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November 19, 2008

Notebook: Tech still expects a hostile crowd

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

Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma
Streaking Red Raiders:
Texas Tech boasts the nation's longest win streak at 12 games, dating back to last year's win over Oklahoma.
Last time in Norman:
The Red Raiders jumped out to a 24-17 halftime lead but were held scoreless in the second half and lost 34-24.
Playing for the South:
For the second time in Mike Leach's tenure, the Red Raiders' Big 12 South title hopes can be sealed with a win in Norman. Texas Tech entered the 2002 game in Norman with a shot at winning the division but suffered a 60-15 setback.
Ground game excelling:
Texas Tech's 1,326 rushing yards this season is the most since 2003, while the Red Raiders' 25 rushing scores is five shy of the school record of 30 set in 1993.
All-time series record:
The Sooners lead 11-4.
He may get overshadowed by All-Universe wideout Michael Crabtree, but 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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