Never In Doubt
Around the time Michael Crabtree caught his second touchdown and stood in the back of the end zone staring at the crowd - or maybe when he celebrated his third score with a high-flying chest bump into Graham Harrell - the questions about Texas Tech vanished.
That victory over then-No. 1 Texas was no emotion-fueled fluke.
The No. 2 Red Raiders truly are one of the best teams in the country.
Harrell and Crabtree picked up right where they left off against the Longhorns, leading Texas Tech to touchdowns on seven straight possessions on the way to trashing No. 8 Oklahoma State 56-20 Saturday night and solidifying an inside track to the national championship game.
``I feel like every week we have something to prove,'' Crabtree said. ``We really don't too much worry about what other people think. We worry about what we can control, and that's us, and that's our team.''
Now that the Red Raiders have gotten by two straight top-10 foes, one more awaits: No. 6 Oklahoma. In Norman.
At least Texas Tech (10-0, 6-0 Big 12) has next weekend off to get ready for yet another game that will be billed as the most important in school history. The stakes will be high - the biggest remaining obstacle to winning the Big 12 South, earning a spot in the conference title game and playing its way into the national championship game.
``We've said that all year - we have a chance to be really special,'' Harrell said. ``We've just improved every week, gotten better and continued to win. Hopefully we'll continue to improve and to win.''
The Red Raiders are No. 2 in the BCS standings. This convincing win over a strong foe, plus a loss by Penn State, should keep them bunched up close to top-ranked Alabama. Texas Tech also remains one of five unbeaten teams in the country, and upped its winning streak to 12 in a row, best in the nation and in school history.
``That ranking stuff will sort itself out as long as we keep winning,'' running back Baron Batch said. ``The only thing I can say we deserve is to be 10-0.''
Harrell was 40-of-50 for 456 yards and six touchdowns, three of them to Crabtree, the big, strong sophomore who might be the nation's most dangerous receiver. Harrell lost two fumbles but didn't throw an interception and wasn't sacked. He was rarely even pressured.
Despite playing on a sore left foot, Crabtree caught eight passes for 89 yards while raising his national-best TD total to 18.
``Simply just doing my job,'' he said.
Nine other Red Raiders caught passes on the way to piling up 629 yards - still less than the 718 yards gained in a 49-45 loss to Oklahoma State last year, a game best remembered for the post-game ``I'm a man! I'm 40!'' rant by Cowboys coach Mike Gundy.
``We never could slow them down,'' Gundy said, completely under control this time. ``We couldn't get them out of their rhythm.''
Oklahoma State (8-2, 4-2) came into this game seeking the same goals as Texas Tech. If the Cowboys had won, there would've been a four-way tie atop the division with the Sooners their last remaining obstacle, too. Now, they're in fourth place.
``Obviously, it hurts knowing we're out of it,'' said quarterback Zac Robinson, who was 16-of-28 for 182 yards and an interception. ``But (there's) definitely a lot in front of us, a good bowl game shot and things like that. We'll bounce back and we'll be fine.''
Things looked good for the Cowboys early, when Kendall Hunter scored on a 2-yard run three plays after Oklahoma State recovered a fumbled snap by Harrell. The 7-0 lead only 2:30 into the game silenced a crowd that provided such a boost against Texas the previous Saturday night.
Yet Harrell, the nation's leading passer, marched the Red Raiders 80 yards in five plays. He took them 70 yards on the next drive, then 97 and 72, spreading the ball around, while saving the most important plays for his main man, Crabtree. It was 28-14 at the half and Texas Tech already had 312 yards against a defense allowing an average of 357.4 yards per game.
The only thing that slowed the Red Raiders was the halftime show.
Oklahoma State had the ball to start the second half, driving to get within a touchdown. But tight end Brandon Pettigrew fumbled near midfield and Harrell went back to work. He finished a 48-yard drive with an 8-yard slant to Crabtree, putting Texas Tech up 35-14 and putting the Cowboys down into their biggest deficit of the season.
They answered with a touchdown, but so did the Red Raiders. Crabtree. Again. This time, on a fade.
Oklahoma State still had a chance to make things interesting by starting the fourth quarter at the Texas Tech 20. But Robinson was sacked, then forced to scramble and throw the ball away. Under heavy pressure again on third down, he threw too quickly toward the end zone and was intercepted at the 4. Harrell took over and drove 96 yards for the exclamation-point touchdown.
``That's probably as good of a whole game as we've put together,'' said Eric Morris, who led Tech with 10 catches for 97 yards and a touchdown. ``We were clicking on all cylinders.''
Hunter, the Big 12's leading rusher, ran 17 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
Dez Bryant, who hinted aloud this week that he deserved as much media attention as Crabtree, caught four passes for 86 yards. He didn't have a catch until the final seconds of the first half, when the Cowboys already were down by two touchdowns.
``Our strength is to be able to run the football effectively and throw it and stay balanced,'' Gundy said. ``When you get behind as far as we did, you become one dimensional, and it makes it really difficult.''
At game's end, Tech fans cheered politely. There wasn't a single wild dash onto the field this time, unlike the two premature swarms against Texas.
In two weeks, huge victories have already become routine for the Red Raiders and their fans.
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