FORT WORTH — Three weeks ago, Tommy Tuberville objected to a suggestion that Texas Tech won ugly in beating Iowa State 24-13 on the road.
Guess it depends on your perspective.
On Saturday, Tuberville didn’t even wait for anyone to suggest the Red Raiders’ 56-53 triple-overtime conquest of TCU wasn’t a thing of beauty. In the game he watched, the Red Raiders “made a lot of mistakes,” and he itemized them: Giving up 516 yards. Wasting a lot of first downs. Playing lousy offense in the third quarter. Blowing a 10-point lead in the last four minutes of regulation.
“They outplayed us for most of the game, outcoached us. They had us on our heels,” Tuberville said.
Well, yeah, that’s all true, but ...
My goodness, you beat a one-loss team on the road, in front of its second-largest crowd all-time. Your quarterback threw seven touchdowns, your team committed no turnovers. The other team wanted to prove something — TCU always does when facing one of the bigger Texas universities that beat the Horned Frogs to the Big 12. You had the momentum against you for much of the day, never more so than going to overtime.
As some TCU fans turned out of the stadium to go home, their team trailing 36-26, the Horned Frogs got a long-bomb touchdown, a quick defensive stop and a tying field goal.
Somehow, you overcame all that.
That’s what good teams do.
We agree on that, I think.
“I can’t remember too many times I’ve been involved in a game like that where the visiting team won the game,” Tuberville said, moments after the Red Raiders streamed joyously into the visitors’ locker room at Amon Carter Stadium.
It’s been talked about for a while now, how Tech faces a five-game stretch against ranked teams, something that rarely happens even in the best conferences. Having to get up so many Saturdays in a row, there’s a danger in that team hitting a wall.
Heck, maybe the Red Raiders felt it Saturday.
“Last week was a week I was a little bit worried about,” Tuberville said, Tech coming off that 49-14 rout of West Virginia. “We didn’t look like the team practicing the week before. Going through an emotional game last week took a big toll on us. We lose four starters, but we come back and find a way to win.”
Appropriately on this day, Tech celebrated last on a touchdown pass in the third OT from Seth Doege to Alex Torres — a quarterback who lost two full seasons to knee injuries and a receiver who’s 25 years old and rethought his life path after he was sent home from Air Force basic training with a broken hand.
Both have been through a lot, which sort of diminishes the impact a screaming guy with purple face paint can have.
“You can’t say enough about leadership,” Tuberville said. “Gary (TCU coach Gary Patterson) has got a young team. We have a little bit of an older team than him. Leadership is how you win games like that.
“We had guys huddle themselves together on the sideline, without any coaches. They talked about what they needed to do, how they needed to do it, and it worked out.”
Torres is the same guy who caught more than 150 passes for nearly 2,000 yards in his first three seasons as a Red Raider. But you know what happened next. His back got cranky. Then he tore up his knee. And this season, before Saturday, his per-game averages had dipped below two catches for 20 yards.
For Austin Zouzalik, another fifth-year senior with credentials, it was even worse. Bumped from the rotation, he had three catches in the first six games.
But with the Red Raiders needing reinforcements — after three other receivers got hurt, in less than a week — Doege turned to two of his best friends. It wasn’t just that they caught five passes apiece; it was that nearly all the catches came at important moments.
It was Seth Doege as Seth Maxwell, Torres and Zouzalik doing their Phil Elliott. They just needed caps to wear on the sideline, then toss aside as they went into the game.
Even if you disagree that it was “not pretty” — Tuberville’s description — it sure made for great theater.