Tommy Tuberville

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Junior tight end Jace Amaro is starting to claw his way into the Texas Tech record books, the same books that NFL standouts Wes Welker, Michael Crabtree and Julian Edelman have etched their names into.

He needs just 143 more yards to leave only Michael Crabtree as the only Red Raider to have more receiving yards in a single season. Just 17 receptions to find himself behind only Crabtree in single-season receptions.

He became the first player on any team since 2008 to be named a semifinalist for both the Mackey Award, which is given to the nation’s best tight end every year and the Biletnikoff Award, which is handed out to the country’s top receiver. Amaro was even named to seven midseason All-American teams.

But at this time last year, it wasn’t smooth sailing.

He was coming off a frustrating freshman season that saw him on the sidelines and getting arrested for credit card fraud to buy drinks at a bar.

In Texas Tech’s stunning victory against then-No. 5 West Virginia, Amaro’s season pretty much came to
an end.

He was in the midst of a career-best game when quarterback Seth Doege hit him across the middle. He jumped to make the grab, but got drilled in the midsection.

Amaro thought he just got the wind knocked out of him, so he returned to the game in the second half to finish off his 156-yard game, setting a new career high. But near the end of the game, he realized something wasn’t right. He was struggling to breathe.

“That kid looked like a piece of hamburger meat a while ago,” then-head coach Tommy Tuberville said after the game. “He threw up the entire halftime. He’s a football player. You can tell his enthusiasm kind of bleeds over into the other guys.”

And bleeding is exactly what happened. He suffered a lacerated spleen, fractured rib and internal bleeding.

Forget games. Forget practice. Forget lifting.

Amaro struggled to eat and talk. He couldn’t even go to class for three weeks. He did his homework from the comfort of his own bed. Texas Tech rarely brought the injury up.

“Well, the first doctor told me I was going to be out for two weeks. I was pretty pissed about that,” Amaro said. “The next guy said four, the next guy said six, and the last one told me three months. So it was kind of a thing where I didn’t want to talk to anybody for a while. So I was mean, that’s just kind of how it was. It was really frustrating.”

But Amaro rushed back to the bowl game to finish his season. And now, the former four-star recruit is beginning to shine. He has been a constant for a team juggling freshman quarterbacks — one of whom, Bake Mayfeild, is the first true freshman walk-on to start a season opener for a
BCS program.

“He’s a big boost on our team the way he plays the game with passion and intensity,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “He wants the ball. He wants it on him, and you appreciate that. His effort in the off-season programs, during practice, he gives you what he’s got and his teammates respect that.”

Even Amaro is more
confident this year. He needs just 20 catches and 173 yards to set the single-season record for receptions and yards by a tight end, a position which the Mackey Award honors every year. Yet the Mackey Award didn’t even have Amaro on its initial watch list. 

“I know what kind of player I am, and I’m not sure why I’m not on it,” Amaro said earlier this year. “But I know that these guys in this building and the media and everyone else has a plan for me. I’m just going to keep on playing.”

Amaro is now a Mackey Award semifinalist and Texas will have its hands full trying to slow him down.

Iowa State's Jared Barnett, left, scores a touchdown against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders laid a dud after a strong performance against Oklahoma.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Two weeks ago, the Red Raiders shocked the No. 3 Sooners and college football when they defeated the potential national championship contender in Norman 41-38. They were only the third team to defeat Oklahoma at home in the Bob Stoops era.

They came back the next week to face lowly, unranked Iowa State. But, the Cyclones easily defeated them by a score of 41-7.

So what happened?

“We don’t know to handle success, obviously,” said Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville.

They had an impressive 572 yards against the Sooner and only 290 against Iowa State. In addition, 12 of the 15 possessions Tech had ended in punts or interceptions.

“I keep telling everybody, you can’t win games and championships with offense every week,” Tuberville said. “Your offense is going to have a bad game. You’ve got to have a defensive football team.”

