This is the new norm in college football:
|Up next for Mike Leach's Red Raiders: vs. Oklahoma State and at Oklahoma. (US Presswire)|
Texas Tech? That year it was celebrating the program's first win -- over Montezuma College.
No wonder the fans didn't quite know what to do late Saturday night, bum rushing the field three times before they got it right. You know, after the clock actually struck zero.
Hey, false starts are to be expected when you've waited 83 years for something like this.
This is the new norm: In that human mosh pit, you could spot an unlikely Heisman front-runner, at least the one favored in this corner of cyberspace. Receiver Michael Crabtree made a play that only Michael Crabtree could make, snagging a ball in double coverage, staying inbounds and scoring the winning touchdown against No. 1 Texas with one second left.
|Dodd's Power Poll|
|2. Texas Tech|
|4. Penn State|
|8. Oklahoma State|
|9. Boise State|
|11. Ohio State|
|14. Ball State|
|19. Michigan State|
|20. Florida State|
|22. North Carolina|
|24. West Virginia|
|25. Georgia Tech|
|(Out: Oregon, Connecticut, Minnesota, South Florida)|
"It's the biggest catch I ever made," he said.
It's the biggest catch anybody ever made at Texas Tech, maybe in the history of the Big 12 considering that the school could soon become the fourth from the conference in the past two years to be ranked No. 1.
It brought to life Texas Tech's promotion of Crabtree and quarterback Graham Harrell. For the moment, the race for the Heisman has literally been narrowed down to the website's URL -- passorcatch2008.com.
Who or which do you like most? The sticky-fingered Crabtree or the mind-numbingly consistent Harrell (474 yards, two TDs vs. Texas)
"Footballs don't magically fly," the quarterback says, making his case on the promotional video. "It's science."
This is the new norm: a coach with a pirate's heart and a bum calculator.
"Playing for 60 minutes is obviously important," Mike Leach said after Crabtree's catch. "You might have a second to spare."
Uh, yeah, that makes some kind of sense, coach.
When a field goal would have done just fine in the waning seconds, Leach called for his quarterback to throw toward the end zone.
"He's always in there attacking," said good friend Hal Mumme, the coach at New Mexico State. "I don't know anyone who doesn't love to watch Texas Tech play football."
This is the new norm: Traditions as corny as a field of maize. In 1950, philanthropist Amon Carter thought it would be a good idea to build a statue of Will Rogers on the Texas Tech campus atop his favorite horse "Soapsuds." Tradition dictates that the 9-foot-11 sculpture be covered with red crepe paper before every home game.
The result looks like a big, ol' red mummified Roy Rogers.
There's also that "Guns Up" signal which for the first time might replace "Hook 'em Horns" in the nation's consciousness. It was invented by a Texas Tech student who was going to law school. The last thing Leach did before leaving the field Saturday night was flash his guns up. That would be Mike Leach, former law student at Pepperdine.
Texas Tech has shown us the new norm in college football. The victory legitimized everything Leach has been teaching for nine years. From here on out, "gimmick" offenses and "system" quarterbacks don't exist in West Texas.
What you watched Saturday night was the 21st century equivalent of Woody Hayes' 3 yards and a cloud of dust in the '60s and '70s -- just a lot more entertaining. Ninety percent of the schools in the country run the same thing as Texas Tech. Florida and Texas have won national championships with it.
What team wouldn't want Harrell or Crabtree right now? It's not a bandwagon tilted to one side either. Ask Colt McCoy about the softness of the Texas Tech defense. About as soft as his bridgework Saturday night, which was being checked by a trainer after the Texas quarterback was smacked in the mouth.
"I wish we played them a couple of more times this season," gushed Tech defensive lineman Colby Whitlock, who scored a safety in the early minutes of the game.
The new norm is the Big 12 being the best conference in the country. At least for this week. The top four teams in the South Division are all in the top 10. Texas just completed a brutal four-game stretch of playing teams all in the top 11. Texas Tech is in the middle of its own four-game run against ranked teams. The Red Raiders have the nation's longest winning streak, 11. Oklahoma, suddenly back in the picture, might be playing better than any of them. Oklahoma State might have the most complete team in the league.
Maybe the country.
If cannibalism doesn't strike, it looks like the division is headed for a three-way tie with the South, Big 12 and national championship hanging in the balance in the last week of November. The tiebreaker could go all the way down to about the fifth option -- highest-ranked team in the BCS standings after the regular season.
Anyone who has a clue which team that might be, please call commissioner Dan Beebe.
SEC honks no doubt will look down their noses at what Texas Tech and the Big 12 has accomplished. Too many points, too many yards, they'll say. Let's see them play in the SEC, they'll say.
Let's see any SEC team play in Lubbock.
Alabama has to go to LSU this week hoping to keep its undefeated season alive. It might be upset by a Tigers team that has given up 50 points in three of its past 11 games. Florida gave up 31 points at home to Ole Miss. And don't forget the Gators take much of their philosophy from the single wing, an offense popular in the '40s and '50s.
Who's unconventional now?
Even if you disagree with all that, there is reality atop the BCS standings on Sunday. Alabama and Penn State are going to have to win out to hold off these weird, quirky Red Raiders.
If not, the new norm could be Texas Tech playing for a national championship.