October 31, 2011

Tech-UT rivalry could grow

While there was some talk about the Iowa State loss, head coach Tommy Tuberville and his players seemed more optimistic for their game in Austin this weekend.

After all, it is a road game -- and Texas Tech is undefeated on the road.

"You want to be able to play well on the road and convince yourself you can win on the road," Tuberville said. "It's very hard to do, but I'd rather be a better home team because that is a huge advantage. If you're at home playing well, get your fans into it, and we just haven't done that. We had two games that we probably had a great opportunity to win, and we didn't. That one Saturday night, we need to give ourselves a chance.

"But emotions sometimes play a little bit different when you go on the road. I like this team's attitude on the road. You go, you get ready to play, and you go out and play and don't let anything bother you. So we'll see how we respond this week."

There's not really much of a difference between a road game and a home game except for the plane ride though.

"It's really no different," quarterback Seth Doege said. "It's almost the same as if we were playing here, (we stay in a hotel the night before the game). Our meetings are exactly the same time. We eat the same food. I mean, it's all the same."

Saturday's game will come down to who wants it more.

Neither team is exactly where it would like to be. Texas is 5-2 and not going to live up to the persistent demand to win a National Championship. The Red Raiders didn't live up to expectations to make a winning run out of a big Oklahoma victory.

But here's some motivation for the Red Raiders:

Turning the tide of the Tech-Texas rivalry, one that seems poised to become the premiere in-state rivalry as soon as Texas A&M leaves for the SEC, to a more competitive balance. The Longhorns lead the all-time series 45 games to 15 games including winning 10 of the last 12 matchups.

Then there's the chip on the shoulder approach.

Texas has the largest fan following in the state and one of the largest in the nation. The school itself wants to prove it has the wherewithal for a long-lasting solo television network.

Many State of Texas kids automatically want to go to Texas because of the lore of the school, a department Tech really is just starting out on the journey to catch up with.

"It'd be big," defensive end Kerry Hyder, an Austin-area native, said. "They didn't recruit me so going in there and getting a win would be big in my home city. Growing up I was a big Longhorns fan, but then my senior year I committed to be a Red Raider and I bleed red and black everyday."

There wasn't much of a tone of jealousy in Hyder's voice, but rather an implication that Texas thought he wasn't good enough for their program.

That's was the way it has almost always been for Tech players. But then backup quarterback and two-time State Champion Michael Brewer turned down a Texas greyshirt, where his father starred, for the Red Raiders.

Things have changed ever so slowly over time.

Tech's academic reputation is on the rise and its football reputation is remarkably higher than it was in the days of the Southwest Conference with the potential to rise further if the Red Raiders can string some more wins together. Texas' football program is clearly down from the 2004-2009 era.

There is potential to get a win in Austin, and that could be the start a more competitive rivalry. A back-and-forth football series and an arms race in the offseason.

The Longhorn football program looks like it could be taking a step back from the top tier of national prominence. It looks like Texas is a few years away from another big run while the pieces appear to be in place for the Red Raiders to continue to grow and win football games along the way if they can just execute the game plan.

"The two years since I've been here we haven't beaten them," free safety D.J. Johnson, another Austin native, said. "So for me, that'd be a huge thing to go out there and beat a team of such a high caliber. It would be huge to me."

And for a rivalry that has the potential to escalate into something more than what it is.

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