Commentary: Mike Leach Is Like a Kidney Stone

Forget happiness being Lubbock, Tex. in your rear-view mirror. With what transpired in Lawrence and Austin Saturday, for the Longhorns, happiness should be Lubbock through their windshield.

No, really.

Yes, Texas Tech demolished the Kansas Jayhawks, scoring more than 60 points with Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree once again racking up video game numbers. And yes, Texas fought mightily until the very final play of the game to win its game against Oklahoma State, and showed plenty of warts in the process.

All of this is good for Texas this week, though that's not what you'll hear on your radio and television, nor read in your newspapers, for the next seven days.

Instead of demolishing another hapless opponent, the Longhorns had to play a full 60 minutes to subdue a worthy opponent on a sun-splashed day in Austin. Three times the Longhorns had 14-point leads, and all three times the Cowboys refused to quit and battled back to within a score.

And as for the warts, heck, even Colt McCoy had some bad moments. He threw a costly interception, and would've had two had not the Cowboys been flagged for roughing the quarterback. He fumbled the ball at a most inopportune time, as the Longhorns were driving for a game-clinching touchdown. He even had incompletions, as hard as that is to fathom.

Defensively, the Longhorns certainly played well at times – and played super-clutch at times – but nevertheless gave up 161 yards to running back Kendall Hunter.

Strategy-wise, the Longhorns were also a bit shaky, especially late in the game. This point is arguable, but in my estimation Texas chose the least likely avenue for success when facing a fourth-and-goal at the OSU 1 yard-line with inside of a minute to play. You can do three things if you are Texas in that situation: kick a field goal to go up by seven points, run the ball or throw the ball. I felt as though the Longhorns picked the option that was least likely to succeed: throwing the ball. They threw it incomplete, then held their breath.

And the kickoff team . . . don't get me started on kickoff coverage and strategy. The Longhorns have suddenly stopped kicking the ball into the end zone, and have occasionally unearthed the dreaded pooch kick from the cemetery where it belongs. Oklahoma State returned kicks like your mother slices stick butter with hot butcher knife. If the Longhorns do nothing else this week, can they please return to kicking the ball into the end zone? Thank you.

Having said all of this, Texas survived.

Beginning about 30 minutes after Saturday's game, the wags began analyzing next week's game in Lubbock. The experts will tell you that this is the biggest game in Lubbock perhaps in the history of ever. They'll point to the huge offensive numbers put on the board by the Red Raiders this week. They'll remind everyone that Texas has no running game. They'll point to the second half of Texas' game against the Cowboys, when the Longhorns managed just seven more points than a dead man. Tech coach Mike Leach will talk about pirates and parrots all week, and will probably reiterate his opinion that Texas, in fact, stole the game (thanks to the refs) played last year between these two teams in Austin.

Everyone will talk about the "due" theory – i.e., Texas has dodged plenty of bullets in recent years against the Red Raiders, and now they'll lose just as a matter of percentages. They'll talk about Harrell and Crabtree wanting badly – sell-your-soul-to-the-devil-badly – to finally beat Texas.

Tortilla production will be doubled this week. The goal posts at Jones Stadium will be greased.

But here's what will happen in Austin while all is a-titter on the South Plains (side note, not sure what "a-titter" is, but you get my point):

For one, Will Muschamp will look at the game film and probably develop an aneurysm. His exact quote in the post-game after the OSU win was: "I was disappointed in the way we tackled." Translated, that means the Texas defense is getting ready to catch all kinds of hell in practice this week. He'll show Hunter running right over the Longhorns. He'll show the baby-faced Harrell smiling and punking the Longhorns the last couple of years after first-quarter touchdown passes. He'll show his special teams tape of OSU's kickoff returners stepping off huge chunks of yardage. He'll show Aaron Williams a replay of the punt he should've blocked against the Cowboys. He'll say very bluntly that he doubts anybody in his secondary will be able to cover Crabtree. He'll beat on his defense relentlessly all week. And then at the end of the week, he'll say: "You guys practiced great this week. And by the grace of God, these guys will not beat us."

On the offensive side of the ball, McCoy will spend the week beating himself up. He'll hate what he sees with the interception, and the interception that wasn't. He'll cringe when he sees the fumble. And he'll hear and read all about the great Graham Harrell. He'll remind himself that most people had him pegged as about the fourth- or fifth-best quarterback in the Big 12 before the season. He'll be ready.

Here's the deal. At first glance, most people will give Tech an outstanding chance to win this week's game. And yes, the Red Raiders can win against Texas, without question. But there are plenty of reasons to doubt Texas Tech will win.

First of all, realize how good of a football team Texas beat on Saturday. This Cowboys team has the best defense Texas has faced all year, and the Longhorns still managed 28 points, all on drives of more than 80 yards. Texas Tech has no one even remotely close to Hunter at running back, who did a pretty spot-on Thurman Thomas imitation against the Horns. Yes, Texas tackled poorly, but give credit to Hunter, who is the best running back Texas has seen as well. Texas Tech also has no one who resembles mammoth Cowboy tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who looked a little like the UT Tower running through the Texas secondary. He caught 8 passes against Texas; it should've been 18.

Oklahoma State is two-dimensional on offense. Texas Tech is not.

Lastly, Texas Tech hasn't played anyone the caliber of Texas. Certainly it's sexy to pick Texas Tech, and believe me, I understand just how miserable it is to sit through a Texas-Texas Tech football game. I had my gall bladder removed last February, and I was in great pain until the damn thing was removed. Texas Tech is my yearly gall bladder flare up. Think of Saturday night in Lubbock as necessary surgery. Think of Leach as a kidney stone, something that's painful as hell but won't kill you.

Drink lots of liquid and think good thoughts as you hear about the sky falling all week long.

And try to remember: This too will pass.


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