October 12, 2007

The Aggies haven't won in Lubbock since '93

Texas Tech basketball coach Bob Knight is fond of saying that 90% of the game is mental and only 10% is physical. Much the same could be said for the game of football apparently. Or at least as the phenomenon relates to the Texas A&M Aggies and their semi-annual forays to the City of the Hub.

As has now become exceedingly well-known, A&M has not won in Lubbock since the first full year of the Clinton administration, which would be 1993. The Red Raiders now own an extremely impressive six-game home winning streak over the Aggies, and if the oddsmakers are correct, will extend that dominance to 7-0 come Saturday.

Tech's ownership of A&M is a statistical anomaly of sorts. Hence, if you asked most football fans in the Lone Star State why the Red Raiders have dominated the Aggies in Lubbock, they would probably say that Tech has had better teams. And they would be right. But only just barely.

It is statistically true that Texas Tech has had the better football program over the course of the past decade or so. Since 1995, the year Tech's current home winning streak commenced, the Red Raiders have a combined record of 90-56 while the Aggies are 86-58. Percentage-wise, therefore, Tech has been a bit better.

And when you narrow the sample down to the actual years in which the two teams played in Lubbock, Tech's marginal superiority still holds true. For the years of 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2005, the Red Raiders' record stands at 45-26 and the Aggies' at 42-29. Again, Tech holds a slim edge in winning percentage.

But the operative term there is "slim." There is nothing in those statistics to suggest that Tech should have won six in a row against A&M. Given the relative similarity of winning percentages since 1995, one might expect Tech to have gone 4-2 or 5-1 at best against the Aggies. But 6-0? Something beyond mere physical superiority is clearly at work here.

And, heck, we can't even chock the Aggie slide up to the offensive coaching brilliance of Mike Leach. Spike Dykes, be it noted, owns half of the current winning streak, having bested R. C. Slocum and his maroon warriors in '95, '97 and '99.

The victories have become more decisive under Leach, but it is still Dykes who initiated Tech's hammerlock on the farmer laddies of East Texas sheepdom.

To gain a fuller understanding of Red Raider dominance, we must turn to the cool, clinical, objective rationality of the sciences. Or, to put it in layman's terms, we dunn thowed a mojo on them Aggies.
It all began with the Grand Wizard of High Plains defense, Zach Thomas. His theft of a Corey Pullig aerial and return for a touchdown in a colossal defensive struggle, put the Aggies, already a rather muzzy bunch by nature, into a stupor from which they have as of yet been unable to wake.

Then it was a slightly lesser wizard, Tony Rogers' turn to mesmerize the Aggies. In 1997 he enchanted a 47-yard field goal off of the upright and into A&M hearts with 19 seconds to play to clinch a 16-13 Red Raider victory.

Spike Dykes and Sammy Morris teamed up to work the voodoo in '99. In an inspired maneuver, Dykes moved fullback Morris to tailback. The current New England Patriot then proceeded to romp through A&M's top-ranked rushing defense to the tune of 170 yards in a 21-19 victory.

The piratical realm of Scragger Leach has been increasingly unkind to the simple folk from the land of buzzcuts and public displays of testicular obsession. Whereas Dykes' victories came by margins of seven, three and two points, the Leach hex has resulted in a 12-0 shutout, and subsequent victories by margins of 31 and 39 points.

And now the Aggies are completely entranced.

Mike Leach, Ruffin McNeill, Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree may command the Aggies to do their bidding. Were Jorvorskie Lane to break a huddle by doing yoga and enjoying a tofu and passion fruit smoothie in the middle of the third quarter, it would not surprise me in the least. The psychological stranglehold is that total. The possession of the soul is that deep.

Short of channeling the spirit of Bear Bryant and Dana Xenophon Bible, this could go on a while. And frankly, I don't think Bryant and Bible want anything more to do with this bunch.

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