November 29, 2021

Red Raider's up and down regular season comes to an end

Just like that, the 2021 Texas Tech football regular season has come to an end. And at 6-6, there’s plenty of room for interpretation on how one views what happened over the last three months. That leaves Red Raider fans the opportunity to debate whether or not this year was a success. 

What we do know is that this was a strange season.  First of all, the program’s head coach to begin the year, Matt Wells, didn’t even survive until Halloween despite his team having a winning record at the time he was let go.

Second, the team had to start three different quarterbacks for multiple games this year.  While that’s not been unusual for this program in recent years, it is still uncommon for most college football teams.

Meanwhile, the team had to finish the year with an interim head coach for the final four games while knowing for the last three of those contests who the next boss would be.  That undoubtedly led to some strange days for those inside the football facility.

But again the question begs, was the season a success?  The answer to that question might lie not in what happened on the field though.

A 6-6 record is almost a worst-case scenario for a college football program.  It essentially keeps a program in limbo as there’s not much to point to as progress while there isn’t likely enough failure to warrant sweeping changes.  Now, some programs would view 6-6 as an abject failure but those are the bluebloods of the sport that win 10 games a year by just falling out of bed.

However, programs the caliber of Texas Tech often view 6-6 as the lowest acceptable mark that the program can endure.  Thus, this year, the Red Raiders did just enough to have an acceptable season.

But for some reason, this 6-6 feels more hopeful and satisfying than other 6-6 seasons might.  And there are a number of reasons why.

First of all, teams that make in-season coaching changes rarely see their product on the field improve after the original head coach is axed.  But this year, you could argue that, despite going 1-3 after Wells’ dismissal, Tech played its best to close out the season.

For starters, the lone win in that span, the dramatic last-second win over Iowa State, was the best victory of the season given the opponent and the adversity that the Red Raiders had to endure over the course of that game.  Thus, that win, the last of the regular season, carried with it more weight than say the wins over Kansas or Florida International.

Of course, it would have been fantastic to secure another upset victory in November but that wasn’t to be as Tech had to close the year by facing the two teams that will be playing in the Big 12 Championship Game, Oklahoma State and Baylor.  But in each of those games, Tech showed far more fight than what we saw in Wells-led losses to the likes of Texas and TCU.  Thus, it is hard to argue that the team didn’t put forth better efforts under interim head coach Sonny Cumbie than it did under Wells and that’s one reason why the way the regular season ended is easier to swallow this year.

Naturally, the fact that this season is not over is also a pleasant outcome.  Bowl eligible for the first time since 2017, the Red Raiders have cleared the lowest bar of success the sport has to offer and that’s got to be one reason why 2021 feels mildly successful.

But the biggest reason that this regular season feels like an overall victory for the Texas Tech football program is the fact that the fan base is finally back on board and emotionally invested once again.  That’s something that hasn’t been the case since the middle of the Kliff Kingsbury era circa 2016.

The subtraction of Wells took away a figure that had, fairly or not, become the villain in this story.  Instead of rallying together against the villains in Austin, Stillwater, Norman, or Waco, large factions of Tech fans had come together to rail against Wells and until he was no longer the face of the program, this was going to be a divided and largely apathetic fandom.  Now, there is no in-house scapegoat to hurl anger and frustration upon and that has helped to turn the fanbase back into one cohesive group.

What’s more, the Joey McGuire hiring was met with overwhelming support.  From the moment of his introductory press conference, he’s been winning back fans that had turned away from the program.  His infectious optimism and deep Texas roots have endeared him to almost all Red Raiders, but especially to those who had given up on this program under the previous regime.

Speaking of hope, they say that without it, a man has nothing.  And when the 2021 season reached the mid-way point, there was little hope amongst Texas Tech football fans following two embarrassing losses to Texas and TCU.  That felt like the low point of this program’s long descent into obscurity and irrelevance, a fall that began back in December of 2009.

Now, it feels like the momentum is headed upwards for the first time in recent memory.  That’s because the fan base is once again united together in support of the program and the man leading it, a man who in less than a month on the job has already won over the vast majority of his constituency and restored hope across the plains of West Texas.

So despite the fact that a 6-6 record might look like it is the college football version of no man’s land, the reality is that there are different types of 6-6 seasons and Tech just finished one that no one will soon forget.  Thankfully, the last three months have proven to heal old wounds and remove cancerous elements while subsequently stirring within most of us a new wind of excitement for the future as we all come together to hope in and rally around our new head coach.  And because hope has once again been restored in the Hub City, 2021 has to be considered a success.

No comments:

Post a Comment