Texas Tech Football: Defining Moment No. 5 of the 2014 Season


Defining Moment #5: Pat Mahomes’ Heroics vs. Baylor

The Texas Tech Red Raiders entered its annual neutral-site game in Arlington, TX against No. 7 Baylor with nothing to play for. A losing season was guaranteed, thus Tech would not be going to a bowl game. However, the heroic play of true freshman quarterback, Patrick Mahomes not only improved the moral of the fan base, but might have turned the attitude of the Texas Tech family from looking over the edge of the cliff in despair,  to stepping back from the edge due to a hint of faint optimism.

Baylor was still in the hunt for a spot in the inaugural “College Football Playoff,” and most in attendance expected an easy afternoon for Art Briles’ squad led by the prolific passing of senior quarterback Bryce Petty. Baylor’s defense was also highly regarded (or as highly regarded as a Big 12 defense can be), ranked tops in the conference.

The ingredients for a blowout were in place.

But so were the ingredients for a huge upset. Throughout the game, Mahomes and Tech moved the ball seemingly at will, but fell behind due to three first-half turnovers in Baylor territory. Baylor’s offense also performed well but the difference was that Baylor finished their drives and didn’t turn the ball over. All three turnovers are documented in the video below, and what is most disconcerting is the fact that two of Tech’s veteran leaders, senior Kenny Williams and junior Jakeem Grant, were responsible for two of the giveaways.

However, the game changed on a defensive play in the third quarter setting the stage for Pat Mahomes’ heroics. With Baylor up 35 – 17 Tech middle linebacker Sam Eguavoen blitzed up the middle and delivered a blow to Petty, thus ending his afternoon with a concussion.

Though the play was penalized, and rightfully so according to the rules, Petty was done for the day.   I encourage you to watch the play again and focus on Eguavoen’s posture after the hit. The senior playing in his last game showed the fight, emotion and swagger that had not been seen in other games where Tech was being blown out. Against Kansas State and TCU, many of the Red Raiders simply quit playing hard when they fell behind by more than two scores. But on this day, Tech showed tremendous resilience, and later in this piece, I’ll tell you why I think the mentality was different against Baylor .

Baylor’s backup quarterback Seth Russell led the Bears into the end zone on that drive, but Tech realized that Russell was only effective throwing the deep ball on the outside. Tech defensive coordinator Mike Smith adjusted his coverage scheme to take the deep ball away from Russell, and the Baylor offense began to stall.

With Tech clinging to a glimmer of hope, the true freshman Mahomes put on a show that was by far the highlight of the 2014 season for the Red Raiders. As Davis Webb struggled throughout the year, fans began clambering for Mahomes to get a start. They got their wish with four games left in the season. After leaving the game early with a concussion against Texas, Mahomes was solid against Oklahoma, and led Tech to a come-from-behind road victory against Iowa State.

But what has made Mahomes a cult hero in Tech circles is his second half performance against Baylor. Mahomes is considered a dual-threat quarterback capable of running and passing efficiently, but he is not to be confused with Marcus Mariota when it comes to running the ball. Rather, his athleticism allows him to keep plays alive and avoid pressure, often leading to big plays down field. His game is much more similar to that of Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo, who is a magician in the pocket. Examine the similarities in the two plays below.



Both players escape pressure and look to make a play with their arm, rather than their legs. This trait is rare in a freshman quarterback, as most usually look to run at the first sign of trouble (Remember Baker Mayfield in Austin in 2013?). Mahomes shows the type of poise under pressure that is usually found in upper-classmen, not a true freshman making his fourth career start. Mahomes made similar plays against Oklahoma and Iowa State, and his ability to move in the pocket gives this offense an element that it has not had in recent memory.

Mahomes went on to torch the Baylor defense in the second half. He set a Big 12 record for passing yards by a freshman with 598-yards, and he threw for six touchdowns. The energy in the building was electric, at least on the Tech side. The Brazos Baptists who had been cocky all day found themselves on their knees praying and clutching their Gideons Bibles as their lead shrunk, and their season started to slip away.

Ultimately, Tech fell two points short of sending the game into OT when Mahomes failed to get a pass off on a two-point conversion. But his heroics that day are one of the few bright spots from the 2014 season. The video below is a collection of Mahomes’ highlights from his first three full college football games. After watching the video, one can understand why Mahomes has given Tech fans optimism for the future.

How this changed the season


The truth is that Pat Mahomes is only 1-3 as a starting quarterback in college. However, his play was not the reason for the losses. After an offseason of hype surrounding Davis Webb as a Heisman dark horse candidate, and Tech as a potential surprise winner of the conference, the vibe around the program was unthinkably negative by the time Mahomes became the starter. Fans were upset, Kingsbury was visibly worn down, and the young team seemed to exhibit no fight.

