You might have expected Red Raider head coach Mike Leach to have been dispensing honey comb and sugar cane to one and all in the post-game press conference. Well, you would have been sadly wrong.
Leach, in a motivational refrain that has become de rigeur ever since the 51-21 debacle at the hands of the Texas Longhorns three weeks ago, once again pulled no punches in harshly critiquing his team's performance against the Bears. The Tech offensive line, which gave up four sacks to the bears, came in for especially rough treatment.
"How can their three d-linemen whip our five o-linemen? Well, in the second half, of course, we whipped 'em up front. How in the first half can three of 'em whip our five? Well, we're just not very tough. Yeah, but they were tough the second half; they whipped 'em then. But if we were really, truly that tough, we probably would've whipped 'em the whole game."
Questions about toughness aside, other factors may have been at work as well. Starting guard Manny Ramirez did not play, which forced tackle E. J. Whitley to move into the vacancy and backup Bryan Kegans to fill in at Whitley's tackle position. Furthermore, the Bears did a very good job of twisting, stunting, and bringing delayed blitzes, which seemed to confuse the Tech offensive line and catch quarterback Sonny Cumbie off guard.
Clearly however, what particularly provoked Leach's ire was his team's generally uninspired first-half performance, which, in his eyes, reflected a tendency to relax and rest on laurels. And to be entirely honest, Leach had reason to grouse. The Raiders fell behind 6-0 on the third play of the game (a lateral to Trent Shelton that went for a 71-yard touchdown), and trailed until the last play of the half, a three-yard Cumbie to Trey Haverty toss for a touchdown, which made the score Tech 14, Baylor 10.
"They [the Red Raiders] are always looking for a rest area in the road. I mean, they'll cruise down the highway and they¢ll stop."
"We cruise along and we want to hit the first rest area we can find. You know, let's coast. We did something good so now let's coast. That's just a horrible mentality. It's weak."
"I'm going to spend the whole week trying to strangle the first guy that's got that goofy little smile like we accomplished something. Oh, we accomplished something! Let's yuk it up and pat each other on the back, and oh, what memories it'll create! That drives me crazy."
Except for the closing Haverty touchdown reception and running back Taurean Henderson's two-yard touchdown blast with 3:45 remaining in the first quarter, which was proceeded by some of his toughest running of the season, the first half was pretty unforgettable for the Raiders and their fans. Indeed, after Tech's opening two possessions, which included two sacks of Cumbie and netted minus 17 yards, the boo-birds put in an appearance.
The second half, however, was an entirely different story. The Raiders took the opening kickoff, marched 75 yards for a touchdown compliments of a 16-yard Cumbie bullet to freshman receiver Danny Amendola, and were never headed thereafter. Tech reeled off 28 unanswered points in the second half before allowing Baylor to score a touchdown on a five-yard keeper by backup quarterback Terrance Parks in garbage time, making the score 42-17.
Tech senior linebacker Mike Smith acknowledged that the halftime peroration by Leach was pretty furious, and that it had an effect.
"It [the halftime session] was pretty intense. You know, it was a close game. And everybody was intense, and the coaches were intense, and that's just how it is. And our players reacted real well. We came out and rose to the occasion and fixed what we needed to fix to, you know, come out with the win."
Following Amendola¢s touchdown to open the second half, the Raider defense allowed Baylor one first down and then forced a punt. Tech took over at its own 19, and five minutes and ten seconds later, was up 28-10. The money play was a perfect 57-yard bomb from Cumbie to wideout Trey Haverty, who beat Bear defensive back Anthony Arline for the touchdown. Haverty wound up with 11 catches for 158 yards on the afternoon. Arline would later swipe a Cumbie aerial for the only turnover created by either team.
Tech's final two touchdowns, both of which came in the fourth quarter, were scored by split end Jarrett Hicks on a juggling catch in the end zone, and inside receiver Bryan Bishop, who found himself all alone on the goal line for an 11-yard TD reception from Cumbie. Hicks, the fifth leading receiving receiver in the nation entering the game, had a relatively quiet outing, catching six passes for 50 yards.
In order to win their next battle, however, which comes on the road against the Texas A&M Aggies, the Raiders cannot afford to display the schizophrenia that is making Leach manic.
"We played two games out here today, really. We played a really poor one the first half; we played a pretty good one the second half."
"I'm very disappointed with the first half and pretty pleased with the second, so it was kind of a love-hate game, really."
If Leach is spreading nothing but love after next Saturday's game against A&M, which will be televised, you can bet that his team will be 7-3. If he's still talking about coasting, rest stops, and goofy smiles, they will be 6-4.