Sobering Loss

Texas Tech's 49-28 loss to Arkansas highlights a disturbing trend dating back to the 2013 season.

When the truth is extremely painful, too much reality can be a destructive thing. This axiom applies well to a Texas Tech football team, that, for the past eight games, has been sputtering, and against Arkansas, ground to a screeching, smoking halt. The truth is that the Red Raiders are, at best, a mediocre football team.

There are facts that prove this. Going back to last year’s 52-38 loss to Oklahoma State in Lubbock, Tech has played exactly one good football game, that being the victory over Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl.

In addition to the Oklahoma State loss, the Red Raiders lost to Kansas State 49-26, Baylor 63-34, Texas 41-14. Tech wasn’t even close in those tilts.

In 2014, instead of building on the Holiday Bowl win, Tech scraped past FCS team Central Arkansas in Lubbock, dodged a near upset in El Paso against perennial C-USA dog UTEP, and imploded against Arkansas. By any honest reckoning, that is seven bad performances in eight outings. And that is enough of a pattern, a sufficiently clear track record to constitute reality.

Against the Razorbacks, Davis Webb and the offense were certainly problematic—nobody thought 28 points would be enough to beat Arkansas—but it was the complete lack of a rushing defense that was most appalling, and if not rectified, it will make future victories difficult if not impossible.

The Arkansas Ax Massacre reminded one of the Great Nebraska Bludgeoning of 2000, but in some ways was even worse. In case you’ve repressed that earlier defeat, allow me to jog your memory.

On Oct. 14, 2000 the No. 1 ranked Cornhuskers blasted Texas Tech 56-3. At the time, it was the worst loss in school history. And, like Arkansas’ cakewalk, it was accomplished almost entirely on the ground. In that game Nebraska rushed 77 times for 442 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per tote. Dan Alexander rushed for 113 yards and Correll Buckhalter tacked on another 105. It was one of those games in which the offense could do anything it wished. And it was painful to watch.

Compare with the results on Saturday. The Razorbacks, ranked nowhere near No. 1 in the nation, strapped 438 rushing yards on the Red Raiders on 68 attempts. Arkansas averaged 6.4 yards per carry, and so dominant was their ground game in the second half that they passed the ball only twice. The Hogs finished the game with 30 straight rushes.

It is also worth noting that while the 2014 Tech defense got at least some support from the offense (28 points, 20 first downs and 353 total yards), the 2000 offense contributed only three points, 11 first downs and 200 total yards. Thus, while there may have been some excuse for the defense’s performance against the No. 1 team in the nation in Mike Leach’s first year, it is hard to mitigate the fault of the 2014 unit against the SEC cellar-dweller in Kliff Kingsbury’s second season.

At this point the reality is as clear as it is ugly. And yet to listen to the players in the postgame press conference the Red Raiders are actually a good team that simply needs to execute the gameplan properly in order to beat anybody and everybody on the schedule. No thought is given to the possibility that the physical talent simply isn’t there or that the coaches are anything less than infallible.

It is apparent that the players have inbuilt rationalizers and reality filters that screen out harmful truths. And that is probably a very good thing. For were the Red Raiders to hoist in too much reality they might just begin phoning it in. So, as incomprehensible as it may be to fans and media, it behooves Tech’s coaches to enhance their players’ filters and to pump as much positive propaganda as possible. Reality is just too doggone demoralizing.

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