LUBBOCK, TEXAS (AP) - But for two second-half meltdowns, No. 24 Texas A&M might be undefeated and still in the national championship hunt heading into Saturday night’s game at Texas Tech.
Instead, it’s the Red Raiders bringing an unblemished record into the final Big 12 matchup between the two old rivals, the last hurrah before the Aggies leave for the Southeastern Conference next season.
The game will be a homecoming of sorts for Aggies senior quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who grew up about 100 south of Lubbock in Big Spring. He said his team is in “dire need” of a win.
“It’s nice to be able to go back but this game could be anywhere in the country,” said Tannehill, who started and won his first game at quarterback last year against Texas Tech. But “we are coming off two tough losses and we need to win this game.”
Texas A&M had a 17-point lead at home against Oklahoma State after two quarters and lost 30-29. They squandered an 18-point halftime lead to Arkansas last week and lost 42-38.
Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville doesn’t think the losses will hamper the Aggies (2-2, 0-1 Big 12).
“I don’t think it will be a big effect for them,” he said. “Sometimes the best teams don’t win. The ball bounced the other way, you don’t get a break.”
The Aggies need look back no further than last year to see that their season can be repaired. After an early three-game losing streak _ to Oklahoma State, Arkansas and Missouri _ they came back to compete for the Big 12 title.
“We’re so close,” Tannehill said. “It’s no time to get crazy or freak out. We just need to make good plays.”
Tannehill, who threw for a school-record 449 yards and four touchdowns in last year’s 45-27 win over the Red Raiders in College Station, said his team understands the challenge. He is averaging 285 passing yards this season but has thrown five interceptions.
“You can’t play one half and expect to win,” he said. “You have to play the full game on both sides of the ball.”
The game pits two of the worst defenses in the country: Texas A&M is dead last (120th) in pass defense and the Red Raiders are nearly at the bottom (117th) against the rush _ not a great situation since the Aggies are No. 15 nationally rushing behind Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael.
The two average a combined 192 yards rushing per game, and they could have banner days against a Texas Tech defense that allows 229. Last year, the Aggies got 174 rushing yards on 43 carries.
“It’s going to be pretty tough,” Red Raiders defensive back Tre’ Porter said. “Last year they put up pretty big numbers.”
On the other side, Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege is ninth nationally in passing yards per game (328.7) with 14 touchdowns and just one interception.