It was an era full of changes, particularly for the majority who were defensive players. Two losing seasons in four years is not something a player thinks of when he signs their national letter of intent to play at Texas Tech.
There’s more to the numbers here than just the seniors efforts. Bradley Marquez ended up with 1866 yards and 17 touchdown receiving in his career, including 130 yards and three touchdowns in his final game. He was a four-star running back prospect out of Odessa High School, who signed a minor league baseball contract with the New York Mets and still played football at Tech. For his senior season, he did not just return to the team, but put his baseball career on hold. Marquez spent his final summer at Texas Tech preparing for his senior season without fellow 2011 signee Jace Amaro at his side. It could have been easy for Marquez to call it a career at Tech and take his chances on baseball, but Marquez said he’s glad he returned despite the 4-8 record.
“I don’t think I would trade it for the world.”
Take the impact Marquez had on the team from another senior, Sam Eguavoen.
“He’s just a great role model to a lot of the young guys on the team. The older guys, we all look up to Bradley since day one when we walked in here. I could just tell by the way he carried himself. He’s just a good, uplifting player.”
Speaking of Eguavoen, he played a big role Saturday by racking up a game-high 10 tackles. Eguavoen also knocked Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty out of the game with a mild concussion. A three-star prospect out of Garland Lakeview Centennial, it seemed as if defensive coordinators would bring his name up just randomly sometimes on the amount of progress he was making.
When talking about defensive coordinators, the “s” on coordinators is a major point. Every senior on defense played for a different coordinator in each of their years at Texas Tech. For the redshirts, it begins with James Willis. Eguavoen started out with a dumpster fire of a defensive coordinator in Chad Glasgow, who left on terrible terms to go back to TCU. Art Kaufman was the next man and was a fine replacement, but head coach Tommy Tuberville bolted for Cincinnati and almost all of the staff did not return. After keeping Matt Wallerstedt for the offseason, Tech looked like it may have a stable coordinator, but he resigned midway into the season. Former Tech linebacker Mike Smith ended up as the final coordinator in the career for any defensive senior in 2014.
Despite the coordinator changes, Eguavoen used other ways to sum up his career.
“Just never giving up, never quitting, staying locked in. That was the main thing. New DCs come in. You know,” Eguavoen said. “They are going to try and play the players they want.. Just being locked in, focusing, and just being resilient. I’m just proud of this university and everything me and Bradley been though. You know, young guys who are real mature in this game, and the DCs really don’t matter. It is really just us.”
One player who did redshirt while Willis was Tech’s defensive coordinator is Jackson Richards. The fifth-year senior out of Southlake Carroll played his final game last week in Ames as he did not dress Saturday due to an undisclosed injury. He finished his senior campaign with 14 tackles and a sack in 10 games played.
One senior who could be named “Mr. Change” is Kenny Williams. After playing three years as a running back, he made the switch over to linebacker for the 2014 season, before moving back to offense again midseason. Even Williams can say he went through a defensive coordinator change. Not only did many of these seniors go through a defensive coordinator switch, but also a head coaching switch after Tuberville bolted.
Texas Tech brought in former player Kliff Kingsbury with a number of Tech graduates. Despite a low amount of statistics Saturday, Williams played a major role by receiving a pass from punter Taylor Symmank to gain a first down which led to a first half field goal. Without a successful fake punt, Baylor has the ball in Tech territory with a seven-point lead.
Two more defensive players who made an impact on Saturday’s game were transfers. Stewart, who actually played during the Tuberville era and experienced two defensive coordinator switches, racked up four solo tackles. V.J. Fehoko, who transferred to Texas Tech for his senior year, was in on six tackles, including one for a loss.
Ryan Bustin, another senior finished the night two-for-three. His one miss came from 50 yards, but hit the goal post. Despite the miss, he set a school record for most career field goal makes with 50. Bustin also became the second kicker in Tech history to make 150 successful extra-point kicks. He too, experienced change in the coaching ranks. Darrin Chiaverini was hired on as special teams coordinator for his senior year.
While the field goal kicker gets most of the fame, Kramer Fyfe also played his final game at Texas Tech. Fyfe was used mainly for the kickoffs and when Baylor had good field possession, it was not because of a kick return.
Three seniors who were a part of Tech’s offense Saturday night included two lineman and a fullback. Rashad Fortenberry was the leader of the offensive line. James Polk was a key-player in the two deep and someone who made many starts on a young line. In addition, Rodney Hall played key roles in the rushing attack as a fullback who received minimal carriers and receptions.
While many changes took place in their tenure, these seniors entered a hostile situation where the fan base was divided and the coaching carousel was spinning at full speed. Unlike some of their “leaders”, these guys stuck it out until the end of one of the worst times in Texas Tech football history.