football

Notebook: Tech still expects a hostile crowd

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When No. 2 Texas Tech takes the field at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial
Stadium on Saturday, they will face an Oklahoma squad that is ranked fifth in
the BCS and boasts a very impressive 23-game home winning streak. Bob Stoops, head coach of the Sooners, is aware of his team's successes at home
but is slow to give the fans any credit.
"Hopefully it's our focus and all, hopefully our fans will be more active,"
commented Stoops at a press conference on Tuesday. "I don't think it is because
of how loud and ruckus our fans are."
When a reporter responded that "it certainly didn't hurt that [Sooner] fans get
on the other team," Stoops shot back, "When has that happened?"
The head coach reiterated his seemingly negative assessment of the home crowd's
involvement when told that Texas Tech's Colby Whitlock was expecting a
"rude awakening" in Norman.
"Why? Here? I've seen a lot of teams come in here and not even use silent
counts," stated Stoops. "I'm not so sure I'm with you on all of that. We haven't
been a real loud stadium.
"Now, when we score touchdowns and we're running into the goal line, it's
usually pretty loud. That usually doesn't matter to the opposing team."
Texas Tech's coaching staff has obviously had experience playing in Norman, and
they aren't necessarily in agreement with the Sooners' head man. Running backs
coach Seth Littrell, a team captain of Oklahoma's 2000 National
Championship squad, thinks the Sooner fans provide an electric game day
environment.
"It will be a great atmosphere. Their fans are going to be excited but when it
comes down to it we just got to make a play."
Another coach with playing experience in Norman, but against Oklahoma, is
defensive graduate assistant Chris Hudler. In 2006, he was a defensive starter
on a team that nearly pulled off an upset over the Sooners.
"It's a hard place to play," said Hudler. "The fans get after you a little bit.
"You got some good fans that just cheer for their team, and other fans that
throw stuff at you and yell at you, stuff like that. It's a hostile environment
anywhere you go in the Big 12 other than when you're at home."
We won't know until Saturday whether or not Stoops' comments encourage the
Sooner faithful to put their best foot forward, but one thing, however, is for
certain: Graham Harrell and the offense will not be rattled no matter
how boisterous the crowd is.
"We communicate every single day. Every Thursday we work crowd noise. We can run
our whole offense without saying a single word," explained Littrell.
LEWIS HAVING A BIG YEAR
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Detron Lewis has quietly put together a very solid season, especially
for a true sophomore. He is second on the team in receptions (57) and receiving
yards (730), and boasts an average yards-per-catch nearly identical to that of
Crabtree (12.8 to 12.9).
"He's really improved this year," explained Texas Tech inside receivers coach
Lincoln Riley. "We knew going in that he was a pretty explosive guy.
The thing about Detron is that he's been real consistent all year and I've been
really happy with that."
On the field, Lewis is very similar to one of his predecessors at the 'Y'
receiver position: Robert Johnson. The quarterback-turned-wideout wasn't the
fastest guy on the field, but moved well in space and was very slippery.
"[Lewis] can really separate from guys when he catches the ball," added Riley. "His top end speed is not great - it's good but it's not great - but he can
really get to that speed fast, his acceleration is really good. He's able to
pick up more yards than most can in a short amount of time."
Interestingly enough, though Lewis is arguably turning in one of the best
sophomore campaigns for a Tech receiver in the Leach era (right below Jarrett
Hicks in 2004 and Crabtree this season), the College Station product has only
one caught one touchdown this year.
"It's sometimes just weird how those things shake out," said Riley. "Our 'Y'
[receivers]'s have, together at that position, caught a lot of balls, maybe more
balls than any other position. So they really produce, it's just touchdowns
happen to go the other way.
"I know Detron and Tramain [Swindall] have both had touchdowns called back by
penalties, and one because Graham [Harrell]'s helmet got ripped off. Part of its
just luck of the draw, but those guys are very aware of it. Guys give'em a hard
time about it."
SOONER OFFENSE A STERN TEST FOR RED RAIDERS
Quick, who's leading the Big 12 Conference in touchdown passes? Nope, not Graham
Harrell or Missouri's Chase Daniel. It's Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, who's tossed an eye-boggling 38 touchdowns through ten games this
season. The sophomore gunslinger leads an Oklahoma offense that, over the last
three games, has put up an average of 47.3 points in the first half alone.
