November 19, 2007

Signals from the static: Tech/Oklahoma

Tempered by Fire: The Red Raiders are the second-youngest team in college football no more. Yes, technically, they still are. But this is a team that has finally come of age.

They have endured hard knocks galore, the most recent being the loss to Texas in Austin. Tech has not quit, however. The team has continued to believe in itself, and more important, has continued to learn how to play the game of football. As a result, they knocked off the number three team in the nation.

And now, having taken Oklahoma's best shot and managed to withstand a scary fourth-quarter rally, they are truly a battle-hardened, mentally and physically tough team. This should carry over into Tech's bowl game, and into next season. Despite some frankly abysmal performances this season, the 2007 Red Raider are setting up the 2008 season very nicely indeed.

Fusion Chemistry: Prior to the season there was much talk about how the team chemistry of the 2007 squad was so much better than that of the 2006 unit. We heard-and saw-about players who enjoyed one another's company. We saw enthusiasm and esprit de corps. We did not see much fighting and dissension. Nevertheless, until the victory over Oklahoma, we saw precious little on-field evidence that improved team chemistry actually made a difference. But we sure saw it Saturday night.

All of those disparate elements, isotopes, molecules and what have you, finally bonded in a crucible provided by the Oklahoma Sooners. The result was a team that fused together and played with solidity, balance and integrity. Last year's fractured ball-club would most certainly have lost a game like this one. And in fact, they did. They fell apart and could not finish the job against Texas despite jumping out to a large first-half lead. The equation was almost identical in the Oklahoma game, but the Red Raiders devised a considerably more satisfying solution. And that is because the chemical structure of this team is far better than last year's unit.

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