October 4, 2011

West Texans talk rivalry

Texas Tech receivers Austin Zouzalik and Bradley Marquez, native West Texans, have some of the closest personal connections to the Texas Tech-Texas A&M rivalry.

Zouzalik grew up playing football at Lubbock Coronado High School and has been aware of the rivalry from an early age and Marquez grew up in Odessa, Texas, in another pro-Tech environment.

"It means a lot to me," Zouzalik, a junior, said. "Not only because I grew up here going to the games, but a bunch of my mom and dad's sides of the family went to A&M. I think there's about five of us that went to Tech and the rest is all A&M so it's bragging rights inside the family.

"It does make (the game) a little more fun. I try not to look forward to it any more than the others ones, but there's a little bit extra on the line when the Aggies come to town. It's in-state and it's also within the family."

"So there must have been some maroon in your home growing up?" one reporter jokingly asked Zouzalik.

"When I was growing up my grandparents would put it in my room," Zouzalik said. "They'd go to the bonfire and bring me back shirts and stuff like that. My mom would try to hide all of that stuff.

"It's a rivalry within our household for sure."

Marquez, a freshman, expects Saturday's game to be the biggest one he plays in thus far into his career.

"Definitely, probably, the best game I've played into up to this point," the freshman receiver said. "Definitely excited for it, the blackout and it's just going to be amazing. They're already camping out for the game, I've seen that, so just the vibe around here you can kind of feel it.

"Playing back in high school, we played our cross-town rivals and it's kind of the same feel. But there's definitely a lot more people and the atmosphere will make it exciting. Definitely excited to see how it goes Saturday."

Marquez's first Tech football game to attend was the 2005 Tech-Texas A&M game in Lubbock.

"The first collegiate football game I ever attended was a Texas Tech-A&M football game," Marquez said. "It was the year when Dwayne Slay was the safety and Jorvorski Lane was at running back. I sat in the home stands and had pretty good seats at that. Definitely a fun game to watch and I enjoyed every bit of it.

"Growing up in West Texas, everyone is talking about the Longhorns, the Aggies or the Red Raiders. You always wear those shirts and root your team on that weekend that next Monday when they won…. Definitely glad to play in this atmosphere and the opportunity to get it going on Saturday."


AVOIDING BULLETIN BOARD MATERIAL

Texas A&M's passing defense is among the worst in the nation entering the Tech game. It wouldn't be a shocker to see the Red Raiders exploit the middle of the Aggies' passing defense through the air.

Zouzalik wouldn't talk much about the Texas A&M defense, however.

Monday, quarterback Seth Doege was extremely open about growing up a Red Raider fan and cited the Texas A&M rivalry as a big part of the Tech football experience. He went on to say he would have preferred Texas A&M to be an undefeated Top 10 team entering Saturday's game.

Zouzalik opted not to add fuel to the fire by calling out the Aggies' defensive struggles.

"I haven't watched any of their games, but I guess if it is, I don't want to make any more bulletin board material so I'll stay away from that one," Zouzalik said with a smile. "We'll let Doege do that."

SETTING AN EARLY TONE

A lot of discussion between now and Saturday will center around the Red Raiders' inability to start strong and Texas A&M's struggle to close opponents out with an early lead.

Head coach Tommy Tuberville said during the Monday press conference it is up to the players to fix that problem.

"We've just got to get in a groove," Marquez said. "It's just a matter of finding a rhythm early and riding it through the rest of the game. We've struggled just at the beginning and for what reason I really can't tell you. Definitely, we're working hard on that in practice to correct that to come out strong and finish strong just to get that edge.

"We pretty much need to be perfect for four quarters to come out with the victory we're aiming for."

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!