Another recurring theme is that the Red Raiders will jump out to a big lead and the Horns will come storming back. Sometimes, as in 2006 when they overcame an early 21-0 deficit, the visitors from Austin complete the comeback. At others, such as 2008 when the Red Raiders forged a 19-0 lead over the burnt orange, they do not.
In 1980 they didn't.
But there probably were not too many folks in Jones Stadium at halftime who believed the Red Raiders could hold off the Horns. The score stood at 24-20 Texas Tech, but Texas had reeled off 20 straight going into the locker room. The 3-3 Red Raiders, whose only wins had come against UTEP, New Mexico and Rice, looked like a team on the ropes.
But the Red Raiders had certainly come out firing like Muhammad Ali.
Tech's first touchdown drive was of the old fashioned, cram-it-down-the-gullet variety. Starting at their own 34-yardline, quarterback Ron Reeves threw first down strikes of nine and 23 yards to split end Renie Baker, moving the Red Raiders to the Longhorn 32.
Then an option pitch to Greg Tyler—the same Greg Tyler who scored the winning touchdown against Texas A&M in 1979—worked for 30 yards to the Texas 2. Reeves scored on a quarterback keeper the very next play, making the score 7-0.
The next Red Raider score came compliments of the defense. UT's Donnie Little dropped back to pass from the Texas 15-yardline and let rip with a pass that was snagged by Tech safety Ted Watts at the Longhorn 34. The Tarpon Springs, Florida native arrowed 10 yards down the sideline before picking up a wall of blockers, cutting back across the field and crossing the Texas goal line for six. And just like that the home team was up 14-0 over the heavily favored visitors.
But the Red Raiders were just getting warmed up.
Texas coach Fred Akers gave Little the hook and replaced him with Rick McIvor, a sophomore from Fort Stockton. On his first play from under center, McIvor fumbled the ball and Tech linebacker Stan Williams recovered at the Horn 15-yardline.
Three plays netted Tech only two yards, however, and John Greve came in to boot a 31-yard field goal, staking the Red Raiders to a 17-0 lead.
The Longhorns committed their third costly turnover of the half three minutes later when McIvor again botched the pigskin. A Tech noseguard by the name of Gabe Rivera pounced on the loose oblong at the Red Raider 41 and Tech was in business again early in the second quarter.
Reeves hooked up with Baker for 15 yards, and on 3rd-and-eight, heaved one down the sideline for wideout Don Earl. The pass was incomplete, but out came the yellow laundry as Longhorn safety William Graham interfered on the play.
From the Horn 15, Reeves pitched to Anthony Hutchinson who rambled to the UT 2. Three plays later fullback Wes Hightower rammed it in and the score was Texas Tech 24, and the Texas Longhorns, a team that was ranked No.2 in the nation only two weeks before, zero.
If it all seemed too good to last, it was.
The Longhorns, aided by a pass interference infraction against Tech cornerback Greg Iseral, marched 80 yards for a touchdown. A. J. "Jam" Jones scored on a one-yard blast with six minutes remaining in the half to make it 24-7.
Herkie Walls set up Texas in good shape for their next drive with a 24-yard punt return to the Longhorn 48. Two plays later McIvor dropped back to pass, evaded the rush, bolted toward the line of scrimmage, and just before reaching it, launched a missile to tight end Lawrence Sampleton who was 20 yards beyond the nearest Tech defender. Tech's 24-point lead had melted to 10.
The Longhorns concluded the half furiously, with John Goodson connecting on a pair of field goals to make the score 24-20 at the halftime break.
Miraculously enough, a game filled with points and fireworks galore, turned into a titanic defensive standoff in the second half. Tech head coach Rex Dockery credited defensive coordinator Jim Bates with making adjustments to stymie the Longhorn offense. And the Tech defense did just that.
The Red Raiders were unable to muster a single point in the second half, but it turned out they didn't need to. The Tech defense played inspired football, preventing the Longhorns from even threatening.
The lone exception came early in the fourth quarter when Texas marched deep into Tech territory. On 3rd-and-six from the Red Raider 10, McIvor forced the ball to Sampleton who was tightly covered. Tate Randle, another Fort Stockton boy, pilfered the offering and Texas was toast.
Yours truly was not in attendance for this game on November 1, 1980. But I did listen to Jack Dale's call while sitting on a dock at White River Lake. And Tech's 24-20 victory over Texas beats any fish story I've ever heard.