"I think he has great composure, and he throws the ball well," commented Texas
Tech head coach Mike Leach. "I think he does a pretty good job of leading the
unit."
"Pretty good job" is an understatement. Oklahoma leads the Bowl Subdivision in
red zone efficiency, coming away with points in 95-percent of their
opportunities inside the 20, with 89-percent of those chances resulting in
touchdowns.
"He's a good quarterback," said Hudler. "He's got a good o-line blocking for him
and he's got a lot of guys around him that make plays when he gets them the
ball. He's a good guy and if you leave somebody open, he's going to find that
guy. He's a good one."
Bradford gets it done through the air, but the Sooners have a tandem of running
backs that are more than capable of moving the chains on the ground.
DeMarco Murray and
Chris Brown are the Big 12's third and fourth leading
rushers, and have combined for 1,586 yards and 23 touchdowns.
"They have a great running game," commented defensive end Jake Ratliff.
"They have an offensive line to move people out of the way and are the biggest
offensive line we have played this year. They are very physical and they just
run behind those guys and they make the holes for them."
Much like Texas Tech's powerful offense, when it gets right down to the
nitty-gritty, it's Oklahoma's offensive line that makes it all click.
"First thing you notice is how big they are," said Hudler. "They probably rival
our o-line across the board size-wise. They're big guys and have a lot of
experience up front. They're all big and mean guys. We've just got to come off
and attack and take the fight to them."
BYE WEEK MOMENTUM KILLER?
With a bye right after two-consecutive primetime, nationally televised home
victories against top 10 conference opponents, one might think that any momentum
gained over those two weeks would be slightly blunted or killed entirely.
According to the Red Raiders, to a man, that isn't the case.
"A drop off in momentum? No," stated senior offensive lineman Rylan Reed. "We are just so focused and so prepared, I really don't think there
is a chance of that happening. The first time we had one, after the UMass game,
I thought we did really good. We were able to heal up some bodies and work on
some fundamentals and technique. It was good."
Littrell echoed Reed's sentiments.
"I think [the bye] gave them a chance to clear their minds mentally," he said.
"Last week was kind of a mental check, to where you can clear your mind a little
bit, have a little bit of fun, relax a little bit. I think, in the long run,
this week will help us and hopefully we come back better this week, a lot
better, than we did in the last game.
"The biggest thing is that you've got to win one game a week. You can't look
ahead and you can't look behind. We've had some pretty good situations this year
where we could've looked in the past a little bit and felt pretty good about
ourselves, and we could have looked ahead at a few games this year. Our guys
haven't done that, I don't think that they're going to do that this week."
TECH UP AGAINST AN ATHLETIC DEFENSE
Even though Oklahoma's defense may be, statistically, the worst in Bob Stoops'
tenure, Texas Tech still has a monstrous test in front of them. Regardless of
the stats, the Red Raiders have had serious issues scoring points on the Sooners
over the last nine seasons and have yet to put up 35 or more points on them
during that time span.
"It's their athleticism," said Littrell. "They have a ton of athletes out there
and they make a ton of plays. They're extremely fast. They've had some bumps and
bruises along the way, but I feel like they'll be pretty healthy this week.
"They're probably going to be the most athletic defense we'll face this year.
We've just got to go in there and play extremely fast ourselves."
While the Sooners have, on average, given up a lot of yards on defense
(especially through the air) this season, one area in which they excel is
getting to the quarterback. Oklahoma is third in the nation in sacks, averaging
an impressive 3.4 a game.
"There's a lot of talent," said Reed. "Another great defensive line that we are
going to have to face. We're going to have to get ready for anything. They are
going to try and beat us with talent and we're just going to have to make sure
we are the most ready team out there. We've done a great job of it so far, we
just have to keep it going."
QUOTABLE QUICK HITS
"All of the teams that we've played since [Kansas] have run no-huddle and get
back on the ball quick. It's something we've done some, picked tempos up some in
practices and getting used to it. It's stuff we've seen already." - Chris Hudler,
when asked about Oklahoma's no-huddle offense.
"It's always fun when you're 10-0." - Lincoln Riley, when asked about the team's
chemistry this season.
"This is a great team we're fixing to play. They're always very tough to beat.
They've got great players and great coaches." - Seth Littrell, when asked about
the matchup Oklahoma.
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