Tech quietly climbing in polls, hoping for national splash

Posted Monday, Oct. 14, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
A

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

With rare exception, Texas Tech’s surge to the top of the Big 12 football standings under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury has been greeted with all the bells, whistles and fanfare usually reserved for a trip to the grocery store.

Kingsbury, a cool and collected sideline figure, has overseen a quiet, calculated, consistent march to a 6-0 record in his debut season. The last Big 12 coach to begin his career with a 6-0 mark? Nobody. Kliff is one of a kind.

Under Kingsbury, 34, the Red Raiders (6-0, 3-0 in Big 12) have climbed from the bottom half of Big 12 preseason projections to No. 16 in this week’s Associated Press poll. Yet the Red Raiders, while undefeated, remain underappreciated and under-the-radar to most college football fans, including many in their own state.

The primary culprit is proximity. Tech operates in the same Lone Star State as No. 12 Baylor (5-0), home of the nation’s most prolific offense, and Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M’s 2012 Heisman Trophy winner and the current face of college football.

In addition, lots of recent headlines have been devoted to Texas coach Mack Brown’s ability to absorb a standing eight count from critics inside his own program and deliver a knockout blow to previously unbeaten Oklahoma, 36-20, in Saturday’s shocker at the Cotton Bowl.

It has taken six weeks. But in a football-crazed state, Tech has earned its share of the spotlight by becoming the first team in Texas to become bowl-eligible this season. The glare will continue to grow with each additional victory in a back-loaded schedule, starting with Saturday’s trip to West Virginia (3-3, 1-2).

The lingering question is how long the Red Raiders, who have defeated six opponents with a combined record of 12-21, can keep it rolling with the meat of the conference schedule approaching.

Tech tight end Jace Amaro does not see a stop sign in his team’s future.

“We weren’t expecting anything else. We knew we were going to be 6-0. We knew we were going to be winning every game,” Amaro said.

“That is the way our mindset has changed from this year and last year. We’re going in there to win every game. Last year, we were trying not to lose.”

Credit the enhanced swagger to Kingsbury, a former Tech quarterback who has been a galvanizing force in reuniting Red Raider Nation after three nondescript seasons under predecessor Tommy Tuberville. Also give Kingsbury props for keeping Tech undefeated despite starting two different incoming freshmen at quarterback because of injuries.

The second player on that list, Davis Webb, received Big 12 offensive player of the week honors Monday after passing for 415 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-35 victory over Iowa State. Webb’s total stands as a season high for a Big 12 quarterback, eclipsing the mark of teammate Baker Mayfield, a freshman walk-on who threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-23 victory over SMU on Aug. 30.

Together, the duo has helped Tech rank among the nation’s top 13 teams in scoring (41.8 avg.), passing yards (408.8 per game) and total offense (544 yards per game). The defense has forced 11 turnovers and ranks No. 15 nationally in points allowed (17.3 avg.). Tech is 21st in total defense (344.8 yards per game).

If not for the wild-fire offenses elsewhere in the state (Baylor, A&M) and the turmoil at Texas, there would be a bigger buzz outside of Lubbock about these Red Raiders. But the low-key approach is fine with Kingsbury, a viable midseason candidate for Big 12 coach of the year honors despite his rookie status.

“We just attack each week as our own separate bowl game,” Kingsbury said during Monday’s Big 12 conference call. “We want to get better every day and better every week … Playing at the tempo we want to play at, the hustle has really picked up. So that’s encouraging. That solves a lot of problems when guys are playing hard.”

In its past two games, Tech’s fast-break offense ran 100 plays against Kansas and 101 against Iowa State. Those are the two highest totals in the Big 12 this season. The numbers caught the attention of West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, a former Tech assistant coach during Kingsbury’s college career and a co-worker with Kingsbury at Houston on the staff of current Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin.

“Kliff is a bright, young coach and was extremely competitive as a player,” said Holgorsen, who helped Kingsbury land the Houston gig and roomed with Kingsbury while their tenures overlapped on Sumlin’s staff. “I’m not surprised by the success his team is having.”

Now, Kingsbury seeks to extend Tech’s winning streak against the mentor who convinced him to go into coaching. Kingsbury credited Holgorsen with showing him how to tweak game plans to fit existing personnel and avoid forcing “a square peg into a round hole.”

If Kingsbury wins again Saturday, Tech will be 7-0, a start surpassed only once in Lubbock in the past 37 years: by the 2008 team, which started 10-0 and finished 11-2. For a rookie coach, that’s pretty heady stuff. Regardless of when the college world outside of Lubbock starts paying rapt attention.

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @Jimmy_Burch

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?





Tuesday, September 16Full Scoreboard
Toronto2Bottom 4th | Box
Baltimore4@theBallpark | TV: SNET, MASN 2
Boston0Top 4th | Box
Pittsburgh2@theBallpark | TV: NESN, ROOT-PIT
Washington0Bottom 4th | Box
Atlanta0@theBallpark | TV: MASN, SPSO
Miami1Top 5th | Box
NY Mets4@theBallpark | TV: FSN-FL, SNY
NY Yankees1Top 4th | Box
Tampa Bay0@theBallpark | TV: MY9, Sun Sports
Cincinnati0Bottom 1st | Box
Chicago Cubs0@theBallpark | TV: FSN-OH, WGN
Cleveland0Top 1st | Box
Houston0@theBallpark | TV: STO, CSN-HOU
Chicago WSox1Bottom 1st | Box
Kansas City0@theBallpark | TV: CSN-CHI, FSN-KC
Detroit0Bottom 1st | Box
Minnesota0@theBallpark | TV: FSN-DET, FSN-N
Milwaukee0Top 1st | Box
St. Louis0@theBallpark | TV: FSN-WI, FSN-MW, ESPN
Los Angeles 9/16 8:40 PM ET
Colorado TV: SportsNet LA, ROOT-RM
San Francisco 9/16 9:40 PM ET
Arizona TV: CSN-BA, FSN-AZ
Seattle 9/16 10:05 PM ET
LA Angels TV: ROOT-NW, FSN-W
Texas 9/16 10:05 PM ET
Oakland TV: FSN-SW, CSN-CA
Philadelphia 9/16 10:10 PM ET
San Diego TV: CSN-PHI, FSN-SD
Full Scoreboard
Tuesday, September 16Full Scoreboard
No games today
Full Scoreboard
Week 3Full Scoreboard
Thursday
Tampa Bay 8:25 PM ET
Atlanta TV: CBS, NFL Network
Sunday
San Diego 1:00 PM ET
Buffalo TV: CBS
Tennessee 1:00 PM ET
Cincinnati TV: CBS
Baltimore 1:00 PM ET
Cleveland TV: CBS
Green Bay 1:00 PM ET
Detroit TV: FOX
Indianapolis 1:00 PM ET
Jacksonville TV: CBS
Oakland 1:00 PM ET
New England TV: CBS
Minnesota 1:00 PM ET
New Orleans TV: FOX
Houston 1:00 PM ET
NY Giants TV: CBS
Washington 1:00 PM ET
Philadelphia TV: FOX
Dallas 1:00 PM ET
St. Louis TV: FOX
San Francisco 4:05 PM ET
Arizona TV: FOX
Kansas City 4:25 PM ET
Miami TV: CBS
Denver 4:25 PM ET
Seattle TV: CBS
Pittsburgh 8:30 PM ET
Carolina TV: NBC
Monday
Chicago 8:30 PM ET
NY Jets TV: ESPN
Full Scoreboard
Tuesday, September 16Full Scoreboard
No games today
Full Scoreboard