Retro Red Raiders: Houston '78

RaiderPower.com senior writer Joe Yeager takes a look back at one of the greatest Texas Tech football games of the 1970s.

In recent years Texas Tech has played some mighty exciting football in Jones Stadium. Among the more unforgettable games was the victory over Oklahoma in 2005 when Taurean Henderson broke the hearts of the Sooners, and of course, the 2008 win over Texas, which needs no explanation or introduction.

The missing ingredient from both of those wins however, was the upset factor. In 2005 Texas Tech was clearly the equal of Oklahoma, and in 2008 the Longhorns were slight favorites at best over the home-standing Red Raiders.

To find a game that possessed the tension and last-minute heroics of the above, and the upset factor as well, let us drift back in time to November 25, 1978.

On that cool afternoon, the Houston Cougars came calling. The same Houston Cougars who knocked the Red Raiders out of an almost certain Cotton Bowl berth in that same stadium two years previously. The same Cougars who in 1977 had drubbed Tech 45-7 in the Bayou City. Needless to say, a little payback was due. But it wouldn't be easy to deliver.

Houston entered the game ranked No.5 in the nation and sporting an eight-game winning streak. Their only loss of the season came against Memphis State in the season-opener. Since then they had knocked off Utah, Florida State, Baylor, Texas A&M, SMU, Arkansas, TCU and Texas. They also had a bye week before playing Tech.

The Red Raiders, however, were no slouches themselves. After starting the year 1-3, Tech reeled off victories over New Mexico, Rice, Baylor, TCU, and SMU. Their 5-3 mark, however, had not netted them a place in the nation's top 20.

The game began as though the heavily favored Cougars would live up to their billing. After stopping the Red Raiders on their first possession, UH set up to receive the punt. And as had happened all season, Tech's special teams let them down. Houston return man Eric Herring snagged Maury Buford's wobbling punt and raced 72 yards for the score.

The Red Raiders, however, came roaring back. Late in the first quarter they mounted a ten-play 65-yard drive that culminated in Mark Olbert's 11-yard blast over left guard for six points.

Tech continued to bring the heat as linebacker Rusty Maroney intercepted Houston signal caller Danny Davis on the Coog's very next play from scrimmage and returned it to the Houston 37. Maroney's pick was one of four Tech interceptions on the afternoon, to go along with three fumble recoveries. And the Red Raiders made good on this one as fullback James "Kong" Hadnot plowed in for a touchdown to make the score Tech 14, Houston 7.

The Red Raiders could not hold onto the lead until halftime, however, as Davis hit tight end Garrett Jurgatis on a four-yard scoring toss with 57 seconds remaining in the half. The Houston drive was aided by 35 yards in Texas Tech penalties.

In this seesaw affair, the Cougars retook the lead in the third quarter, setting up Tech's last-minute heroics. Hadnot fumbled at the Tech 20 and the pigskin was recovered by Houston defensive tackle Tommy Ebner. Running back Randy Love cashed in the Hadnot offering for a touchdown on a one-yard plunge with 8:27 to play in the period.

It looked as though Houston would assuredly salt this one away as they had the ball on the Tech 18 with a third-and-11 situation awaiting. Rather than run the ball and settle for a chip shot field goal, however, the Coogs elected to go up top where Tech cornerback Mike Patterson intercepted Davis at the Red Raider five and returned the rock to the 26. A clipping penalty pushed it back to the 12 with 5:54 remaining in the game, but the Red Raiders still had life.

And freshman quarterback Ron Reeves wasn't about to let Tech's hopes die. Playing with a painful rib injury, Reeves nevertheless hooked up with flanker Brian Nelson on strikes of 12 and 48 yards to push the Red Raiders well into Houston territory.

The biggest pass play of the drive, however, came compliments of Hadnot. From around the Houston 40, Reeves took the ball from under center and tossed a lateral pass to Hadnot. The Cougar defense sucked in and Hadnot fired the ball to Michael Morris who caught the ball at the Houston one and fell into the end zone. The officials ruled, however, that Morris' knee had touched at the one, which allowed Reeves to do the honors via a sneak. The score stood at 21-20 Houston.

With the Jones Stadium crowd in a frenzy, Rex Dockery never thought about going for the tie. And the Reeves-to-Hadnot connection would be Tech's salvation or its sorrow.

After taking the snap from Kim Taliaferro, Reeves faded to his right and flipped a screen to Hadnot on the far sideline. Hadnot piled into a gang of three Cougars at the five, was halted momentarily, burst free and eluded another grasping Coog at the three before waltzing into the end zone.

Elation! Bedlam! The Red Raiders had earned redemption by defeating Houston for the very first time in school history. And in doing so they authored one of the greatest performances and mightiest upsets in Texas Tech history as well.


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