LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Tommy Tuberville would just as soon forget last season. He has plenty of Texas Tech fans as company.
Tuberville failed to get the Red Raiders to a bowl game and his team posted its first losing season since 1992, stumbling badly after stunning then-No. 3 Oklahoma with a 41-38 victory that snapped the Sooners’ 39-game home winning streak.
Linebacker Terrance Bullitt said the defense doesn’t want to be remembered for its poor performances the past two seasons.
“The way I see it is we can only go up,” he said. “We’re not going to stay the same because we’ve been working too hard for that. I feel like we have more experience this year, so that’s really going to play a huge factor.”
Art Kaufman, a longtime friend of Tuberville who coached with him in the Southeastern Conference, is the team’s third defensive coordinator in as many years. Tuberville had hoped Chad Glasgow’s hire from TCU at the start of last season would help, but it didn’t and Glasgow is back with the Horned Frogs in Fort Worth. The Red Raiders will play the new Big 12 member there Oct. 20.
The defense gave up a school-record 471 points a year ago and the Red Raiders were outscored in the last five games by an average of 51-20. Twice in three weeks, the defense allowed opponents a school-record 66 points and the season ended with a 5-7 record that cost them a bowl trip for the first time in 11 years.
The defense for a second consecutive year finished No. 114 in the nation. They were dead last in stopping the run.
Kaufman isn’t looking back and is working to keep schemes simple.
“We try to spend more time on how to do what we’re doing,” Kaufman said. “We want to be really good technicians.”
Fans are still grumbling about the bad year, pointing to the record of Tuberville’s popular predecessor, Mike Leach, after two seasons. Leach, set to start his first season at Washington State, went 14-11 in his first two years in Lubbock while Tuberville is 13-12.
“We never got in sync after the Oklahoma game” because of injuries,” said Tuberville, who is in his third season in West Texas. “We had a pretty good team the first five or six games but when you don’t have depth and you have injuries that are season-ending, then you’ve got to play guys who aren’t ready to play. It hurts your timing.”
Twenty-four players missed significant playing time and 16 of those had various surgeries.
“That was our worst nightmare,” Tuberville said of injuries that included running back Eric Stephens and receiver Darrin Moore. “We ran out of players.”
Quarterback Seth Doege, who threw for 28 touchdowns and 4,004 yards last season to lead the nation in passing, is back. He said the receiving corps is strong and deep, and that last year, his first full season as a starter since his sophomore year in high school, taught him plenty.
“I understand being on top of the world and I understand being on the very bottom, so having all that experience is definitely the biggest change going into this year,” the fifth-year senior said. “We want to be the best offense in the country and I feel like we’re talented enough to do that.”
Doege needs to be more consistent, Tuberville said. The quarterback put more pressure on himself after Stephens’ season-ending knee injury in a loss to Texas A&M.
“If our running game’s good, there’s no telling how many yards he’ll throw for,” Tuberville said of Doege. “What we’ve got to do is create problems by being a more balanced team.”
Stephens, who rushed for 580 yards and eight TDs in five games, will be back but how much he plays early on won’t be decided until after August workouts.
Moore, one of the team’s standout receivers (571 yards and eight touchdowns in nine games) until knee and ankle injuries slowed him, is currently suspended from the team following his arrest on a drunken-driving charge. Tuberville said he’ll let the legal process play out before deciding if Moore returns to the team.
Texas Tech opens its season at home Sept. 1 against Northwestern State, a Football Championship Subdivision team.