Friday, December 29, 2006

Red-Headed Stepchild

When I first came to A&M in the mid 90's, the titular epithet was a favorite for describing Texas Tech's relative rank as a state "flagship" school. Much has been written on the "rivalry" (e.g. here, here) or lack thereof in recent years. Talk from school administrators about holding the annual game in Dallas certainly does nothing to quash such debate [sidebar: Dr. Gates recently outed himself as Ranger65 on the premiere on-line destination for Texas Aggies, where he reported his own opinions that 1) the game should not be moved to Dallas, and 2) Tech shouldn't be considered our principal rivals].

I started this post two months ago after the first of three heartbreaking losses at Kyle Field that would have gone our way but for the combined total of six points. I saw the loss coming when, at a crucial third and two...from the two yard line...Coach Fran calls a timeout and J. Train knows what's coming because you could see a disgusted look on his face as he pulled his helmet off going to the sideline. Sure enough, when the Ags took the field again, we go for the pass (when we haven't completed one all night) and muff it, settling for a field goal. There are a lot of things that are out of the control of a coaching staff, but play calling is not one of them. (One astute poster at Texags.com put together this impressive set of data, knowing Coach Fran's penchant for coaching by the book, illustrating how thick-skulled this call was.)

Another thing that is a coach's responsibility, in my opinion, is a sense of urgency. Throughout the season I've commented on our apparent lack of a "hurry-up" offense and the lacksadasical manner in which the offense trots from the huddle to the line. I know, it's apples and oranges, but when I played in high school Coach Basinger taught us that the intensity it takes to drive your opponent off the line begins with the attitude you bring from the huddle. The commentators at last night's debacle of a Holiday Bowl echoed those concerns.

I closely resemble the titular epithet, though I can gladly report I wasn't mistreated the way the rest of the saying usually goes. I wonder if the Aggies (at least in football, hopefully not in basketball) are taking Tech's place as the hopelessly ill-fated younger siblings to the perennial powerhouses of the Big XII South (the recent win over t.u. notwithstanding).

Earlier in the week, my brother asked me if the Aggies were going to help him win his fantasy football bracket and I had to confess that the outcome depended alot on whether or not our secondary could stop the big plays. The defense in general and the secondary in particular have made great strides this season. But, we still couldn't shut down Cal's passing attack...and then were too demoralized to shut down their running attack. Perhaps one reason is that it looks like we spend too much time trying to strip the ball. I'd much rather see us hit with abandon (and wrap up!) and let the turnovers happen as they will.

So, I have an idea: co-head coaches. Has this been done before? Could we afford it? We give the Defense to R.C. Slocum and the Offense to Fran...maybe between the two of them they can strike the necessary balance of emotional connectedness and strategy we so despereately need.

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