October 31, 2007

Trick or treat ?!?!

One of the good things about covering Mike Leach's Red Raiders is that they are never, ever dull. Exhilarating, exasperating, yes. But never boring, even at 11 a.m. And this assessment certainly applies to the 2007 Red Raiders who have already given us thrills and chills galore, and will undoubtedly provide us with many more as the football season crosses the Halloween threshold, which signifies the stretch run.

Trick #1, Shannon Woods: The mercurial junior running back has better-than-average talent for a division one runner, but his bouts of petulance and apathy return with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season. And so it has happened again, which has only further hampered a Tech ground game already grown flaccid from disuse. A lump of coal for Mr. Woods.

Treat #1, Michael Crabtree: King Crab has struck terror into the hearts of defensive backs across the fruited plain, shattering revered records on an almost weekly basis. So he dropped a game-winning TD pass against Oklahoma State. So he dropped another against Colorado that resulted in an interception. Without this salty crustacean scything through opposing secondaries, the Red Raider offense would be a pale version of its current self. He is a very special player. A packet of Zagnuts for Mr. Crabtree.

Trick #2, Loss to Missouri: Others may say otherwise, but this has been the season's most painful loss. The 6-1 Red Raiders had an opportunity to stake a claim as a program marching to the top, but instead put on a frightful display of offensive ineptitude that forestalled any hope for a win. Tech simply blew it on a national stage in a breakthrough game. Two Brussels sprouts in a béarnaise sauce for the Missouri Tigers.

Treat #2, Win over Texas A&M: Victories over the Aggies have become routine, but they never get old. And this one was another beaut. The Red Raiders cleverly and fiendishly allowed A&M to get their hopes up by laying down on defense in the first quarter and then "Pow!" The Tech defense arose like a mighty tsunami and the Air Raid clicked off 35 straight points to finalize the trouncing. A stack of barbequed pork chops for Jorvorskie Lane who guaranteed an Aggie victory.

Trick #3, Colorado Loss: At least the Red Raiders could excuse the loss to Missouri by admitting that the Tigers are a heckuva team. The same cannot be said for the Buffaloes who are weak offensively and good but not great on defense. Tech outgained the ungainly Buffs by 121 yards in Lubbock, yet managed to lose by turning the ball over four more times than Colorado. There's just no excuse for having lost this one. A round of colonoscopies administered by Hillary Clinton for the Buffaloes.

Treat #3, Ruffin McNeill: Tech's interim defensive coordinator has not waved any magic wands over the Red Raider defense. Nor has he applied the physical principles of Nils Bohr and the epistemology of Martin Heidegger to his defensive schemes in order to prove his intellectual brilliance. Instead, McNeill has told his players to line up, run and hit. What a concept! And the improvement has been marked. The Red Raiders are still not national championship caliber on defense, but they no longer collapse like a mocha cheesecake under assault by an advancing phalanx of executive secretaries as they did under the previous regime. They've also played well enough to win every game since McNeill has taken over. Brisket, beans, potato salad and a couple of Big Reds for Coach McNeill.

Trick #4, Graham Harrell: As much as it pains me to say it, Harrell's eight interceptions in the last two games have been central to those losses. He needs to do himself a big favor by checking into far more running plays than is currently the case. Harrell pledged to do this prior to the season, but has not done so. I am convinced that the offense would function much better and Harrell's interceptions would decrease if he would integrate the running game more. Despite the quarterback's centrality to the Mike Leach offense, Harrell really doesn't have to do it all. A pack mule to Mr. Harrell to relieve his burdens.

Treat #4, Brian Duncan: The freshman linebacker is nowhere near as famous as that other freshman on offense, but since entering the starting lineup in the A&M game, Duncan has been one of Tech's better defensive players. He's number five on the team with 44 tackles and also has four tackles for a loss. Duncan's a standup guy off the field as well. A platter of jambalaya for Mr. Duncan.

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