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November 9, 2011
Senior defenders play for family
A lot of Senior Day attention will revolve around Adam James' reception, but there are far more compelling senior storylines heading into Texas Tech's big matchup against No. 2 Oklahoma State this weekend.
For defensive tackle Donald Langley, the game is more for someone who won't be at Jones AT&T Stadium than who will be there. At the same time, defensive end Scott Smith is trying to make the most out of his remaining time as a Red Raider.
And both are trying to work on run defense to make sure the No. 2 team in the country can get away easily.
"I'm upset, more embarrassed really," Smith said. "They didn't even punt the ball one time last week. I don't know man, you've just got to go back out to practice and practice hard. Fix what we were doing wrong and come out and play the next game.
"They just lined it up and were running it right at us and we just couldn't stop it. You've got to be able to stop it. So stop it."
No one wants to lose on Senior Day, but there probably aren't five stronger teams in college football than Oklahoma State -- and that's saying something because the Cowboy defense severely lags behind its high-powered offense and relies on takeaways.
If the Red Raider offense can put the ball in the endzone this week and the Tech defense can be more effective in stopping the run, then all the team has to do is hang on as Oklahoma State goes to its version of the old 'Air Raid' offense.
Maybe it sounds harder than it really is. The Red Raiders already have a Top Five win against then-No. 3 Oklahoma -- another team that could be considered one of the top five teams in college football -- by allowing the Sooners to make their own mistakes through the air.
Running the ball isn't exactly Oklahoma State's forte. In last weeks 52-45 win against Kansas State the Cowboys had 575 total yards, but just 73 yards on the ground. Mustering up just a little bit of run defense will make the Cowboys take to the air and that's a situation the Red Raiders can survive in.
It will be something special if Tech can pull off its second major upset of the season.
"It's going to be real emotional," Langley said. "This game is for my mom, my mom passed away in November, 2008. She never really got to see me play here at Tech, but I know she's always with me and been with me since I was a child praying every night for me to get a Division I scholarship to now in my last home game."
Langley got dealt a rough hand after an All-American high school career.
Aside from Langley's mother's death, he originally attended Tennessee to play under Phil Fulmer. Fulmer got replaced by Lane Kiffin after Langley's freshman year.
Langley wanted out but Kiffin wouldn't let him out of his scholarship. So Langley dropped down to the junior college ranks in Mississippi before being able to return to Division I football at Tech.
Now the adventure is coming to an end.
Then there's Smith, another junior college transfer who played very well but cut his Division I career in half with a 12-game suspension.
About 30 of Smith's family members in Hawaii gather around a TV early on Saturday mornings to watch Tech play on the ESPN GamePlan college football satellite package, but Saturday will be Smith's immediate family's first chance to see Smith play live since he joined the Division I ranks.
Together, Smith and Langley will have a big say in whether Tech can upset the No. 2 team in the country. And they have a lot to play for.
"It's the last game in the house and we're playing the No. 2 team in the country," Smith said. "I'm pumped for it, any time you play anyone in the Top 25 it makes it just that much better. It's my last game and hopefully I can get some sacks or something special. I want to rock the Jones a little bit before I leave.
"It'd be the best feeling in the world to win with my family in town. That's why I'm happy we've got the opportunity. I'm happy we're playing the No. 2 team in the country this week."