Texas Tech Football wins in Austin for first time since ’97


In 1997, Texas Tech football head coach Kliff Kingsbury was 18-years-old and Texas Tech inside receiver Jakeem Grant was only four. Eighteen years later, the two helped bring home the Red Raiders’ first football victory in Austin since 1997 with a thrilling 48-45 win over the Longhorns on a rainy Thanksgiving night.

Ironically, on the evening that Grant passed Michael Crabtree to become the school’s all-time leading receiver, it was a 40-yard touchdown run by the 5-foot-6 speedster that provided Texas Tech with the winning score.

After Texas failed to convert a 4th-and-7 pass, Texas Tech went deep into the bag of tricks. With 2:51 to play and leading 41-38, Kliff Kingsbury’s offense lined up in a tight formation with only one wide receiver set in the slot and seven players on the line of scrimmage resembling the formation teams usually take when planning to take a knee and run out the clock.

The player in the slot, Justin Stockton went in motion to the right as quarterback Pat Mahomes took the snap and faked a handoff to Stockton. But what the Texas defense didn’t…or couldn’t see was the diminutive Grant crouching just behind the right guard.

As the Texas defense pursued Stockton to the right side of the field, Grant, who had actually taken the handoff from Mahomes prior to the fake, scampered to the left and scored the biggest touchdown of his Texas Tech career.

"Tryptophan kick in at the end? Don’t worry we have the exciting finish of @TechAthletics vs. @Longhorn_FB right here https://t.co/cpzbHKpTQe— Big 12 Conference (@Big12Conference) November 27, 2015"

A long kickoff return by Texas set up a quick two-play touchdown drive capped by running back Chris Warren III, who ran for 276 yards, to pull the home team within 3 points with 2:06 to play. But Texas Tech would not surrender the ball again.

After recovering the ensuing on-side kick, Texas Tech picked up a first down on a Pat Mahomes third-down run to seal the team’s 7th victory in 2015. Senior tailback DeAndre Washington was once again the offensive star for the Red Raiders. A week after setting a career high with 248 yards and reaching pay dirt three times against Kansas State in his final home game, the senior made the most of this final chance to beat Texas Tech’s biggest in-state rival.

Washington rushed for 178 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries continually gashing the Texas defense on off-tackle runs. Washington was the steadying offensive leader on a night when Mahomes and the Texas Tech passing game was not at its best.

The sophomore Red Raider quarterback appeared to struggle throwing the ball in the wet conditions, especially in the first half. On the season Mahomes has been a 65% passer but on Thursday night he was only 22 of 39 (54%) with one touchdown and one interception.

In fact, Mahomes only touchdown was nothing short of a miracle from the football gods.

In the second quarter, Mahomes underthrew a deep ball that looked like it was going to be intercepted by a Texas corner. But as the defender bobbled the ball, Texas Tech wide receiver Devin Lauderdale belted him causing the ball to pop into the hands of an alert Jakeem Grant who hauled it in and finished off the unbelievable 65-yard play.

That was the kind of night it was for the Red Raiders.

Again surrendering over 400 yards rushing to an opponent able to wear down the thin Texas Tech defensive front seven, Kingsbury’s team had to scratch and claw to earn the school’s first win over Texas since the famous Graham Harrell to Michael Crabtree touchdown pass in the final seconds of the 2008 contest.

But when you have only beaten your most hated rival 16 times in the series history, you take it any way you can get it. Even if it takes miracles and trick plays.

The outcome of Thursday’s game was monumental for both programs. First, Texas is now eliminated from bowl contention and faces the prospect of a 4-8 season if it is unable to beat Baylor next weekend. 2015 will be the first time in 5 years Texas has not played in a bowl game.

For Texas Tech, the win does more than ensure a winning record in 2015 thus erasing the embarrassment of last season’s 4-8 nightmare, it signifies that Kliff Kingsbury and his young coaching staff have the program pointed in the right direction.

Granted, beating a 4-7 team is not going to cause statues to be erected in Lubbock but after going two years without beating a Big 12 team other than Kansas and Iowa State, Texas Tech has now defeated Kansas State and Texas in consecutive weeks to end the season.

A victory over Texas, no matter how impotent that particular Longhorn team may be, always reverberates throughout the state of Texas grabbing the attention of the media and more importantly of high school recruits. Now, Texas Tech has a dramatic signature win broadcast on national television against a school that receives headlines regardless of the program’s current state.

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As Jakeem Grant scored the decisive touchdown, Kliff Kingsbury shot a sideways glance at the Texas bench before turning to celebrate with his players.

The man who grew up just 48 miles south of Austin, in New Braunfels, but never received any attention from Texas as a high school player has nowx defeated the Longhorns for Texas Tech as both a player (2002) and a head coach.

One can’t help but think that the glance he sent towards the home sideline was Kingsbury’s way of saying, just as he did at his introductory press conference after being named Texas Tech head coach, “this is personal to me.”