Back in early September, the Viva the Matadors staff laid out its predictions for the 2017 season.
I estimated Texas Tech would finish the regular season 5-7, just missing a bowl game. I wasn’t too far off - the Red Raiders did finish the season with seven losses, but, to their credit, that seventh loss came in a postseason matchup.
The final game against USF was the perfect metaphor to really convey the essence of the 2017 Tech team. There were times where the defense played exceptionally well, coming up with stops during short-yardage situations and forcing turnovers right when the opposing offense started gaining momentum. Other times, the defense looked painfully vulnerable and relented to allow big plays through the air and on the ground.
And just like he did throughout the regular season, Nic Shimonek showed flashes of potential with devastating deep balls and sharp throws over the middle before ultimately conceding an interception or two, leaving Tech fans scrambling to social media to voice their overwhelming discontent.
The bowl game felt very winnable from start to finish. Again, that’s no different than most of the other games Tech played this year. Because of an improved defense and a surplus of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, the Red Raiders never really felt out of a game.
Conversely, because of the inconsistency in the defense and the otherwise shaky quarterback play from Shimonek, none of Tech’s leads ever really felt safe.
Such was the case against USF. Even with a defense that was playing well, the 24-17 lead the Red Raiders held late in the third quarter didn’t feel like it was going to be enough to secure the win. Fans, players and coaches almost seemed to expect South Florida to respond with a touchdown, rather than expect the defense to hold its ground to close out the game.
Naturally, Quinton Flowers responded with a touchdown drive that tied the game, ignited a series of trading touchdowns and field goals before the senior quarterback iced it with a 26-yard touchdown pass with just 16 seconds remaining.
That’s how the whole season felt. One week, Tech looks like it can hang with just about any team in the country. The next, it looks like it should be kicked out of the Big 12 Conference.
Yet if you scroll through social media or read comments, everyone seems to be thrilled with the way the season turned out. That might be surprising to an outsider, but let me explain what constitutes a good season for Tech football:
- Beat Texas
- Win as many games as you lose, or come close to it
- Get to a bowl game (don’t worry about winning it)
- Have a coach that says he likes Lubbock
As you can see - and forgive the cliche - Tech really knocked it out of the park in 2017 from a fan’s perspective. And what else can anyone expect from Moral Victory U?
Some call it unconditional optimism, and that’s fine, but the reality is there’s not a school in the Big 12 or even the nation that celebrates “almost wins” more intensely or frequently than my fellow Tech supporters.
Again, that’s fine.
But as long as we respond positively to nearly succeeding, we’ll never truly succeed. And that’s why Tech has only won one bowl game during the five-year Kingsbury era. We’re OK with being slightly below average.
If we weren’t, well, we probably would’ve made some changes by now. As it stands, Tech is 16-29 in the Big 12 during the last five years.
But our coach likes Lubbock. And we beat Texas and almost win bowl games.
Who wants to guess what our record will be next year? I’m not a betting man, but I’d wager a fair sum of money Tech finishes between 5-7 and 7-5, because that’s what we tolerate - no, celebrate in Lubbock.