Texas Tech’s game against Texas in Week 4 can start a new era
More than a decade ago, whenever there was a night game in Lubbock, it was often considered the toughest atmosphere in the Big 12 Conference. Many top teams entered it, hoping to compete for a national title, and they would see those hopes dashed after a trip to the Jones. But over the past decade, Texas Tech has gone through one of the worst decades in the program’s history. Fans left early and crowds started to thin. But we all remember that atmosphere when visiting Oklahoma in 2016 and what the crowd might be like for basketball after the Texas Tech vs. Texas clash last year. After the hiring of Joey McGuire, there is new optimism in Lubbock and there may be one last chance to get their most hated rival in Lubbock for the first time since 2008.
Misery vs. Texas in Lubbock
Since Texas Tech vaulted Crabtree wrestling ranked second in the BCS and top of the Big 12 rankings in 2008, things went downhill for Texas Tech. Later that season they were knocked out by Oklahoma, finished 11-1, missed a BCS Bowl and lost the Cotton Bowl. Mike Leach was embroiled in a scandal which saw him lose his job. And then his replacement, Tommy Tuberville, left for Cincinnati at a recruiting dinner. Kliff Kingsbury lost the fan base over time and never lived up to expectations. Then Matt Wells never had the fanbase and couldn’t even name one thing he liked about Lubbock, before he was fired for what was a 5-3 tiger paper record, the week next. But no matchup has better represented Texas Tech’s unusual struggles in Lubbock than their matches against Texas.
In 2010, Texas got off to a good start by leading 14-0 in 5 minutes, before Texas Tech tied the half, but in the end their offense would crumble in a 24-20 loss. Then in 2012, Texas Tech came in at No. 20 against unranked Texas, a unique situation for them to end up as favorites against Texas, but they would again fall 31-20. 2014 brought nonstop pain to Lubbock during the first of what would unfortunately become several four-game winning seasons losing to Texas 34-13. In 2016, it was to be a different story. They had Patrick Mahomes and his favorite target Dylan Cantrell, but sadly it was more of the same. Texas Tech wasted a 23-14 lead, D’Onta Foreman would set the Red Raiders on fire and Mahomes down 8 would throw a ball to Cantrell late which he caught just a yard outside the end zone before Mahomes was taken off the next game sealing Texas’ fourth straight win at Lubbock. Two years later, Jett Duffey would lead a dramatic comeback for Tech, bringing them from a 27-10 fourth quarter deficit to a 34-34 tie, but Sam Ehlinger teamed up with Lil’ Jordan Humphrey to send the Horns return to Austin with a victory in Lubbock for the fifth consecutive time.
Now, the first five losses were definitely painful, and Tech fans picked up some spectacular wins in Austin, including one to land a bowl appearance in the final week of the regular season. But there’s not much that could console Red Raider fans’ pain after the 2020 loss. Texas Tech led 56-41 with just 3 minutes left, Alan Bowman was flashing the Horns Down and it seemed that the losing streak was broken. Then Texas would go 56-48, recover an onside kick and score another touchdown before converting the two-point conversion to tie it at 56 with just 40 seconds to go. Tech would even fail to get a first down in overtime and fall 63-56 for the sixth straight time at Lubbock
Last chance at UT
While Texas isn’t expected to leave the Big 12 until 2025, its final football season would be 2024, which also coincides with its upcoming trip to Lubbock. However, the college landscape is changing rapidly, four new teams are entering the Big 12, and new commissioner Brett Yormark has indicated he’s not opposed to Texas and Oklahoma leaving early. It is therefore very possible that Texas could leave before another trip to Lubbock. Although it was reported that Texas and Texas Tech would continue to play, the Texas side called it premature, and given the strained relationship between the administrators of the two schools, I am extremely skeptical that the two will reach an agreement anytime soon.
Reasons for optimism and hatred
There have been tensions between Texas Tech and Texas for decades now. Texas Tech accomplished their greatest feat when they joined the Southwestern Conference in 1956, meaning it will be the 67th straight year they have shared a conference. Contrary to what many may now think, Texas was firmly on Tech’s side to join the SWC, and the political ties would bring Tech and Baylor with Texas and A&M to the Big 12. But since 1967, the relationship between the two has are chilled, and for the most part, they just can’t stand themselves. There has been a huge disregard for Texas PUF funds which sees Texas winning two-thirds, A&M one-third and Tech nothing. In 2008, after the loss, I distinctly remember hearing a radio show from Texas saying they should just refuse to play Lubbock again because of the crowds. Then, on April 1, 2021, Texas hired former Tech head basketball coach Chris Beard, and Tech AD Kirby Hocutt would call a press conference promising an intense atmosphere in Lubbock and to fill the stadium in Austin. , both turned out to be true. Then, of course, Texas decided to join the SEC and for one summer it looked like Tech would be left out. While these worries have dampened the hate, it hasn’t, and neither has the optimism.
Texas Tech has new hope for the future, the Big 12 appears to be stable, there are $200 million renovations kicking off after the season, and Joey McGuirre has engaged a once disengaged fan base. For a few weeks the recruiting class of 2023 ranked No. 1 in the country, although this has dropped there is hope that they can finish in the top 25 for the first time in a decade . Reigning OCZach Kittley has three very good QBs to choose from. They have a tough non-conference streak with home games at Murray State and Houston before a trip to NC State, but if they start 2-1 you can expect a full house to welcome Texas and Quinn Ewers who has visited and considered Tech, before choosing to head to Austin.
Now there’s no guarantee Texas Tech will win this one, they’ll definitely be underdogs, but Week 4 against Texas could turn the page on a decade plus of pain, to a future competing in the new Big 12, and could kiss Texas goodbye to the SEC and snap their winning streak in Lubbock. If they can do that with the recruiting and facility increases, Texas Tech could get some much-needed momentum going forward.