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Bad Losses

As Texas Tech fans we constantly remind ourselves about the "bad game" that we tend to play under Captain Leach. Not wanting to discredit this thought, I couldn't help myself and look into the the past 7 seasons and figure out what was the cause of the "bad game". For what it's worth, I'll go ahead and define the bad game as being a game whereby Texas Tech loses to a supposedly inferior opponent or a game whereby it does not appear that Texas Tech was even remotely ready to play. With definitions out of the way, we move forward.

I know the season is almost upon us and I shouldn't be so negative heading into what we hope is a tremendous season, but those bad losses have bothered me for quite some time and I wanted to take a good look at each of those games.  Not only that, the other reason why I'm doing this is to find out if there's any one clear cut reason why Texas Tech lost that game and see if there's some sort of general pattern as well.

Although I've certainly been around since 2000 I must admit that those games and situations are as clearly memorable as they used to be, so rather than rely on my memory to remember if a team was ranked lower than Texas Tech in any particular year, I'm just going to use the Congrove Final Rankings as my guide as to whether not a game was a bad game.


2000: In 2000, Texas Tech finished 7-6 and here are the losses:

At #36 TAMU (15-33)
#5 Nebraska (3-56)
At #8 Kansas State (23-28)
#14 Texas (17-29)
At #1 Oklahoma (13-27)
#29 East Carolina (27-40).

Now I'm tempted to give Leach a pass on this entire season. Texas Tech finished #51, no where really close to any of those teams and what a tough Big 12 slate. After it was all said and done, this being Captain Leach's first year, there's not too much to complain about with how things turned out.

2001: 2001 was marginally better as Texas Tech (#39) completed a 7-5 season and had losses to the following teams:

At #6 Texas (7-42)
#95 Kansas (31-34)
At #5 Nebraska (31-41)
#4 Oklahoma (13-30)
#41 Iowa (16-19)

Wow, a season ending #95 ranked Kansas gets a win, in Lubbock. Pretty amazing if you consider if this were to happen this year and perhaps speaks volumes about where Texas Tech has been. In any event, let's look at the game itself.

According to the game recap (boxscore) the defense gave up some late scores and Texas Tech was forced to play BJ Symons and Kingsbury injured his hand late in the game. Texas Tech turned the ball over 4 times (3 fumbles and 1 Kingsbury INT) while the Kansas offense rushed for 310 yards and had 18 of their 22 1st downs on the ground, including Reggie Duncan's 227 yards on 38 carries for a 6.0 average. The story of our lives, the Red Raiders couldn't stop the run.

Offensively, Kingsbury wasn't terribly effective, averaging only 6.3 yards per attempt, although he did manage 3 touchdowns (for comparison purposes, Harrell had 8.2 yards per attempt from last year). No one receiver really broke out during that game. The interesting item for me is that there were some long completions (Cole Roberts had a 33 yard catch, Ricky Williams 23 yards, Wes Welker 35 yards and Anton Page 31 yards) which accounted for 122 yards, which means that of the remaining 19 Kingsbury completions (he had 23 total) he only had 120 yards, which is only a 6.3 yards per completion. That's just not going to get it done. The rushing game was okay, at least by Texas Tech standards as Ricky Williams finished with 71 yards. When Symons came in, his longest completion went for 15 yards, threw a pick, and appeared to be a little overwhelmed.

Bullet-point Problems:

  • Can't stop the run.
  • Low yards per passing attempt.
  • Too many turnovers.

2002: Things really turned around in 2002, an excellent season by the Captain, 9 wins capped by a nice win over Clemson in the Tangerine Bowl. Texas Tech (#26) finished 9-5 with the following losses:

At #1 Ohio State (21-45)
#20 North Carolina State (48-51)
At #63 Iowa State (17-31)
At #27 Colorado (13-37)
At #3 Oklahoma (15-60)

This one's pretty easy too, the loss to the hated Cyclones. So now we've got two bad losses in two seasons. One at home and one on the road. ISU wasn't quite as bad as Kansas, but still, Texas Tech finished the year appreciably better and Kingsbury was gunning for a Heisman trophy as well.

