It won’t necessarily take an unblemished record to garner the Big 12 Conference crown, and No. 15 Texas Tech is banking on that.
After the Red Raiders’ 38-30 loss to Oklahoma last weekend, Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said the team’s first loss of the season wouldn’t derail them from their goal — as long as they don’t lose again.
“You’ve got to win them all whether you win or lose this game,” Kingsbury said. “That’s what I told our team.”
What’s important this week is the team’s ability to bounce back for Saturday night’s home game against No. 18 Oklahoma State.
The past two years under Tommy Tuberville, Tech collapsed in the second half of the season, starting 5-2 before a five-game losing streak in 2011 and starting 6-1 before losing four of the last five regular-season games in 2012.
“The difference between the two staffs is back in the day when we had coach Tuberville, it was kind of like ‘Oh my gosh,’” defensive end Branden Jackson said. “We lost. We’re panicking. We’re in full frantic mode. But now, we know what we did wrong and what we have to improve on and just get ready to move forward.”
The difference was evident in the loss to the Sooners.
Down 21-7 in the third quarter, Tech fought back, scoring 17 straight points to take a 24-21 lead. After the Sooners went up 35-24 in the fourth quarter, the Red Raiders drove 76 yards in 11 plays to get back within 35-30. Down 38-30, Tech still had a chance to tie when it got the ball back with 1:17 left.
“After the loss, it hurt,” Jackson said. “But once we got back on the plane and touched down in Lubbock, we were feeling good. Coach Kingsbury said, ‘Win the rest of them and this doesn’t matter.’ So that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Tech might not be a hundred percent in control of its own destiny, at least in regard to being Big 12 champion. Oklahoma’s win Saturday would give the Sooners a head-to-head tiebreaker should they and the Red Raiders finish alone at the top.
The Red Raiders will mostly be able to help themselves, though, over the final month.
No. 5 Baylor and Texas are both 4-0 in conference, a half-game up on Tech, but the Red Raiders will have their chance to deal each a loss in November.
After the loss, the Tech coaching staff kept its mind on the goal, reminding the Red Raiders that the season wasn’t broken due to one loss. Keeping a team optimistic after a loss can be hard to do, but the chin-up mentality is key to running the table in November.
“They told us we still control our own destiny,” junior tight end Jace Amaro said. “We win out, we win every single game and we’re right there in it being 11-1. It puts us in the perfect situation.”
Currently, five teams have separated themselves from the rest of the conference in terms of hoisting the Big 12 trophy at the end of the year — Baylor, Texas, No. 13 Oklahoma, Tech and Oklahoma State.
Baylor and Oklahoma State have the toughest roads left, as each team plays each other, plus Oklahoma, Tech and Texas.
Tech and Texas have to play each other, Oklahoma State and Baylor.
Oklahoma has only Baylor and Oklahoma State left among the contenders.
For Texas Tech, the next step to a conference title is sending the Cowboys back to Stillwater with a second conference loss, the first of the “elimination” games for the Big 12.
“Next game up we have a great Oklahoma State team,” Kingsbury said. “We better be ready to go.”
Big 12 Standings
Team Big 12 Overall
Baylor 4-0 7-0
Texas 4-0 5-2
Oklahoma 4-1 7-1
Texas Tech 4-1 7-1
Oklahoma State 3-1 6-1
Kansas State 1-3 3-4
TCU 1-4 3-5
West Virginia 1-4 3-5
Kansas 0-4 2-5
Iowa State 0-4 1-6
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