In the loss to Iowa State, who had not won a conference game, the defense gave up 512 yards, 368 of those yards were rushing and the Cyclones took an early 21-0 lead. Credit has to be given to the Cyclones’ offensive line who held their own in the game. Iowa State quarterback Jarred Barnett, who is known for his mobility, rushed for more than 100 yards. The Red Raiders could not contain him consistently. Mobile quarterbacks such as Barnett and Baylor’s Robert Griffin have consistently been a problem for the Red Raider defense.

An important factor of the game was that the Cyclones had possession of the ball for 40 minutes of the game, giving the Red Raiders little time to score and putting a lot of pressure on the defense, who is ranked 93rd nationally. The offense was waiting impatiently on the sideline for most of the game.

In a span of three weeks, the team went from being unranked with no votes, to ranked 19th by the Associated Press, to receiving no votes again.

“We’re exactly the same team,” he said. “We just played totally opposite of the way we played against Oklahoma.”

Although the game against Iowa State did not turn out how the Red Raiders had hoped, the offense is still ranked 14th nationally in scoring with an average of 29 points per game.

But Seth Doege, who was Tech’s hero when they defeated Oklahoma, finished the game against the Cyclones 16-of-32 for 171 yards and two interceptions. They completed a mere three of 13 third down conversions and punted the ball nine times.

“We’re not fast enough, we’re not quick enough, we’re not big enough on the defensive line to say we can go lineup and just shut anybody down on defense,” Tuberville said. “Or we’re not good enough on offense experience-wise to say we can go out and score 40, 50 points every time we lineup unless we have a lot of confidence.”

The real question is, who is Texas Tech? Was the fluke defeating Oklahoma or losing to Iowa State?

“[Texas Tech] will come into Austin mad,” said Texas head coach Mack Brown. “Iowa State is one of those teams that when they get you like they did us last year, they relish that opportunity.”

It is not clear why Tech’s dramatic breakdown occurred last Saturday or how exactly they potentially ruined Oklahoma’s national championship hopes, but it is clear they are coming to Austin on Saturday determined for the “W.”

Texas Tech's Seth Doege, No. 7, throws under pressure from Iowa State's Jake Knott. Doege has fit into Texas Tech's pass-first system easily.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

When Mike Leach was in Lubbock, the Red Raiders were known for their great passing attack and for good reason. In Mike Leach’s 10 years there, each one of his quarterbacks passed for at least 3,400 yards a season.

But that isn’t even the most impressive part. He had a quarterback go for more than 5,000 yards on four separate occasions. These seasons include B.J. Symons’ year in 2003 where he set the NCAA single-season record with 5,883 yards thrown and Graham Harrel’s time on campus in which he became the all-time NCAA leader in touchdowns — until Houston’s Case Keenum broke that record last week.

Leach’s time with the Red Raiders wasn’t always about the offense; he was also highly successful in the wins and losses column. In his 10 years as the head man at the biggest school in West Texas, he did not suffer a losing season and made a bowl game every year. He also led Tech to its highest rank ever in 2008 when they reached No. 2 overall in the country and won a share of the Big 12 title.

However, for Leach that success was short lived, because only a year later he would run into trouble that would cost him his job. Leach was fired in 2009 after a controversy in which he mistreated a player who was suffering a concussion, by mocking him and twice confining him to small, dark places while the team was practicing.

After Leach was let go, the Red Raiders hired former Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville, to continue the program’s elevation to prominence. Which he has done, as Tech went 8-5 in the 2010 season, and are well on their way to another bowl game this year with a 5-3 record thus far.

However, the big question that Tech’s fans wanted answered before Tuberville was hired regarded what system he would run after Leach so successfully employed the spread for so many years. But he quickly put those questions to rest.

“I want to be exciting. I want to be versatile,” Tuberville said in his opening press conference in 2010.

“Again, I’ve been a defensive coach all my life. But the one thing I will tell you is that all of us that are defensive coaches all think we’re better offensive coaches than the offensive guys because we study so much of offense. We’re going to air it out. We’re going to keep the air raid. I think it’s something that Tech has hit upon that gives them that identity to recruit and we all want to have.”

But because of Tuberville’s background with defense, there will still a lot of questions about how well Tech would be able to move the ball. However, those questions were put to rest in 2010 when Tech ranked seventh overall in the country passing at 318.9 yards a game. They did not slow down in number of attempts either, throwing the ball 617 times during the year; equaling out to a clip of 47 throws a game.