Here's the game recap (boxscore) and at first blush you scratch your head and try and figure out why Texas Tech lost with 23 first downs, 189 yards rushing and over 82 offensive plays (compared to 68 of ISU).

Many of the same problems that Texas Tech had against Kansas the year before, Texas Tech had against ISU. A paltry 5.3 yards per attempt plagued Kingsbury with the longest pass being a 22 yard catch from Wes Welker and other than Welker's 89 yards receiving, no other receiver had more than 46 yards receiving. The confusing part is that the attempts were certainly there with 51 total, but for whatever reason, there was some sort of disconnect and guys just couldn't catch the ball. I should also point out that Texas Tech had 4 turnovers again with 1 interception and 3 fumbles. Ouch.

The defense's biggest problem, again, was that the Red Raiders gave up 228 yards on the ground for a 5.0 average and Seneca Wallace was quietly efficient, completing 15 of 22 passes with no interceptions and 1 TD.

Bullet-point Problems:

  • Can't stop the run.
  • Too many turnovers.
  • Low yards per passing attempt.

2003: The Red Raiders finished 8-5 (#31), which included a win over Eli Manning, but a few really bad losses. Let's go:

At #35 North Carolina State (21-49)
At #27 Oklahoma State (49-51)
At #38 Missouri (31-62)
At #8 Texas (40-43) #3 Oklahoma (25-56)

Yikes. I can understand the NC State loss, it was at the beginning of the year and NC State was at home. The OSU loss is self-explanatory, Texas Tech always seems to lose to the Cowboys on the road, much like the Longhorns. As far as the Sooners are concerned, ehh. That leaves us with the Missouri game where Texas Tech was absolutely blown out of the water 31-62 (boxscore). Just to recap, 2003 was the year that BJ Symons was leading the Red Raiders and had one of the more amazing quarterbacking seasons that I can recall. In any event, as the game recap mentions, the Texas Tech defense was one of the worst in the nation (113th out of 119 teams) and was giving up an average of 34 points a game, 37 points a game in conference).

So where to start? Missouri scored on their first 6 possessions, automatically putting Texas Tech in quite a hole. Texas Tech managed a field goal and a Symons-Peters touchdown in those 6 possessions. Texas Tech started a slight comeback in the 3rd quarter, scoring 2 TD's, and holding Missouri to no touchdowns, but the 4th quarter proved to be too much for Texas Tech as Missouri scored 4 touchdowns in the 4th quarter alone.

So where were the problems this game? How about quarterback Brad Smith running all over Texas Tech? Smith rushed 19 times for 291 yards and managed to pass for 128. That's not a bad day. Of course this doesn't account for Missouri's ability to rush for a total of 469 yards on the day, a ridiculous 55 rushes for an even more ridiculous 8.5 yards per average.

The other culprit, which again seems to be another theme, is 4 intereceptions and 1 lost fumble. It goes without saying that that's unacceptable.

Symons was actually okay as he completed 40 of 62 passes for 408 yards and 4 touchdowns, but he was responsible for 3 of those interceptions. Obviously, the offense stalled quite a bit in the second half, but without being able to look at how those possessions went, I'm assuming that Missouri running the heck out of the ball had something to do with Texas Tech not being able to do much.

Bullet-point Problems:

  • Can't stop the run.
  • Too many turnovers.

2004: Another 8 win season, as the Red Raiders go 8-4, but actually finish the season fairly highly ranked, #20, in large part due to the drubbing of #9 California in the Holiday Bowl. Let's get to the losses.

At #47 New Mexico (24-27)
At #2 Oklahoma (13-28)
#6 Texas (21-51)
At #41 Texas A&M (25-32)

The freaking Lobos? New Mexico kicked a field goal as time expired to beat Texas Tech to win 27-24 (boxscore). The Red Raiders and the Lobos came out guns-a-blazing in the first half as each team scored 3 times, but the second half was a struggle as both teams combined for 3 field goals.

