Top Ten Games in Texas Tech Red Raider Football History
The Texas Tech Red Raiders have taken the field 936 times since its gridiron debut ended in a tie with the McMurray Indians on Oct. 3, 1925.
Since that sacred autumn day upon the open plains nestled atop the Caprock at Lubbock, Texas the Scarlet and Black clad pigskin warriors have recorded 511 glorious victories, 393 gut wrenching defeats and 32 hard fought ties.
Originally dubbed the Matadors and then the Red Raiders, the football teams from Texas Tech University have thrilled the world of sports with a literal plethora of great contests played out on fields of turf and honor.
In what could easily fill countless television episodes in a series aptly entitled “Masterpiece Theatre” the list of great Tech football triumphs is profoundly extensive.
Indeed, an attempt to select a mere ten of these games as “the finest” is an intricate task, riddled with complexities intertwined with grueling pressure.
Throwing all said caution to the wind, the following are but one football enthusiasts’ humble endeavor to choose such a limited number of glorious Texas Tech contests and declare them as “The Top Ten Games in Texas Tech Red Raider Football History.”
10. 1976: TEXAS TECH 31 – TEXAS 28
The Red Raiders were 6 – 0 and ranked No. 6 in the nation coming into their 1976 contest in with the rival Longhorns in Lubbock. Texas entered the contest with a 3-1-1 record including a 6-6 draw vs. perennial rival Oklahoma.
The game was closely contested with Texas taking a narrow 14-10 lead into halftime. The Longhorns began to pull away in the second half extending their lead to a commanding 21 -10 in the third quarter.
Subsequently, Tech mounted a comeback culminating in a drive kept alive by Tech quarterback Rodney Allison, who scrambled 22 yards on 3rd and 7 for an improbable Red Raider first down.
The drive was capped off by a dramatic 1 yard game winning touchdown leap by Red Raider halfback Billy Taylor.
Tech’s defense led by Coordinator Bill Parcells had kept the Longhorns scrambling all day, and, had just enough remaining in the tank to hold on for a fantastic, thrilling 31 – 28 Red Raider victory.
9. 1954: TEXAS TECH 35 – AUBURN 13, Gator Bowl
The 1953 Red Raiders stormed through the regular season earning a 10 – 1 record and an appearance in the 9th annual Gator Bowl vs. the 7 – 2 Auburn Tigers.
The first half was all Tigers as Auburn quarterback Vince Dooley led the offense to 13 points and the defense held Tech to a dismal three first downs. Tech did manage one score and the half ended with the Tigers in the lead 13 – 7.
Though it looked like Auburn would dominate the Raiders, Tech took over in the second half and scored a dazzling 28 points in just over 7 minutes of play.
Tech legend halfback Bobby Cavazos ran for 141 yards on only 13 carries, scored three times and even managed a defensive stop on an interception to prevent an Auburn defensive score.
The 1954 Gator Bowl also marked the first official public appearance of the famed Texas Tech Masked Rider. The Tech mascot had appeared on and off since 1936 but the Tech entrance into the Gator Bowl in 1954 was its first official ride into infamy.
According to Atlanta Journal’s sportswriter Ed Danforth who was also a press box spectator, "No team in any bowl game ever made a more sensational entrance.”
8. 1936: TEXAS TECH 7 – TCU 0
The TCU Horned Frogs came to Lubbock in September 1936 touting a 1935 12 – 1 season record resulting in a Sugar Bowl bid and subsequent victory over the LSU Tigers.
The ’35 Frogs season culminated in the first of the school’s two national championship crowns.
In the first half of play the underdog Tech held the legendary Slingin’ Sammy Baugh and the Frogs to a 0-0 tie.
On its first possession of the second half the Tech offense managed to drive the ball the length of the field. The series culminated in a touchdown scamper by Red Raider Halfback Jim Neill and was capped off with a Chester Hemsel extra point.
Tech’s scrappy defense held on through the remaining two quarters and the Red Raiders knocked off the highly favored defending champion Horned Frogs 7 – 0 in the dedication of the newly renovated Tech stadium.
This stirring upset also witnessed the first appearance of the Saddle Tramps and marked the first time the Masked Rider dashed magnificently onto the field.
Tech would go on to a 5-4-1 record in its 1936 gridiron campaign.
7. 1965: TEXAS TECH 20 – TEXAS A&M 16
The 1965 meeting in Lubbock between the historic rivals marked one of the most fantastic finishes in all of Red Raider history.
Tech entered the game with a 1-1 record recording a season-opening win over Kansas in Lubbock, followed by a loss to the Longhorns in Austin.
It was all Aggies in the first half of play and A&M held a commanding 10-0 lead over the struggling Red Raiders going into halftime. Tech finally managed a score in the 3rd quarter cutting the Aggie lead to 10 -7.