That passing attack hasn’t slowed down so far in 2011 either, as a matter of a fact it has only become more explosive. The Red Raiders are averaging 359.6 yards a game and they are throwing the ball around even more, at 50 times a game.

This year’s team is led by junior Seth Doege, another quarterback in the long line of Texas Tech gunslingers. Like most of his predecessors, he’s slightly undersized at 6-foot-1, but he makes up for it with a high football IQ and an above-average arm, which could very well give defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and the Longhorns offense fits this week.

“I’ve seen enough to know that I don’t like him [Doege] (laughs). The first thing that jumps out: He can make all the throws in their offense. He can throw the ball to the wide side the field,” Diaz said.

While the Longhorns will come out ready to slow down the Tech offense, it will still prove extremely difficult to stop because of their great system that is in place. This is the same system that has kept Tech as one of the highest scoring and most explosive offenses in the nation for the last decade.

“The beauty of this offense is that they’ve got sort of a group of pass concepts that are just tried and tested and true, and they just run them over and over and over again. And they run them very fast,” Diaz said. 

Big 12 Gunslingers

Zach Long | AP Photo/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

It had been almost two years since Seth Doege made his last start at quarterback for the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

But last Saturday, the junior from Wolfforth stepped back onto the field of Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock at the helm of the Texas Tech offense and looked to continue the streak of Red Raider quarterbacks with big passing numbers.

Completing 23 of his 33 passes for 326 yards and two TDs, Doege led the Red Raiders to a 50-10 victory over the Texas State Bobcats on Saturday during his first full game as the Texas Tech starting QB.

“I just saw in his eyes, he was a little bit nervous,” Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville said about Doege’s performance against Texas State. “But you would be, too.”

Despite the nerves, Doege completed nine passes of 20 yards or more — including a 41-yard toss to junior receiver Darrin Moore in the first quarter — and avoided any turnovers.

“I thought he kept his composure fine. Made some great, long throws and thought he did a good job and pulled the ball down a couple times and ran it when he needed to,” Tuberville said. “Again, he’s a first-year player. So we’ll get better as we go. We just have to have some luck.”

Although Doege had a solid showing and led the Red Raiders to a win over the Bobcats, he has a long way to go to match the career performances of past Texas Tech quarterbacks such as Kliff Kingsbury and Graham Harrell.

In his four years for the Red Raiders, Kingsbury threw for 12,429 yards including 95 TDs and a completion percentage of 65.4. Graham Harrell, who is now a backup quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, threw for a school record 15,793 yards and 134 TDs with a completion percentage of 69.2.

Unlike Doege, Kingsbury and Harrell both started three of their four years at quarterback and each ran the Texas Tech offense under former head coach Mike Leach — a coach known for his love of the passing game.

In their first games as starting QB for the Red Raider offense, Kingsbury threw for 492 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-28 win over Oklahoma in 1999, while Harrell threw for 342 yards and 5 TDs to give Texas Tech a 35-3 victory over SMU in 2006.

Despite the pressure to live up to his predecessors, Doege said the pressure didn’t get to him during Saturday’s game against the Bobcats.

“I never felt rattled,” Doege said. “Maybe the first drive I was a little anxious, but overall I felt calm the entire game. Once we started making some plays, got the ball rolling, things started clicking for us.”

During his first start as a Red Raider in 2009, Doege — then a redshirt freshman — threw for 159 yards, completing 14 of his 28 passes during his one half of play against Kansas. Doege then spent the next two years on the bench behind quarterbacks Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield, appearing in only two games in 2010 and throwing four passes for a combined 58 yards.

Although Doege won’t have to wait two years again to get his next start, he will have to wait one more week as the Red Raiders have a bye week before they face New Mexico on Sept. 17.

“When I first got here, I hadn’t played in a while and I was a little bit insecure about things, and now that the new coaching staff has come along they have really brought me a long way from where I was at the beginning,” Doege said. “They have really helped me mature and bring confidence to my game.”