Once Mahomes stepped in, there was a visible change in the posture and attitude of the entire team. Not knowing what went on inside the locker room, it would be irresponsible of me to speculate on whether or not the players had lost confidence in Webb. But it is easy to see the difference in the fight the Red Raiders showed in the three full games Mahomes played. The game against Baylor could have easily turned into a TCU-type blowout, but Mahomes swagger and terrific play seemed to lift the spirits of the entire team.

While Tech lost this game, Mahomes provided a spark and lit the fire of belief and confidence in his team. Webb’s demeanor on the field had become one of a man defeated and frustrated. When your quarterback shows defeat, it usually infects the entire team. Mahomes was a breath of fresh air to the team. His proclivity for making big plays (notice that Devin Lauderdale really became a threat when Mahomes took over), and his confidence seemed to reinvigorate the entire team and fan base. Unlike Webb, Mahomes brought excitement to the field, and it was easy to see that he was having a blast playing college football.

When I was as student at Tech, I was leaving a game at Jones Stadium and saw a bumper sticker on a truck that read “I’d rather be on probation than lose to Baylor at anything.” This was during the days when the Bears were one of the most pathetic athletic programs in the country. However, times have changed and Tech is now closer to where Baylor was in the early 2000’s  than anyone would like to admit.

Leaving AT&T Stadium after Mahomes’ magical performance, a surreal scene unfolded. Though we lost, Tech fans were celebrating and jubilant in the parking lot while Baylor fans were stumbling around like zombies. On one hand it is sad that Tech is now in a position that a close loss to Baylor of all teams, is cause for celebration. However, I think that the joy Tech fans felt after that game was more about seeing Pat Mahomes put on a performance for the ages. The true freshman from Whitehouse, TX breathed life back into a defeated and deflated fan base.

What Mahomes did against Baylor may make an even stronger impact on the 2015 season. First of all, there is a true quarterback competition to be played out this offseason and competition was something Webb had none of in the 2014 offseason. Proverbs 22:17 reads, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” The true quarterback competition this spring and fall will make both quarterbacks better players.

Nov 15, 2014; Lubbock, TX, USA; The Texas Tech Red Raiders masked rider enters the stadium before the game with the Oklahoma Sooners at Jones AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Second of all, Tech fans are excited to see what Mahomes develops into. Optimism is difficult to manufacture after a season like 2014, so the emergence of Mahomes has helped many fans feel better about the future. That is important when it comes to season ticket sales, private donations, corporate advertising, and other aspects of a football program that do not happen on the field.

The 2014 football season was the worst Red Raider season in over 20 years. Fans became angry, frustrated, and cynical as Kingsbury’s honeymoon came crashing to an end. The 2015 campaign will be a challenge because of a daunting road schedule, and the fact that Tech will still rely on some extremely young players to make key contributions. But the emergence of Pat Mahomes has given the program — and the fans — hope that 4-8 will not return any time soon.

However, one must be cautious. Remember the hype surrounding Davis Webb after his impressive performance against Arizona State in the 2013 Holiday Bowl? Because of that performance alone, Webb was anointed as the next great Tech QB and expectations were high. At no point in 2014 did Webb play like the quarterback who was named the Holiday Bowl MVP. Thus, we must caution against anointing Mahomes as well. We have a small sample size to examine, and past success is not always indicative of future results.

But, in a season where so much went wrong, Tech fans need some hope to cling to, and Mahomes appears to be one of the few rays of light capable of penetrating through the dark cloud that was the 2014 season.

Last season was awful for Tech football. There were no wins worth bragging about and the low point of the season in Ft. Worth is the most embarrassing moment in Tech football history. However, we have had time to grieve and start to heal. It is one week prior to spring practice and with new reports about the team, 2014 will soon fade into memory.

Nov 2, 2013; Lubbock, TX, USA; A general overview of Jones AT&T Stadium during the game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

What makes Texas Tech unique is that the passion for our football team is engrained in us like a religion. No matter how much we are disappointed or hurt by poor seasons, we will return in full force to Jones Stadium on September 5th, 2015 excited for another season. While 2014 will never be remembered fondly, the day that a true freshman quarterback put his team on his shoulders and single-handedly revived the pride and passion of Red Raiders everywhere, stands out as the best moment of last season.

As I write this, there are 193 days, 11 hours, and 56 minutes until September 5th and despite the bitter taste 2014 left in my mouth, the start of this season can’t get here soon enough. I will be there in section 103, and I will not think about the past. I will focus on the future of the program and the growth of the young team. I hope that you will join me in moving forward and supporting every player who dons the scarlet and black on that night, and throughout the process of our football program’s restoration to greatness.

I believe we will get there under Kingsbury and though every season is a bumpy ride, the key is that we all “Ride Together.”

Guns Up!