For the second time in the 2008 season, the Texas Tech Red Raiders went on the road as the favorite, flirted with disaster for most of the game, yet managed to pull out the win. The first instance was in Reno against the Nevada Wolf Pack; the second was in College Station versus the Texas A&M Aggies. In a year of living dangerously, the Red Raiders always managed to pull their cellulite from the conflagration.
RECAP: Despite Texas Tech's habitual dominance of Texas A&M, there's always a slight sense of unease whenever the Red Raiders travel to College Station to take on the Aggies. It's an odd place; it's a very loud place, and the ball can take funny bounces on the Kyle Field turf.
For a full half of football, it looked as though an inspired A&M team would punch well above its weight and take out the number seven Red Raiders. Texas Tech could do nothing right, particularly on defense, and the teams went to the halftime break with the Aggies leading 23-20. It was the first time the Red Raiders trailed at halftime.
For Tech to actually lose this game, however, they would have to play as horrendously in the second half as they did in the first. And that did not happen.
The Red Raider defense transformed from sieve to suffocator, and the Air Raid stopped committing penalties. That's all it took as Tech rolled in the second stanza and departed College Station with a 43-25 victory.
STAR OF THE SHOW: No single player put on a display for the ages. Graham Harrell completed 44 of 56 passes for 450 yards and three touchdowns, but also tossed two interceptions. Baron Batch ran for a very solid 87 yards on 13 carries. Tramain Swindall jumped up and pulled down seven catches for 101 yards, but did not score a touchdown and committed one fumble. And Marlon Williams had an outstanding afternoon with 12 tackles. All in all, this was very much a team victory.
KEY MOMENT: It could have been worse than 23-30 for the Red Raiders at halftime. Trailing Tech by a 20-16 count, Aggie quarterback Jerrod Johnson hit Jeff Fuller for what looked to be a 78-yard touchdown pass. An Aggie was called for holding, however, and one bullet was dodged. Had A&M been ahead 30-20 instead of 23-20 at intermission, this game might have been a little bit hairier than it already was.
BIGGEST PLAY: This game was still up for grabs well into the fourth quarter. The Red Raiders did not put it out of reach until Graham Harrell sneaked into the Aggie end zone for a touchdown with seven minutes to play, giving the Red Raiders a 36-25 lead. This was not a spectacular play, but it sure was an important one.
STAT OF THE GAME: After surrendering 274 yards and 23 points in the first half, in a performance reminiscent of some bad old days in Stillwater, Tech's defense held A&M to 32 yards, five first downs and no points (the Aggies did get two points by returning a blocked extra point) in the second. Rarely will you see a defense turn a complete 360 in one game the way Ruffin McNeill's troops did in this one.