With just less than three minutes left to play in the contest, Tech’s Mike Leinert dove into the end zone putting the Raiders in the lead 13 – 10.
But, Tech’s hard fought comeback seemed to be thwarted when with just 1:38 on the clock the Aggies completed a 40 yard pass play for a touchdown putting A&M back into the lead 16 -13.
Then, with just under a minute remaining in the game Tech’s offense faced third and ten from the A&M 49 yard line when Tech QB Tom Wilson zipped the ball to Jerry Shipley at the A&M 37.
Shipley quickly shoveled the ball back to Tech legend Donny Anderson who cut to his left and then dashed, outwitting several Aggie defensemen for a thrilling Tech touchdown and memorable victory.
The Red Raiders would go on to win their next six games in a row, posting an overall 1965 record of 8 -3 including a loss in the Gator Bowl to Georgia Tech.
6. 2008: TEXAS TECH 31 - VIRGINIA 28, Gator Bowl
The Red Raiders invitation to the Jan. 1 2008 playing of the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida followed an up and down 2007 football campaign culminating in a 8 – 4 record.
Virginia’s credentials for the Gator Bowl included a 9 -3 regular season record and a No. 20 national ranking.
Texas Tech struck first with a Graham Harrell to Detron Lewis touchdown toss, but, Tech was stymied for the remainder of the half as the Cavaliers racked up 2 safeties and 2 touchdowns to bring the halftime score to 21 – 7.
Tech managed an additional score in the 3rd quarter of play but afterwards were once again held out of the end zone by the stingy Virginia defense. The score at the midway point of the 4th quarter was 28 – 14 in favor of the Cavaliers.
The potent Red Raider offense finally scored again with only 3:31 left in regulation on a Harrell to Michael Crabtree pass play making the score 28 - 21 and putting the ball back into Virginia’s capable hands.
For the Virginia faithful the unthinkable happened when, just 30 seconds into the Cavaliers next drive, backup quarterback Peter Lalich was stripped of the football at the Virginia 4 yard line.
The Red Raider offense took the field once again and it took only one play for Aaron Crawford to find the end zone making it a tie ball game at 28-28.
Subsequently Tech’s defense managed a huge stop on the next Virginia offensive series and Tech had the ball again with only two minutes remaining in the game.
Harrell and company managed one more drive, and, 7 plays and 29 yards later Tech kicker Alex Trlica booted a miraculous 41 yard bullet into a whirling windstorm providing the game winning field goal and a glorious, though unbelievable, Tech victory.
5. 2006: TEXAS TECH 44 – MINNESOTA 41, Insight Bowl
The 2006 edition of the Texas Tech Football Red Raiders were 7 – 5 coming into the Insight Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. Tech’s opponent, the Golden Gophers of Minnesota finished their regular season campaign at 6 – 6 including wins in November over Big 10 rivals Iowa and Michigan State.
The first 65% of the contest was literally all Minnesota who held a seemingly unassailable 38 – 7 lead over Tech with only 7:47 left to play in the third quarter. The game looked to be lost, and, in an ugly fashion.
Fortunately for Red Raider fans, offensive mastermind Coach Mike Leach, Graham Harrell, Shannon Woods, Joel Filani, Alex Trlica and an entire Tech squad (who never played like they were out of a game) didn’t think it was over.
The Golden Gopher’s 31 point lead was dismantled by an astonishing 31 point Texas Tech run in less than 20 minutes. Tech still trailed with just over 1 minute left to play in the contest when they took over at their own 11 with zero time outs. Just a mere eight plays later, Tech Kicker Alex Trlica booted a booming 52 yard field goal with no time left in regulation to tie the game 38 – 38 and send it into overtime.
Minnesota would manage a field goal on their first overtime possession but this would prove not enough as the Red Raiders would find the end zone just once more when Shannon Woods rushed for a 3 yard touchdown capping off a 5 play 25 yard drive and resulting in one of the most unbelievable finishes in football history.
Tech’s improbable, stunning victory was of historic note as the Red Raiders comeback that evening marked the biggest comeback in the history of College Football Bowls.
4. 1995: TEXAS TECH 14 – TEXAS A&M 7
Texas A&M rode a 29-consecutive game Southwest Conference win streak and a No. 8 national ranking into Lubbock for its 1995 game with Texas Tech.
The Red Raiders were 1-2 coming into the contest with a win over Missouri and losses at Baylor and Penn State. The Penn State game in Happy Valley was a classic nail biter with Tech losing by a mere field goal in the last moments of a spectacular performance.
A&M struck first on that October afternoon with a rushing touchdown in the first quarter which Tech answered in the second quarter on a 26-yard Zebbie Lethridge pass to Donnie Hart. The score would remain deadlocked at 7 – 7 for virtually the entire remainder of the game.
A defensive struggle ensued and with a mere 30 seconds left in the game the Aggies had the ball deep in their own territory, the game looked to be destined for a tie.
