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November 26, 2009

Raider fans have reasons to be thankful

Like all fan-bases, Texas Tech sports fans do their fair share of complaining. We whine when newly expanded Jones AT&T Stadium is not crammed to capacity, we bellyache when only 3,000 people show up to watch the men's basketball team play some directional school from Louisiana, and we carp when Mike Leach doesn't call a press conference to squelch every rumor about his alleged interest in a two-bit coaching job started by some half-baked blogger banging away in a basement in Battle Creek.

Not that some of the beefs aren't legit. But it's all too easy to get consumed by negativity and make ziggurats out of zits. It's also very easy to dwell on the negative and forget all the good stuff that's going on in the Texas Tech athletic department. And believe me, good things are a-happening, and the future has rarely looked brighter. So let's take a look at some of the things every self-respecting Red Raider should be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day.

Another Winning Football Season... with Room to Spare: I know many Tech football fans are a bit down in the mouth because the Red Raiders will only finish 8-4, and will not receive a coveted BCS bowl berth. I suppose such disappointment is to be expected from a football program that has made winning seasons and bowl berths positively routine. It is a consequence of high expectations created by success.

But hey, when all is said and done, this team could very well finish the season 9-4 and ranked in the top 25. Not really too bad for a team that lost a potential NFL Hall of Fame receiver, one of the greatest quarterbacks in school history, and practically its entire offensive and defensive lines. And if that wasn't tough enough, the 2009 team has been beset by a plague of injuries to make a medieval sawbones shed a tear.

So be thankful your football program is sound enough to soldier through all of the above. And be thankful you're not pulling for an Oklahoma Sooner team that was expected to be in the BCS championship game, but now may be destined for the Febreze Potpourri Bowl.

Alex Torres: What were the odds that the drop-off from marvelous Michael Crabtree to a walk-on from the Air Force Academy would really not be that steep?

The story of Crabtree is well known and need not be recounted here. Suffice it to say that, after sitting out several months because of a contract dispute, as soon as Crabtree sets foot on the field he is the best receiver on the San Francisco 49ers roster. Crabtree will be an All Pro sooner than later.

Then along comes Alexander Torres to take Crabtree's place. And Torres is the ultimate in obscurity. He was an unknown recruit coming out of high school, and even the Tech coaching staff viewed him as nothing more than a warm body when he first arrived in Lubbock. Yet during his freshman season this former walk-on has emerged as the best receiver on the Tech football team. He leads the squad with 58 receptions, and leads all receivers with six touchdown receptions. He also has fewer drops than any receiver on the team (I recall only one or two all season), and is a very solid blocker.

This guy is a future superstar. Be very grateful he'll be on your team for at least two more seasons.

Pat Ball: For the first time in several seasons it appears that Tech sports fans will have something besides spring football to look forward to once the bowl season is complete. Pat Knight's Red Raider basketball team is making bona fide progress and looks to be highly competitive in the Big 12 this season. The team is off to a 6-0 start, has knocked off a Pac-10 team (Oregon State), and has already won one more road game than they won all last season.

Familiar faces such as John Roberson and Mike Singletary are back, and they will do some damage. And they are augmented by dramatically improved big men D'Walyn Roberts and Darko Cohadarevic, and talented newcomers David Tairu and Brad Reese.

Coach Pat and his staff are putting together a nice little team. If this group gels and develops some special team chemistry, it could come out of the woodwork like the St. Joe's team that had Jameer Nelson and Delonte West, and it could do great things. At the very least, this basketball season should hold the Tech fan's interest all the way to its conclusion. And that conclusion could be in late March.


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