LUBBOCK, TEX. Texas Tech coach Mike Leach believes worthy pirates go into battle with swords held high.
A self-proclaimed piratetologist, Leach has revisited his sword analogy this season, reminding his Red Raiders: “None of that droopy stuff,” he said.
Droopy, though, is how this season in Lubbock compares to last.
Texas Tech was undefeated through 10 games this time last year, ranked No. 2 in the country and basking in back-to-back wins over top-10 opponents. Today, the unranked Red Raiders take three losses into No. 17 Oklahoma State.
There’s been internal strife this season— nothing close to a mutiny, though — and Leach has resorted to some, well, politically incorrect tongue-lashing.
He chastised players after the recent loss to Texas A&M for listening to “their fat little girlfriends,” and thinking the Aggies were a pushover. And after the Red Raiders loss at then-No. 12 Houston in September, Leach suspended indefinitely starting offensive lineman Brandon Carter for violating team rules.
The loss to the Cougars was the second straight for the Red Raiders, who had fallen 34-24 at No. 2 Texas in an early Big 12 matchup. This season is the first since 2002 — Leach’s third season — that the Red Raiders dropped two of their first four games.
That same week Leach banned his players from having Twitter pages after linebacker Marlon Williams asked on his account why he was still in a meeting room when “the head coach can’t even be on time.”
Leach has also juggled quarterbacks — a first for his program. Injuries gave him no option. Starter Taylor Potts went out with a concussion in early October. He was replaced by former walk-on and backup Steven Sheffield, who led the team to two wins before injuring his left foot at 15th-ranked Nebraska.
Potts, supported by fans until Sheffield showed more spark, drew boos when he returned for the A&M game. Leach even went to third-stringer Seth Doege after Potts got his third turnover against the Aggies. Doege started the game against Kansas.
It isn’t just the record (6-3, 3-2 Big 12) that has slid this season. Fan support has waned, too.
The city and the university went nuts last season after Texas Tech beat top-ranked Texas on a final-second touchdown pass and the eighth-ranked Cowboys, both at home.
This season, not so much. There’s been just one sellout in six games and seats in two bleacher sections added since last year — and opened for the A&M game — are empty.
Despite all the woes and losses, cornerback Jamar Wall said this year’s team is a tight unit.
“We haven’t been perfect this year and that’s why it (all) kind of stands out more,” he said. “We’re all playing hard every single game. Things might not go our way but we’re all still pulling as a family.”
Receiver Alex Torres said the season has been tough at times.
“We’ve gone through some controversy throughout the season, just ups and downs, Torres said. “That all come down to our team’s discipline and focus throughout the season.”