The Red Raiders were down by 18 points late in the 3rd quarter in front of a hostile Aggie crowd. Instead of folding, the offense took the ball 90 yards for a touchdown to get them back into the game. This started a memorable comeback that ended in an overtime victory for the Red Raiders. Compare this to last season's conference opener against Texas in Austin. After falling behind 21-7 early in the 2nd quarter, the Red Raiders were at the mercy of the Longhorns.
One of the big differences between these two games was the schedule that the Red Raiders played leading up to the conference opener. Last season Tech had an easy non-conference schedule facing New Mexico and North Texas. When they went to Austin it was the first quality opponent that team had faced. The team seemed to be somewhat stunned by just how good the Longhorns were and how loud the crowd was. This season was quite different. The Red Raiders non-conference schedule included games against three teams who currently rank among the top 25 in the nation. They also played their home opener against Ohio State on the road in front of more than 100,000 fans. By the time they traveled to College Station the Red Raiders had already seen better teams and bigger crowds.
One sign of this increased mental toughness is the Red Raiders miraculous ability to make comebacks late in games. This ability was first displayed in their game against North Carolina State. After falling behind by 28 points midway through the 3rd quarter, the Red Raiders mounted a furious comeback that put themselves in a position to win the game. Only a bobbled snap prevented them from upsetting a very talented Wolfpack team. Two weeks later in College Station Tech once again found itself trailing late in the 3rd quarter. Once again the Red Raiders fought their way back into the game. This time they were successful on the late field goal that led to overtime, and the eventual victory.
While the N.C. State loss was a tough one, it seems to have instilled a great deal of confidence in the team. The realization that they are capable of making a big comeback against a good opponent allows this team to be confident no matter what the score. This is big contrast to last year's team where a two touchdown lead seemed to mean the end of the game. This year the game isn't over until the clock hits zero.
What does the future hold for scheduling? In 2003 Tech has a slightly easier non-conference schedule because we don't have to play Ohio State. Tech does have a couple of tough road games at Ole Miss and N.C. State. Home games against Louisville and New Mexico complete the non-conference schedule. This schedule should do a good job getting the Red Raiders' new quarterback ready for the conference opener against the Aggies in Lubbock.