Texas Tech Football: Looking back at memorable season openers

STILLWATER, OK - SEPTEMBER 25: The Texas Tech Red Raiders flag flies outside the stadium before the game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys September 25, 2014 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Cowboys defeated the Red Raiders 45-35. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
STILLWATER, OK - SEPTEMBER 25: The Texas Tech Red Raiders flag flies outside the stadium before the game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys September 25, 2014 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Cowboys defeated the Red Raiders 45-35. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit
Prev
4 of 6
Next
Mandatory Credit: Rick Stewart /Allsport
Mandatory Credit: Rick Stewart /Allsport /

1995:  No. 4 Penn State 24- Texas Tech 23

One of the most exciting season openers in Texas Tech football history is also one of the most agonizing.  In 1995, Zach Thomas, Zebby Lethridge, Byron Hanspard and a talented but unranked Texas Tech team came within a point of stunning No. 4 Penn State in Happy Valley.

The Nittany Lions entered the game on a 17-game winning streak but found that the Red Raiders were not intimidated.  Tech recovered an early fumble and converted it into a 7-0 lead to silence the capacity crowd.

After PSU’s Bobby Engram fumbled a second-quarter punt, Tech was again in business at the PSU 20-yard-line.  Lethridge would hit Field Scovall for a TD pass to put the Red Raiders up 14-7.

Another Engram muffed punt led to a 7-yard Lethridge-to-Hanspard TD pass and Tech took a stunning 20-7 lead.  Meanwhile, Tech’s defense, led by Thomas, kept the PSU offense stymied for most of the game.

But a third-quarter Byron Hanspard fumble turned the tide.  PSU recovered on the Tech 3-yard-line and would find the end zone shortly thereafter to pull to within six points and rejuvenate the 93,000 Nittany Lion fans in attendance.

PSU took its first lead, 21-20, in the fourth quarter but Tech was not done fighting.  A 42-yard field goal put the Red Raiders up 23-21 with just over six minutes to play.

But PSU went on a methodical drive that put them in position for a game winning field goal with just 0:04 to play in the game.  The 39-yard try was good and Penn St. escaped the upset.

Tech would finish the season 9-3 including a win over Air Force in the Copper Bowl.  That bowl win earned the program a No. 23 ranking to end the season and helped send the Red Raiders into the newly formed Big 12, which was set to begin play the next season, on a positive note.  But the first signs that the 1995 season was going to be one of head coach Spike Dykes’ best came in a near upset to open the season at one of the game’s most legendary venues.