Offensively, the Lobos didn't do any one particular thing well. They rushed the ball for 142 yards in 39 attempts (a 3.6 average) and threw for 173 yards. Not horrible by any means. On offense for Texas Tech, Sonny Cumbie threw the hell out of the ball. Cumbie completed 44 passes in 70 attempts for 449 yards . . . but, Cumbie only completed 1 touchdown to Jarrett Hicks. So what was the problem? Cumbie threw for a relatively low 6.41 yards per attempt, which means that he didn't stretch the field much. Granted, there were some long completions, but those completions didn't result in touchdowns. Let's take a look at the last drive for the Red Raiders, prior to New Mexico's game-winning field goal:

1st and 10 on the TexTc 2          
TEXAS TECH drive start at 05:35 (4th).
           1st and 10 on the TexTc 2          
Sonny Cumbie pass incomplete to Bristol Olomua.
           2nd and 10 on the TexTc 2          
Sonny Cumbie pass incomplete to Joey Hawkins.
           3rd and 10 on the TexTc 2          
Clock 05:26.
           3rd and 10 on the TexTc 2          
Sonny Cumbie pass complete to Jarrett Hicks for 18 yards to the TexTc20, 1ST DOWN TexTc.
           1st and 10 on the TexTc 20          
Sonny Cumbie pass complete to Trey Haverty for 16 yards to the TexTc36, 1ST DOWN TexTc.
           1st and 10 on the TexTc 36          
Taure Henderson rush for loss of 2 yards to the TexTc34.
           2nd and 12 on the TexTc 34          
Sonny Cumbie pass incomplete to Taure Henderson.
           3rd and 12 on the TexTc 34          
Sonny Cumbie pass complete to Jarrett Hicks for 11 yards to the TexTc45.
           4th and 1 on the TexTc 45          
Sonny Cumbie rush for 7 yards to the NMex48, 1ST DOWN TexTc.
           1st and 10 on the NMex 48          
PENALTY - PENALTY NMex offside 5 yards to the NMex43.
           1st and 5 on the NMex 43          
Sonny Cumbie pass incomplete to Trey Haverty.
           2nd and 5 on the NMex 43          
Timeout TEXAS TECH, clock 02:03.
           2nd and 5 on the NMex 43 
Timeout TEXAS TECH, clock 02:03.
           2nd and 5 on the NMex 43          
Sonny Cumbie pass incomplete to Cody Fuller.
           3rd and 5 on the NMex 43          
PENALTY - PENALTY TexTc false start 5 yards to the NMex48.
           3rd and 10 on the NMex 48          
Sonny Cumbie pass incomplete.
           4th and 10 on the NMex 48          
PUNT - Alex Reyes punt 48 yards to the NMex0, touchback

Not real productive, right? There were a couple of decent sized plays with Hicks and with Haverty, but when it mattered the offense didn't deliver. Cumbie was 3 for 11 for 45 yards (4.09 yards per attempt). Couldn't get the ball into the endzone. If we took a look at the entire 3rd and 4th quarters I'm sure we'd see more of the same.

Defensively, the team did well to stop the bleeding in the second half and actually had 2 fumble recoveries (although Texas Tech did lose the turnover battle 2-3). The performance wasn't like the bad games in previous years where the defense struggled to stop the opponent in any meaningful way. The defense did stop New Mexico, but then we're talking about New Mexico, they should stop them.

If I have to pin this loss on anyone, it's the offense's inability to score in the second half.

Bullet-point Problems:

  • Can't convert touchdowns in the second half.
  • Low yards per passing attempt.

2005: The year of the Cotton Bowl. Not a bad year, all things considered. Texas Tech finished 9-3 (#15) and lost to Alabama in the Cotton Bowl in a personally frustrating game, especially after watching the offense play so well during the season. Here are the losses:

At #1 Texas (17-52)
At #90 Oklahoma State (17-24)
#9 Alabama (10-13)

The Texas Tech loss to Oklahoma State was bad (boxscore). Oklahoma State was a crappy team in 2005, going only 4-7 overall and 1-7 in the conference, Mike Gundy's first year as the head football coach, but I'll give you three guesses and the first two are wrong as to what happened this fateful day.

