Texas Tech football: Best rebound seasons in program history

LUBBOCK, TX - SEPTEMBER 18: A general view of Jones AT
LUBBOCK, TX - SEPTEMBER 18: A general view of Jones AT /
4 of 5
Mandatory Credit: Joe Patronite/ALLSPORT
Mandatory Credit: Joe Patronite/ALLSPORT /

1986: 7-5

On the surface, a 7-5 season is not all that impressive.  But when you understand the context of the 1986 season, a different picture emerges.

When David McWilliams took over the program, Red Raider football was in the midst of seven-straight losing seasons, including the disastrous Jerry Moore era in which Tech was blelow .500 in all five of his seasons.  But in his lone season in Lubbock, McWilliams authored a tremendous turnaround.

Sophomore QB Billy Joe Tolliver threw for 1,602 yards and four touchdowns in what was actually his lowest-rated season in terms of QBR.  However, Ervin Farris, James Gray, and Isaac Garrett combined to run for a combined 1,700 yards and 10 touchdowns to lead the offense.

Interestingly, McWilliams’ season got off to a bit of a rocky start.  After a 41-7 win in Lubbock over Kanas State (which was one of the worst programs in the nation at that time), Tech was throttled by No. 2 Miami in the Orange Bowl 61-11.

An uninspiring 14-7 win over New Mexico then proceeded back-to-back losses to No. 17 Baylor and No. 14 Texas A&M.  But a 17-7 upset of No. 8 Arkansas in Fayetteville sparked a four-game winning streak that included wins over Rice, Texas, and TCU.

Tech then split the final two home games, dropping a 13-7 decision to SMU and topping Houston 34-7.  Unfortunately, the season ended in a 20-17 loss to Ole Miss in the Independence Bowl.  But given that McWilliams had left to take the head coaching job at his alma mater, Texas, prior to the bowl game, it is not surprising that Tech came up short as coaching turmoil can take a toll.

Defensive coordinator Spike Dykes was named interim head coach for the bowl game and was given the job full-time for the 1987 season.  He would coach the Red Raiders until 1999 when he retired with a program-best 82 wins.  Fortunately, he was able to take over after a season in which the Red Raiders finally put an end to the longest streak of losing seasons in the history of Red Raider football.