And Leach's way, of course, is to pass the football with a purple passion. Leach loves the drag pattern more than Emeril Lagasse loves "gaahlic." He thinks defense has something to do with barbed wire removal projects or what happened to some dude in Prague back in the seventeenth century. But no man, no matter how clever and ingenious, can escape the iron laws of the gridiron. And Mike Leach is no exception.
By "iron laws" I refer, of course, to the time-tested rule that the team that runs the ball best loses lest. In the case of the 2004 Red Raiders, the statistics indicate a variant of this rule: the better they run the ball the greater their chances of winning. Hence, Tech will never run the ball more than an opponent, and will rather rarely run the ball for a higher yards per carry average than the opponent. The Raiders are a pass first, second, and third team and, therefore, will never be extraordinarily proficient at grinding it out. They just don't get enough practice. But interestingly enough, when the Tech offense makes a concerted attempt to run the football, it usually does it fairly well. And when it kicks its running game into a relatively high gear, the Raiders win.
The tale of the 2004 tape is as follows: in the Raiders's three losses they have run the ball an average of 14 times for 43 yards and a 3.1 yards per carry average. In Tech's eight wins, Raider backs and receivers have run the ball an average of 19 times for 112 yards, which computes to 5.9 yards per tote. Furthermore, when Raider backs and receivers have rushed the ball for over 100 yards (the Kansas State, Kansas, and TCU games), the offense has scored an average of 45 points per game and the team is undefeated. In games in which the Raiders have gained less than 100 yards on the ground, they are 2-3 and have averaged 31 points per game.
Count Tech quarterback Sonny Cumbie, who gains almost all of his personal glory from throwing the football, as a fan of the ground game as well.
"It really helps the offense and helps us as a team when Taurean [Henderson] gets going, and Saturday [against Kansas State] we were able to capitalize on some of the things that were given to us and we hope to do that again this week."
Now a handful of stats and a quarterback quote are not to be taken as a suggestion that Leach junk his three-step drop and a cloud of ozone offense in favor of the veer. Rather, the above simply indicates that the validity of Fundamentals of Football 101 has not diminished over time and that it has not been warped into irrelevance by the weird physics that Leach has interjected into the world of college football.
To the extent that the Raiders are able to run the ball effectively, they will be able to pass the ball with greater efficiency even if they do not rack up quite such an outrageous passing yardage total. And to the extent that Tech can run the football, the Raiders will keep their still maturing defense off of the field and limit the potential damage done by opposing offenses. But then I suspect that Leach is coming to learn this olde tyme lesson, much as he has already learned not to go for it on every other fourth and four situation.