For several years, part of the appeal to playing football for Texas Tech has been the chance to take part in rowdy night games at Jones AT&T Stadium.
That was part of the attraction before and it will be again, but not this year.
Tech is an uncommon stretch in which the Red Raiders will finish the regular season with eight consecutive day games. The seventh such game is Saturday when No. 23 Tech (7-3, 4-3 in the Big 12) visits Oklahoma State (6-3, 4-2) at 2:30 p.m. Next week’s regular-season finale against Baylor is a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.
Not a single Big 12 Conference opponent this season had to play under the lights at Jones AT&T Stadium, a setting that’s perceived, at least, to ratchet up the advantage for the Red Raiders.
“Personally, I miss the evening games,” senior safety D.J. Johnson said this week. “I enjoy coming out and seeing it a little dimmer, a little darker and the bright lights on. It lets me know it’s football time.”
Linebacker Blake Dees said, “It’s always fun being under them lights, for sure.”
For the last two months, though, football time for the Red Raiders meant sunshine. They haven’t played a night game since their Big 12 opener Sept. 29 at Iowa State.
Since then, the Big 12’s television partners have kept dealing them a steady diet of 2:30 p.m. starts, except for an 11 a.m. kickoff last week against Kansas.
“I think as players a 2:30 p.m. game is pretty cool, because you don’t have to wait in the hotel all day,” senior quarterback Seth Doege said. “You wake up. You eat and go through your walk-through and have an hour to focus in your room and watch a little bit of the games.
“Night games are fun to play in, but at the same time you sit in your room for three hours and it gets kind of old, and you’re ready to play.”
Senior receiver Alex Torres also found some pluses to playing nothing but day games for two months.
“Being able to spend time with your family after the games, it was nice to have some home day games,” he said.
Tech has sagged to 1-4 in night Big 12 home games in the Tommy Tuberville era. Still, Jones AT&T Stadium after dark has been regarded for several years as an intimidating environment for visiting teams.
Torres said he didn’t think the Red Raiders sacrificed much during this year’s day games in Lubbock.
“One thing that really made it not a big deal was the fan turnout that we had for our day games was awesome,” Torres said. “It was the same as it would have been for a 7 o’clock game. Sometimes those night games get a little more excitement and everything to them, but I think we had that same energy and excitement for the day games.”
Indeed, Tech drew record attendance of 60,800 and 60,879 for afternoon games against Oklahoma and Texas. The crowd of 57,328 that watched the Red Raiders throttle West Virginia 49-14 might have been the loudest all season in Lubbock.
Last week was a different story. A late-arriving crowd, eventually announced at 55,052, had little anticipation for Tech’s game against one-win Kansas. With the 11 a.m. kickoff, the Red Raiders’ wakeup call came at 6:45 a.m. with breakfast at 7:15.
“It’s eight in a row, so we’re getting used to it,” said Dees, who made a game-saving tackle in the 41-34 double-overtime victory. “Last year was all night games pretty much. The only difference last weekend was it was 11, and that was early. We all seemed a little tired.
“But 2:30, I don’t think that’s a problem for us, because we still get to sleep the same amount of time we do if it was 6 (p.m. kickoff) and we make the adjustment. We definitely can do it.”
Win or lose Saturday in Stillwater, Torres knows he’ll be climbing on the team charter at a reasonable hour. That’s not the case for a lot of night games on the road.
“It’s nice sometimes on the road to have a day game, because we get to fly out earlier,” Torres said. “We’re not getting back at 3 or 4 in the morning, where we’re zombies.”
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