The Aggies eyed a long third and six when A&M QB Corey Pullig heaved the ball in the direction of receiver Albert Connell.
Magically, Tech standout linebacker Zach Thomas stepped in front of the toss picked it off and ran 23 yards for the Tech winning score, breaking the Aggies SWC win streak.
The ’95 Red Raiders would go on to a 9-3 season including a victory in the Copper Bowl over Air Force.
Zach Thomas would be the 154th overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft and would continue on to a stellar pro career with the Dolphins, Cowboys and Chiefs.
He would be selected for the Pro Bowl seven times and is considered a candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
3. 1966: TEXAS TECH 21 – ARKANSAS 16
The 1966 Texas Tech squad was not expected to compete with the number six ranked Razorbacks.
The Red Raiders were a dismal 3 – 6 coming into the final game of the year vs. a 8 – 1 Razorback team that had defeated a stunning six top ten teams throughout the course of the season.
Arkansas opened up the contest by scoring 10 unanswered points, but, the valiant Red Raiders stormed back scoring a touchdown in the second quarter and two more in the third to make the mark 21 to 10, Tech going into the final period of play.
The Tech defense managed to hold the Razorbacks to just six points in final quarter, and, improbably Tech held on to win the contest 21 – 16.
The Red Raiders came into the game three touchdown underdogs and managed to score 21 points on a defense that had only given up 45 points all season (over 9 games played against seven top 10 opponents).
As Jay Harris of the Lubbock Avalanche Journal put it, “34,560 unbelieving fans who came to watch the slaughter of their favorite sons, stayed (and stood) and cheered to the skies as the Raiders pulled off one of the most stunning upsets of the season.”
2. 1989: TEXAS TECH 24 – TEXAS 17
The Red Raiders hadn’t won a football game in Austin since 1967 when they entered the 1989 game vs. the rival Longhorns.
‘89 didn’t look to be the year that the “curse” of Memorial Stadium would be broken as the 6-2 Red Raiders were eight-point underdogs to the 22nd-ranked Longhorns.
Fortunately, Spike Dykes, James Gray, Jamie Gill, Tracy Saul and the rest of the ’89 Red Raider squad didn’t believe the odds makers.
Tech was down 17-to-14 with only 4:26 remaining in the game when quarterback Jamie Gill, on an unlikely third and 26 from the Tech 35 yard line, threw a bullet to receiver Anthony Manyweather (#2) at the Longhorn 30.
Manyweather secured the ball and managed to elude two Longhorn defensemen, shooting down the sideline for an improbable Tech touchdown.
The Red Raider victory was sealed when defensive standout and return guru Tracy Saul picked a Longhorn pass off setting up a Tech field goal with 1:20 left in the game.
Texas Tech would go on to a 9 -3 overall record in 1989, including a thrilling thumping of Duke, 49-21, in the All American Bowl.
1. 2008: TEXAS TECH 39 – TEXAS 33
The Nov. 1, 2008, meeting between the No. 5-ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders and the No. 1-ranked Texas Longhorns represents far more that the greatest game in the history of Texas Tech football.
Indeed, the 2008 matchup between the two historic rivals marks one of the greatest games in the annals of college football.
The first half of the game was dominated by the Red Raiders, both offensively and defensively and highlighted by a first-quarter safety with Texas pinned deep in their own territory. Texas Tech led at the half by a score of 22 -6.
The third quarter see-sawed back and forth, beginning with a Longhorn punt return for a touchdown followed by a Tech interception for a Red Raider touchdown.
Texas scored again with only 12 seconds remaining in the quarter. The count after three periods stood at Tech 29 – Texas 19.
The final quarter of the game would be one for the ages. The Longhorns would successfully complete a 91-yard touchdown pass on their first play from scrimmage in the fourth.
Tech would answer with a five minute long drive resulting in a field goal.
Texas moved the ball down the field again on their next drive which ended with a 4 yard rushing touchdown. The Longhorns successful extra point made the score 33 – 32 with Texas in the lead for the first time in the contest.
Only 1:29 remained on the game clock.
The Red Raiders took over after the kickoff on their own 38 yard line and Harrell quickly completed four passes resulting in a 1st down at the Texas 28 yard line.
Only 15 precious seconds remained on the clock when Harrell was almost picked off by the Longhorn’s safety Blake Gideon who just missed intercepting the ball and ending the game.
Then, with just 8 ticks on the clock, Harrell courageously and accurately hurled the ball to Michael Crabtree who magnificently leaped over two Texas defenders to catch the ball at the three yard line.
Crabtree then gracefully spun out of the hands the Longhorn defenders and dashed into the end zone for a Texas Tech touchdown and victory.
The game was heralded the 2008 College Football Game of the Year and marked the Tech football programs’ 500th win.
It was the fifth most viewed telecast of a regular season game in the history of ABC and earned Tech a No. 2 national ranking.