defer the option to the second half.

The Red Raiders now stand with a very respectable 7-1 record, a top 15 ranking, and a shot at winning the Big 12 championship. Their remaining schedule, however, features an Oklahoma State team that just played its best football of the season, a Kansas State team that may well have done the same thing, a Baylor squad that is one of a handful of "great" college teams this year, and a Texas outfit that has righted the ship and is now playing up to its talent level.

If the Red Raiders play to the maximum of their ability, they could very well beat OSU, KSU and Texas. To beat Baylor, they will have to play over their heads. But their chances of winning any of those games will be helped immensely by playing tough defense to begin the second half. And if Kliff Kingsbury isn't convinced that this will happen, perhaps he should choose to defer his option when Tech wins the coin toss.

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