It is a cool night in Lubbock, I’m tired, my voice is hoarse, and the once packed stadium is now only about 3⁄4 full.
This is the most nervous I have been during a game that should have been a walk in the park. It’s 4th down from the Nevada 3-yard line, the stadium is silent and Seth Doege takes the snap. As the play goes on, the crowd grows restless while the play breaks down. Doege begins to run for his life until out of the corner of his eye he spots a WIDE open Eric Ward with less than a minute to go and clinches the victory for the Red Raiders.
The crowd erupts, I’m going nuts, hugging everyone by me and we all collectively breathe a sigh of relief. Texas Tech wins the game 35-34 against a lesser Nevada squad who finished just 7-6. I look to my friend beside me and say “that was almost really bad, I’m sure that game was just a fluke and we’ll rebound for the rest of the season.”
Three years later, it’s now a humid night in Houston. I’m tired, my voice is hoarse, and the once-packed bar is now only half-full. The intense nervousness I felt in 2011 is now matched with this game.
It’s 2nd down from the UTEP 9-yard line with just over two minutes to go, the bar is restless and Davis Webb takes the snap. Webb sits back in the pocket and delivers a beautiful drop pass to Bradley Marquez in the corner of the end zone.
UTEP’s offense then takes over and eventually turns the ball over on downs and victory is sealed for the Red Raiders. Handshakes and high-fives for everyone in the bar, as we all collectively breathe a sigh of relief. Texas Tech wins 30-26 against a lesser UTEP team who finished their season 7-6. I look to my friend beside me and say “that was almost really bad, I’m sure that game was just a fluke and we’ll rebound for the rest of the season.”
In 2011, Tech would go on to beat Kansas the following week and start the season 4-0 before losing seven of the next eight and having its worst football record since 1990. In 2014, Tech would go on to lose eight of the next 10 games and have its worst football record since 1983.
Both of these games are eerily similar. In both situations. Tech was playing teams in lesser conferences, had a new starting QB with limited experience, and were a sign of what the rest of the season would be like. Both games were not flukes, but instead foreshadowing for the rest of the year. As fans, we all believed that the Red Raiders just simply “overlooked” their opponents when in fact, it was simply how good the team was that year.
3 years later and we might be looking at a similar situation. Tech is not only playing a team in a lesser conference but in a completely lower subdivision, Tech also is debuting a new starting QB with limited playing experience, and this game will likely be a sign of what the rest of the season will look like.
Considering Houston beat Oklahoma last year, and Florida State the year before, I doubt the players will overlook one of the best Group of 5 programs. However, the first game against Eastern Washington should make any follower of this team nervous. How the Red Raiders play in this game could and probably will set the stage for the rest of the pivotal season.
EWU finished last season as the 4th-ranked team in all of FCS. The only two losses the Eagles suffered were at the hands of perennial powerhouse North Dakota State and in the national semifinals versus Youngstown State. Last season, the Eagles upset Mike Leach coached Washington State and will be looking to do the same against a similar offense.
This Eagles team will not be intimidated and will want to start their season off similarly to last year. An argument can be made that this Eastern Washington team is on par or even better than both Nevada of 2011 and UTEP of 2014. Combined with the difficulty of the Red Raider schedule no game can be taken for granted and a loss or slim win may seal this team’s fate.
A comfortable Tech win would be a good start to the season and a necessary boost that Kingsbury’s team will desperately need. However, if Tech struggles in this game, it will not be a fluke, nor will it be a matter of the team “overlooking” the opponent but rather a sign of how the rest of the season will likely end up.