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Slowing the Unstoppable

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As the Owls scurry about on defense, locking in on members of a scout team charged with the task of mimicking the prolific offense Texas Tech coach Mike Leach helped create so many moons ago, the thought that the Owls' efforts are futile pushes its way into your subconscious.

The coaching is clear and concise, and instructions are heeded with pleasing sincerity and unmistakable earnestness, but you still wonder if it's all for naught. These are the Red Raiders after all, and teams with rosters significantly more athletic than the Owls' have crumbled under the immense pressure of trying to defend the indecipherable schemes Leach concocts.

That's no hyperbole. The proof is, frighteningly enough, in the pudding of the following stats:

YEAR     TOTAL OFFENSE (yards/game)     NATIONAL RANK
 2008                531.0                                                     4th
 2007                529.6                                                     2nd
 2006                448.8                                                     6th
 2005                495.8                                                     6th
 2004                491.7                                                     6th

The more entrenched Leach became in Lubbock the more access he gained to superior athletes, and with those athletes at the ready his offense became that much more proficient. Tech is one of only four programs (UH, Tulsa and Hawaii) to average at least 500 yards/game in consecutive seasons over the past five seasons. When the Owls and Raiders met two seasons ago at The Stadium, Tech hung 592 yards on the Owls in a runaway 59-24 victory.

The lasting image of that game was of then-redshirt freshman receiver Michael Crabtree dashing unabated to the end zone for a 74-yard, second-quarter touchdown, the first of his three scores of the game and the ignition for a 35-0 blitz that snuffed the Owls' upset hopes. And while that gruesome scene remains etched in my memory, what was mildly shocking was the number of Owls who will start against Tech on Saturday that started on Sept. 15, 2007.

9/15/07

DE - Scott Solomon
DT - George Chukwu
DT - Jonathan Cary
DE - Dietrich Davis
LB - Brian Raines
LB - Robert Calhoun
CB - Ja'Corey Shepherd
CB - Brandon King
FS - Willie Garley
SS - Andrew Sendejo
KAT - Justin Abt

9/12/09

DE - Scott Solomon
DT - John Gioffre
DT - Chance Talbert
DE - Cheta Ozougwu
LB - Terrance Garmon
LB - Justin Hill
CB - Chris Jammer
CB - Jarrett Ben
FS - Andrew Sendejo
SS - Chris Jones
KAT - Travis Bradshaw

Yep, just two starters (Solomon and Sendejo) remain, and when David Bailiff reviewed film of the previous meeting between the former Southwest Conference rivals with his staff, he took note of the maddening number of missed alignments and blown assignments, and inventory of how many of those players are no longer with the program. Does the roster turnover give the Owls any semblance of hope? Can they do to Tech at Jones AT&T Stadium what Appalachian State did to Michigan in the Big House, what Boise State did to Oklahoma at the Fiesta Bowl, or what Stanford did to Southern California at the Coliseum as a four-touchdown underdog?

Or will Leach, guns a blazing, make the Owls walk the plank?

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7 Comments

I'm not too caught up in whether the Owls pull off the upset this weekend. I just want to see a better, more sensible effort than what was displayed last weekend.

And by that I mean no more ludicrous inflexible 2-series QB rotation, an aggressive offensive plan that doesn't handicap itself as was the case vs. UAB, sound defensive play and sound tackling.

To counter the red-zone woes, how about an offensive set in which all three TE/WRs are potential pass catchers? Wardlow, Willson and McDonald are all able pass-catchers and 6'5" or taller.

I think talon owl has captured my "to do" list for the Owls as well. I'd like to see continued success on KO returns, we will probably get plenty of chances, and more intensity on defense.

The thing I've always found frustrating about the Owl's typically poor showing against BCS teams of even middling talent (and this goes back to Hatfield's time) is that from the opening gun they execute poorly and seldom give the opponent even the semblance of a fight. I understand there's a talent gap, but why is there often an effectiveness gap? If nothing else, the Owls should be prepared with a game plan and execute that plan well. There are other teams at Rice's level that put a scare into BCS teams, but seldom the Owls. There have been exceptions, but too often the Owls get blown up in the first quarter and never recover.

I'd like to see the defense tackle well. Yards gained after first contact have got to be minimized. And on offense, they need to be prepared to counter what I expect to be a fierce pass rush. Other teams eat the Owls alive when they blitz, I'd like to see us burn some opponents similarly. I don't expect a win but I do expect improvement and I hope for a competitive game.

Pressure will be key. Potts didn't handle it well at all last week. Same in 2007, when Harrell was easily flustered when someone was in his face. Would be great to see us get to the QB, and there's certainly no reason this week not to come after him with full abandon.

This is an offense we're better equipped to face, for which it's more about assignments than one on one battles. Hopefully that will translate into a better effort. I'm not too worried about yards given up, just so much as the D forces enough TO's or punts to give the offense a chance.

What conference's refs are going to be there? If it's the Big XII, we need to put out the memo to our linemen that holding no longer exists.

Good points above. I especially agree with Owl-88. Every year we see FCS teams with generally lower talent than us beat BCS opponents. It happened twice last week, and Navy hung right with Ohio State. With a few exceptions we have often just not shown up for these games. We need to improve, and we also need to not be intimidated.

Adding to Owl88's comments...look at UH. They seem to play well against the BCS schools or at least give them a contest yet we play close to them every year but we look very poor against BCS teams. The OSU games between UH and OSU against Rice will probably be very different.

David Mooney reports that JT Shepherd got "starter's reps" at QB in practice this week.

What gives?

I don't like all these mixed messages coming from the coaching staff on the QB situation.

Talon: Until Bailiff officially declares Fanuzzi the starter, this is what you'll see. I anticipate the same taking place next week in advance of Oklahoma State. - MK

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