It’s not too often that a win over a team on a five-game losing streak means so much. But for a Texas Tech Red Raider team riding a three-game slide of its own, and dogged by a history of late-season collapses, Tech’s 59-44 whipping of Kansas State feels almost like salvation.
Let’s face it—the air surrounding the Red Raider football program following a road loss to West Virginia, was fetid and foul. After Tech lost to Oklahoma State at home 70-53, I stated that the Red Raider fan-base was poised upon a tipping point. The outcome of the game in Morgantown would either drive away the wolves that were beginning to bay for Kliff Kingsbury’s skin, or it would heighten the lupine din to a deafening crescendo.
Well Tech lost in Morgantown, and sure enough, the wolves closed in. There were very real—if totally unscientific—indications that that pack had turned on Kingsbury and that confidence was lost. Kingsbury would likely survive this season and the next, but his ultimate ouster seemed something close to a foregone conclusion among those who were buying the tickets, watching the games on the boob toob, and sending in donations to the Athletic Department.
And among many, there was little hope that the Red Raiders would right the ship against wily Bill Snyder and his ground-and-pound offense with mobile strider Joe Hubener at quarterback. The matchup just seemed all wrong.
But a team poised on the Precipice of Doom found itself on itself on Senior Day.
DeAndre Washington, a loyal Texas Tech soldier of long stint had a career day, rushing for 248 yards and three touchdowns, and catching four passes for 38 yards.
Washington became the first Red Raider to rush for at least 200 yards since Shaud Williams did so in 1999 against Colorado. Additionally, his 248 rushing yards were the most by a Tech back since Ricky Williams motored for 251 against UTEP in 1998. Furthermore, Washington’s yardage is second most in school history by a Red Raider back against a conference opponent. Only Byron Hanspard’s 287 against Baylor in 1996 was better.
Equally impressive, and possibly even more significant, the battered Texas Tech defense played with pride and acquitted itself quite respectably. The defense allowed KSU 37 points, held Kansas State to only 123 rushing yards, and an average of 3.6 yards per carry. The 123 rushing yards is the least allowed by the Red Raiders since they held Kansas to 51 on October 5, 2013.
But the single most important fact about Tech’s win over Kansas State is that it is Tech’s first victory over a conference opponent other than Kansas and Iowa State in the second half of the conference slate since the Red Raiders defeated Missouri 24-17 on November 6, 2010. For the first time in over five years, Tech arose and defeated a respectable Big 12 foe late in the year when depth gets thin and every player is a human bruise. Those late-season wins are all about toughness, guts and depth.
The Red Raiders, in losing 63-27 to Oklahoma, 70-53 to Oklahoma State, and 31-26 to West Virginia, for all the world, looked like they were destined for yet another late collapse, and quite possibly, a conclusion to the season lowlighted by five straight defeats.
The victory over Kansas State not only puts such worries to bed, but also snaps a four-game losing streak to the Wildcats. This win repays many debts.
Could the result against Kansas State be a watershed moment in Kliff Kingsbury’s Texas Tech tenure? Will we one day look back upon 59-44 and proclaim it the turning point for the Red Raider program?
It’s far too early to make such a portentous statement. However, a rare win over Texas in Austin next week could just signal that the worst is behind Red Raider football, and that glory days are on the horizon once again.