The Texas Longhorns were only 4-7, and essentially played the game against Texas Tech minus their starting quarterback, top two running backs, and arguably their two best defensive players in Peter Jinkens and Malik Jefferson.
The Red Raiders at times, were flat out ugly. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, looking less like Johnny Manziel with a brain, and more like a poor man’s Bob Avellini, probably missed more open receivers in the first half than he did in the entire season heretofore.
The Tech defense, which played a superb first half, fell to pieces like a Yugo at the Baja 1000, in the second. So wretched was the run defense that Fox Sports 1 commentators Tim Brando and Spencer Tillman confused UT freshman Chris Warren with Jim Brown, Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith all rolled into one.
The Red Raider special teams—Clayton Hatfield and Jakeem Grant notwithstanding—seemed almost bound and determined to lose this game for Tech singlehandedly. And had they managed to mishandle a late on-sides kick (which they very nearly did), they would have succeeded.
Then, too, Tech lost the turnover battle 4-2, almost a surefire formula for defeat, particularly on the road.
But despite all the caveats, and all of the spotty football, all that really matters is the win. This Texas Tech team managed to do something that eight previous Red Raider squads could not—they beat the Texas Longhorns in Austin.
In the entire history of the Texas Tech-Texas series, which dates to 1928, only five previous Red Raider teams tasted victory in Austin.
From 2003 to 2014, Texas Tech and Texas clashed on the gridiron every year and only once, in 2008, on a stupendous last-minute pass from Graham Harrell to Michael Crabtree, did the Red Raiders emerge victorious.
The win in 2015 is a reset button of sorts. The Red Raiders can claim “scoreboard” for an entire year—and this will make a difference on the recruiting front no matter how coaches in Austin attempt to excuse the loss—and in 2016 will have a home opportunity to forge a rare two-game winning streak over the Longhorns. And there is always the possibility that THIS victory will turn the tide between the two schools, and that something like parity will become the rule rather than the Texas dominance that has supervened for well on 88 years.
There is another possible side-dividend for Texas Tech’s program. In beating the Longhorns the Red Raiders have guaranteed that Texas and Charlie Strong will have a losing season. This losing mark, coupled with a 6-7 record from a year ago, may well precipitate Strong’s dismissal, regardless of whatever hot methane belches from the Texas Athletic Director’s mouth.
If, indeed, Strong is given the gate, the Texas football program will face a short- or even medium-term setback. Replacing one coach and staff with another disrupts continuity. It hamstrings and hinders players who were accustomed to playing for the previous coach, and it all but guarantees that the previous coach’s recruits will be a less than perfect fit for the new regime.
Furthermore, any new coach and staff will have to establish ties with the Texas high school programs that are the lifeblood of every college football program in the state of Texas, the University of Texas’ notwithstanding.
In short, Texas Tech’s pulse-pounding 48-45 victory over the Longhorns may well be a torpedo amidships arguably the biggest aircraft carrier in all of college football. It is simultaneously a large feather in the Tech football program’s cap, and a poisonous viper in the primary enemy’s pastures.
More immediately, perhaps, this win turns what was a mediocre at best season, into a bona fide success. The Red Raiders went from 4-8 a year ago to 7-5 in 2015—a very significant jump!—and may find themselves in a respectable bowl game. Win the bowl game and Tech finishes a borderline outstanding 8-5.
Such a finish would regenerate momentum lost last season, and would establish Kliff Kingsbury’s program as promising and on the upswing. Indeed, Kingsbury would compare favorably with Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, who after his first three seasons in Stillwater, had an 18-19 record. And we all know what Gundy accomplished given the time to do so.
So all Red Raiders should enjoy this victory to the full. It may have positive reverberations far beyond what most people realize.