November 12, 2011

Tech enters therapy stage

The day your favorite football team suffers through its worst defeat in program history, pretty much any theory you submit regarding why the team struggled is valid.

No football expert can tell you why the Red Raiders fell to No. 2 Oklahoma State 66-6 Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium, but by simply hearing you're on a team that suffered the worst loss in Texas Tech football history has to be a blow to the Red Raiders' confidence.

Let the soul searching begin for the 5-5 Red Raiders.

"It's pretty tough because you start asking yourself, you start questioning yourself," Tech receiver Eric Ward said. "'What am I doing that's not being productive?' Obviously, it's everybody's fault. Losing isn't an effort thing because everybody is out there playing, it's just I think people need to look themselves in the mirror and ask 'what am I doing that's not helping?'

"It's something that's missing because we practice hard, we go out there and play hard, but effort doesn't win things. It's not a do good league, it's an execute league."

Going into the game, it was figured to be somewhat of a shootout. The defenses weren't expected to be much of a factor and the Tech offense turned in its worst performance of the season.

Oklahoma State scored eight offensive touchdowns, Tech didn't even score on offense. The Red Raiders gave the ball away three times by way of an interception and two fumbles.

Special teams wise, a muffed punt return set up one of those Cowboy touchdowns and a muffed kickoff return resulted in a ninth touchdown when Oklahoma State recovered the ball in the Tech endzone.

Defensively, Tech gave up a staggering 637 yards compared to a lowly regarded Oklahoma State defense that gave up just 270 yards. The Cowboys forced seven punts and the Red Raiders forced two punts. Just three Oklahoma State drives didn't result in touchdowns -- Tech's lone touchdown on a fumble recovery, a field goal and a turnover on downs when Cowboy head coach Mike Gundy questionably tried a passing play on fourth and goal with a 60-point lead.

Naturally, confidence was a little low within the locker room of Jones AT&T Stadium just after Saturday's game.

The game hadn't started out that way though.

Tech got the first crack on offense but stalled and went three-and-out. Oklahoma State scored a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead. Tech punted the ball again. But then the struggling Red Raider defense forced a punt.

It could have been a turning point. The stadium was fired up and quarterback Seth Doege and crew were just waiting on the sideline to ride the new wave of momentum.

But in place of an injured Austin Zouzalik, Alex Torres took the first punt return of the game and dropped it. Oklahoma State ball on the Tech 29-yard line. Oklahoma State went up 14-0.

"I think early on in the ball game our kids lost confidence for whatever reason," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "I can't explain it, we're the same team. I think we were the fourth best team on offense after the Oklahoma game. Other than having a few guys go down, we're the same guys, same players. We just haven't performed, haven't executed."

Ward agrees with Brown's comment.

"When some things don't go our way we tend to just shut it down," Ward said. "Not go as hard. That's how I feel. You can kind of sense around you that some people's personalities aren't the same as when we're up. It's like when we get behind people just start looking down and looking for answers.

"You've just got to go out there and give it your all every play."

Brown cited Doege, who was not made available for comment for the first time this season, as one of the guys that lost confidence. It's Brown's goal to get the quarterback back on track Sunday.

"I think it all goes back to confidence," Brown said. "For whatever reason, to me, Seth Doege is one of the best quarterbacks in the country. But he lost his confidence. He's got no reason. He played one bad football game coming into the game. When he struggled early he didn't bounce back.

"That'll be my job starting tomorrow to show him that he's a great player. He'll get it back. He's a competitor and he'll finish these last two games strong."

Brown then reiterated there's not much of a difference between the team that beat Oklahoma and the team that has now lost three straight games.

"Any time you struggle like this, you go back and you've got to prove that the guys were good," Brown said. "You go Nevada, Kansas, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, we were really good on offense. We weren't good in that Iowa State and we weren't good today.

"You've got to figure out the reasons why we weren't good there and we've got to prove to these kids, 'hey, these are the same plays, same players.' We've got some deficiencies at some sports, but we've got enough kids to make plays. I think confidence all starts with the quarterbacks and he'll play much better Saturday."

Meanwhile, Red Raider Nation waits until next Saturday at Missouri to see the team find itself.

"Clearly we're good and you all know that," Ward said. "Five out of 11 out there just playing their hearts out, it's gotta be 11. Ton answer the question, I think we all just need to go to the mirror and look ourselves in the eye and just ask yourself, 'what do I need to do better to help us go where we want to go?'"

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