I have to say, we had a good handle on Texas Tech — its strengths, its weaknesses and where the team was headed — coming out of August practices. Four months ago, in the Tech football preview issue, I predicted Tech to go 7-6 this year with a bowl win. My colleagues Nick Kosmider and Zach Long predicted the Red Raiders to finish 8-5, which they did. Zach even nailed it by picking Tech to go to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.
How can you come any closer than that?
What our success says to me is all of us recognized the Red Raiders could be pretty good in 2012, but had too many holes to produce a for-the-ages season.
Now that the season’s in the books, let’s go back and examine some categories we tried to forecast and how we fared.
Leading rusher: Kenny Williams was that guy, and hey, I said he’d be that guy. Even in limited playing time in 2011, Williams’ talent was apparent. He stepped it up from 135 yards as a freshman to 824 yards with a 5.8 per-carry average this season.
Leading receiver: I called Darrin Moore, my August explanation being, “He’s healthy again, and he’s still a physical mismatch for most corners.” Moore played in all 12 games, posting 92 receptions for 1,032 yards and 13 touchdowns. He led the team in catches and TDs, and finished with 21 yards fewer than Eric Ward.
Sacks leader: I said Branden Jackson, a redshirt freshman defensive end. I was deceived by his looking the part. Now, Jackson might well fill the bill in a year or two, but he was a bit player this season while defensive end Dartwan Bush and defensive tackle Kerry Hyder made six sacks apiece.
We asked ourselves, “Which Tech game interests you most?” For me, West Virginia’s coming to town was the game with the most intrigue. Maybe that wsa the case for the Red Raiders, too. Their 49-14 rout of the Mountaineers was their best performance of the season.
We also asked, “What non-starter will emerge and make a name for himself?” I expected it to be wide receiver Javon Bell, who turned a corner between spring practice and August. He got off to a fast start with 17 catches in four games for a 15.8-yard average. Bell was leading the Red Raiders in receiving yards when he broke his foot in practice the week of the West Virginia game and missed the rest of the season.
Was Tommy Tuberville on the hot seat going into 2012? In year two of Tuberville’s tenure, the Red Raiders had their first losing season since 1992. Still, he’d put two good recruiting classes back to back, so in August I thought he’d “be staying around to develop it” barring a repeat of last season.
Instead, Tuberville felt the heat and took off in a way few, if any, expected.
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