Quick Strike Showdown

RaiderPower takes a look at the thoughts, feelings, and mindset of the team and coaching staff for this week and the upcoming game against Oklahoma State. Come inside to read more.

Red Raiders prepare for last regular-season game against OSU

After a tough loss to Oklahoma last weekend, the Red Raiders have to find a way to bounce back.  Many Red Raider fans were unhappy with the way that we lost another halftime lead, but Sophomore wideout Eric Morris reminded everyone that "we have played two really good opponents (Texas and Oklahoma) and that is one thing that I don't think people look at as much. These are two big-time football programs – Texas was No. 5 when we played them and OU was No. 17. I think we are doing a good job of coming out excited and playing fast and hard and jumping out to good leads."

However, Morris and the rest of the team recognizes their own culpability for this, as he stated, "that is something that we need to work on; we need to learn how to come out and be a team in the second half that can take our success in the first half and use it to our advantage. We need to put on a lot of pressure and not give up a lot of points."

Eric continued, "It is a mindset. In the second half, we are not quite as picked up as we were in the first half. That is something that we can change, that can be addressed. We have set a couple of goals for ourselves in the last couple of weeks. One of them is to be accountable and make plays and be excited about making plays. That is something we do in the first half and need to carry into the second half."

When asked his thoughts on what the reasons for the second half struggles were, Morris responded, "I wouldn't say it is a lack of adjustment, but maybe a lack of execution would be a better way to put it. We have to come out in the second half and perform up to our standards."

Our standards have been quite high following last season's nine wins in the regular season.  However, Morris reminds us that we weren't far from repeating that feat by saying that "these are some good teams we are playing and some competitive games. We are right in there to the very end. We were really close to having three more wins than what we do right now. Some things haven't fallen our way this year."

Morris went on to say that "we have been ahead in at the half in a couple of games, but we haven't put it away. In some games, we have had a couple turnovers and three-and-outs, and you can't do that against a good team. You have to capitalize."

Still, it is tough for anyone to handle losing, as Morris' following comments reflected.  "As an athlete and being so competitive, I told my dad that I don't remember losing this many games in my life – ever. That is kind of hard to swallow."

However, the team refuses to quit, which Eric alluded to with the following quote.  "One thing that is great about this team is that it has not kept us down. We have great senior leadership and that is something that I really enjoy about this team. It is a tight-knit group. Every week we seem to bounce back and we come out and play hard. Texas Tech is not really a team that anyone wants to see on their schedule right now."

Next on the schedule for the Red Raiders are the Oklahoma State Cowboys, who Morris is not taking lightly.  "It is going to be a tough challenge. They come to the Jones, thank goodness. It seems like we play a little bit better in the Jones this year. They are a great team and seem to really gel in the last three weeks, since the Nebraska game. They have a good coaching staff."

Morris also had an interesting comment on the OSU fans. "Their fans have a unique way of getting to you. They are so close to us, and that is part of the fun of playing college football, people heckling you."

From the defensive side of the ball, we hear from Senior cornerback Antonio Huffman, who is coming off one of the best performances of his career with two forced turnovers and a defensive touchdown last week against the Oklahoma Sooners.

Huffman recognized the offensive threat that they will be facing, as he said, "A team that has a dual threat of pass and run has a good balance for a team. To prepare for it you have to do what you do everyday to prepare for a team. You have to figure out what they do best and what they have done in the past four or five games."

Antonio continued, "You have to see what the offense gives you and prepare for that and try to react to it. You know there will be things that they haven't shown that they will do. With the dual threat, it is great for a team that has that, but we have to go out there and figure out what they do best."

Third downs were a painful spot last week, and he commented on that.  "One of the things that we can do to improve on our third down situations is to improve in practice. We need to see that it is third down and we need to get off the field. We need it to be known that it is imperative that we get off the field."

Huffman went on to say that "we need to make a play and stop it right there. By letting players know that in third down situations, we will start to get that momentum and that feeling that we need to make a play. We do it in practice and need to transfer it to the field."

As a Senior, this will be Antonio's final home game.  He illustrated that "it will be exciting, emotional and fun. It is all a great feeling. I will miss the fans and everything about Jones Stadium. There are so many things going through my head. It feels like my first one; it feels like just yesterday I was a freshman here."

Huffman then got a bit nostalgic by saying that "sometimes the old players would come up and say to maximize your opportunities here because it is going to come fast. You don't really believe that, but it really does. When you become a senior and it is your time to pass the torch on, it really does come fast."

Antonio further spoke that a win on Saturday "means everything. What senior does not want to go out with a win – the last regular season game, the last game at Jones AT&T Stadium. It means everything to get that win, to get seven wins and clinch a bowl game."

Huffman also proved why he is a role model on and off the field with the following statement. "That is the biggest thing, one more win at Jones and playing for each other, the fans, coaches, and family. That is what makes it important and why it is imperative that we win."

Mike Leach feels that this season has been a bit unlucky, but he said that "you don't want to really dwell on it. You have to grind, drive and push through. At times we have done a really good job at that; other times we haven't. Lately we have done a pretty good job of pushing through some of that stuff."

Leach continued, "The most important thing is getting enough momentum to weather some of it. Sometimes there is just timing and sequences of things happening that it impacts you more than others. I have had games where the ball doesn't roll our direction and we won. I've had ones where the ball rolled our way the whole time."

The team has faced a bit more adversity than usual, but Coach Leach said, "I'm not big on dwelling on that. We had two receivers in our starting lineup throughout camp that we went back and forth with the NCAA on whether they are eligible or if they weren't. Around the Oklahoma game there was just a lot of rhetoric on that. We have had our share of adversity, everyone has. We work through it."

Coach Leach is more focused on Oklahoma State and dangerous quarterback Bobby Reid this week. "I think they run the ball extremely well. They have a senior defensive front. Their quarterback is really starting to do some good things. He's always been a talented guy. I remember him in high school. He is starting to get his timing."

Speaking on the second-half woes of the team, Leach said, "I think it is a combination of things. I think we move the ball well. I don't think, either side of the ball, we are particularly good on third down. We missed two field goals. If we make both of those, we potentially win. We got the ball two times in the third quarter. What Oklahoma did a good job of was keeping it away from us and moving it down the field slowly."

However, Coach recognized that he and the team can do more as well.  "What we can do better is be a better third down team: defensively stop Oklahoma on third down and offensively convert the third down so we can keep the football. When that happens, you get more possessions. It is not like the possessions we had were bad. We marched down and got in field goal range. I probably should have gone for it on fourth down once or twice."

Leach then expressed his thoughts on the OU game. "First of all, we played real hard. We played an incredibly hard game. I think we played reckless at times. At times we tried to make too much happen. I don't think there is anything effort-wise that we need to improve on."

That's not to say that Leach was completely satisfied. "There are some things, as far as making too much happen, that we can improve on. The game, as far as effort, I am pleased with. To go into Owen Field and play Oklahoma toe-to-toe, there is a lot of be proud of. The disappointment is the fact that we fell short."

-Trent Wycoff
(Questions, comments, praise, and constructive criticism can be directed to Trent within the forums or through email at trent@raiderpower.com)

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