Couldn't stop the run.

OSU ran for 303 yards on 52 carries for a 5.82 yard per attempt average. OSU's final drive was just a kick in the teeth for Texas Tech and the Cowboys decided that they weren't going to pass at all, gaining only 94 yards through the air. Offensively for Texas Tech, the biggest problem was that the Red Raiders were 0-10 on third downs and rushed for 30 yards on the day . . . total.

Hodges did a pretty respectable job of getting the ball down the field, averaging 7.33 yards per attempt, but with Hodges also being the leading rusher with 36 yards (Henderson managed to lose 6 yards on 8 carries for the game), then things probably aren't going to go your way.

But I think the ultimate blame, again, falls on the defense. Giving up 303 yards is a ridiculous amount of yards and if we take a look at OSU's final drive, it's a testament to what happened pretty much the whole game:

O 1-10 O20   OKLAHOMA STATE drive start at 06:43 (4th).
      O 1-10 O20   Hamilton, Mike rush for 1 yard to the OS21 (Saldi,John).
      O 2-9  O21   Hamilton, Mike rush for 4 yards to the OS25 (Naziruddin,K.).
      O 3-5  O25   Pena, Al pass complete to Pettigrew, Bran for 12 yards to the OS37,
                   1ST DOWN OS (Meeks,Vincent;Slay,Dwayne).
      O 1-10 O37   Willis, Shawn rush for 2 yards to the OS39 (Dawson,Keyunta;Scott,Ken).
      O 2-8  O39   Pena, Al rush for 13 yards to the TT48, 1ST DOWN OS
      O 1-10 T48   Crosslin, Juliu rush for 11 yards to the TT37, 1ST DOWN OS
      O 1-10 T37   Timeout Texas Tech, clock 03:53.
      O 1-10 T37   Crosslin, Juliu rush for 9 yards to the TT28 (Session,F.).
      O 2-1  T28   Crosslin, Juliu rush for 10 yards to the TT18, 1ST DOWN OS
      O 1-10 T18   Crosslin, Juliu rush for 2 yards to the TT16 (Dawson,Keyunta).
      O 2-8  T16   Crosslin, Juliu rush for 12 yards to the TT4, 1ST DOWN OS
      O 1-G  T04   Crosslin, Juliu rush for 2 yards to the TT2 (Session,F.;Hudler,Chris).
      O 2-G  T02   Timeout Texas Tech, clock 01:08.
      O 2-G  T02   Timeout Oklahoma State, clock 01:08.
      O 2-G  T02   Pena, Al rush for 1 yard to the TT1.
      O 3-G  T01   Pena, Al rush for 1 yard to the TT0, TOUCHDOWN, clock 00:23.
                   Redden, Bruce kick attempt good.

That's an arse-whipping. Thirteen plays 80 yards and over 6 minutes of clock. Couple this with Texas Tech's final two drives, which consisted of Hodges going 1-6 for 9 yards and only Hodges able to gain positive yards (6) on two rushing plays. The Texas Tech drive before this was a Cody Hodges fumble which was recovered by OSU (Texas Tech lost the turnover battle 2-3).

Keep in mind that OSU was a truly awful team this year and Texas Tech was on its way to a 1 loss conference record (Texas Tech beat OU, I recall some sort of controversy, but I can't remember exactly what that was . . . Go Raiders . . . ). This was a really bad loss.

Bullet-point Problems:

  • Can't stop the run.
  • Can't convert 3rd downs.

2006: The Red Raiders finished 8-5 for the year and ranked #35 and had the following losses:

At #10 TCU (3-12)
#37 Missouri (21-38)
At #108 Colorado (6-30)
#13 Texas (31-35)
At #15 Oklahoma (24-34)

Colorado had lost 10 in a row before beating the Red Raiders 30-6 (boxscore) so I'm thinking that the Buffs qualify as the bad loss. Colorado finished the year 2-10 and this is as bad as any of the prior years' losses.

Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. That was the name of the game on this Saturday. Harrell had 3 interceptions and 2 fumbles recovered by Colorado. There was another fumble in there as well, just for good measure. Harrell's 3 interceptions earned him a spot on the bench to be replaced by Chris Todd, fueling a quarterback controversy between the two. Harrell eventually settled down for the year and eventually led Texas Tech to one of the more dramatic bowl victories in the history of ever. Much like Harrell's predecessors, Harrell averaged only 6.05 yards per attempt, again, not enough to be effective in this offense, but his biggest problem was throwing really bad interceptions and being unable to hang onto the ball. That's why there's only 6 points on the board.

Here's how the offense ended each of their drives: punt, fumble, punt, punt, downs, interception, halftime, punt, punt, interception, fumble, touchdown, and interception. Doesn't take a genius to figure out what happened here.

When the quarterback doesn't tick, then it makes it hard on the entire offense. Nothing can really get done.

On the defensive side of the ball, Colorado rushed for 249 yards on 46 carries, a 5.41 average. Other than Colorado's quarterback getting sacked, the running backs only lost 2 yards for the entire day. The Buffalo offensive line was moving Texas Tech back all day. Jackson was never very competent throwing the ball, but he didn't need to be great during this game. He was certainly competent, that's all Colorado needed.

Bullet-point Problems:

  • Can't stop the run.
  • Turnovers.
  • Low yards per passing attempt.

2007: Texas Tech finished 9-4 (#26) for the year and the losses are as follows:

At #48 Oklahoma State
At #6 Missouri
#71 Colorado
At #12 Texas

Although there are a couple of choices here (OSU and Colorado) I'm going to go with Colorado, two years in a row as the Buffs were able to beat the Red Raiders 31-26 (boxscore).

I think this one, again, begins and ends with the turnovers as Harrell threw 4 interceptions for the day, while Colorado had no turnovers. Harrell was efficient throwing the ball completing 74.1% of his passes, but as mentioned many times, had a relatively low yards per attempt average (6.9). Harrell finished with an 8.2 yards per attempt for the year. The running game was virtually non-existent as the team managed only 39 yards for the game, and if my memory is correct, this was the official introduction as Aaron Crawford as the starting running back for Texas Tech as Woods didn't see a down.

Texas Tech out-gained Colorado by quite a bit, but when you throw in those 4 turnovers. LaCour only had to punt the ball once that day and Trlica had only 1 missed field goal. It was a tough game to watch offensively because there wasn't much done on the offensive side of the ball.

Defensively, Texas Tech allowed 217 yards rushing on 44 carries for a 4.9 yard per carry average and Hawkins, although he wasn't great by any means was efficient, completing 15 of 26 for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns. I was at this game and it was incredibly frustrating to see Colorado run around the Texas Tech defenders often and with success.


Bullet-point Problems:

  • Can't stop the run.
  • Turnovers.
  • Low yards per passing attempt.

Here's a handy table of the major culprits of those bad losses. I've only used the causes that showed up more than once.

Cause 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Can't Stop Run * * * - * * *
Too Many Turnovers * * * - - * *
Low Yards Per Passing Attempt * * - * - * *

Conclusions: I realize that the causes listed with each game are very general and there are more reasons than the ones listed with each team.  These are generalizations, but I also feel that they also ring true with each of these games. 

In any event, it looks pretty easy:  stop the run, protect the ball and get the ball downfield.  It sounds easy, but when you go back and really take a hard look at those game, it's pretty clear that the inability to stop the run and turning over the ball more than your opponent is the kiss of death. I'd imagine that just about any team that looks back could probably draw the same types of conclusions.

I also thought that the low yards per passing attempt was a telling statistic and at the very least should point out that the Air Raid works best when the ball is getting down the field, vertically.

Thoughts, comments, criticisms appreciated.