Texas Tech football: Red Raiders need to recreate their 2015 finish

LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 14: Jakeem Grant #11 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders gets yards after making a catch against the Kansas State Wildcats on November 14, 2015 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Texas Tech won the game 59-44. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 14: Jakeem Grant #11 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders gets yards after making a catch against the Kansas State Wildcats on November 14, 2015 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Texas Tech won the game 59-44. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images) /

Back in 2015, the Texas Tech football team beat Kansas State and Texas in the final two weeks to end the season on a high and that’s exactly what it needs to do this year.

In some respects, 2015 feels like a lifetime ago.  Though that season is still fairly prominent in the mind’s rearview mirror when compared to others, think about how different the Texas Tech football program looked at that time.

That year, there was no infighting among the Red Raider fan base.  Free from the nastiness and sniping that defined the Tommy Tuberville era from 2010-12 and at least two years before the program would have to come to grips with the failures of the Kliff Kingsbury experiment, 2015 was essentially as hopeful of a year as this program has known in the last decade.

We had a young prodigy in place at both head coach and QB as Kingsbury and then sophomore Pat Mahomes teamed up to terrorize Big 12 defenses.  And though the season ended with a loss to LSU in the Texas Bowl, the reality is that the arrow for this program was pointed north.

But one year later, cracks in the program’s foundation were starting to form.  Missing out on a bowl, Tech had been a disappointment and the grumbles about Kingsbury’s performance began in earnest.  What’s more, the program had to deal with the departure of Mahomes as he announced his intention to forego his senior year to head to the NFL.

While we can’t go back to 2015 unless Marty McFly and Doc Brown want to give us a ride in their DeLorean, it sure would be nice if this program could at least recapture the good vibes from that year.  One way it could do so would be to finish 2019 the exact same way that it did the 2015 season.

In their final home game four years ago, the Red Raiders squared off with Kansas State needing one more win to get to bowl eligibility.  In a 59-44 win over a 3-5 Wildcat team, running back DeAndre Washington left his final mark on Jones Stadium with 284 total yards (248 on the ground) and three rushing scores.

More from Wreck'Em Red

Meanwhile, Mahomes threw for 348 yards and three more touchdowns as the Red Raiders jumped out to a 28-7 first-quarter lead and held off Bill Snyder’s team for the rest of the game.  Little did we know it at the time, but this would be the final home win over a Big 12 team other than Kansas for Texas Tech until this season’s victory over Oklahoma State.

A week later, the Red Raiders went to Austin, where they had not won since 1997, and they managed to come away with a 48-45 win.  It was the biggest win to that point for Kingsbury, who grew up just down the road in New Braunfels.

That night, receiver Jakeem Grant stole the show.  The former 2-star recruit caught just two passes but racked up 105 yards and scored a touchdown.  That pushed him past Michael Crabtree to the top of the program’s all-time receiving yardage list.

But it was a running play from Grant that people in West Texas will talk about forever.  Late in the 4th quarter with Tech holding onto a 41-38 win, Kingsbury called a trick play that had the 5-foot-6 Grant hide behind the offensive and the take a handoff.  The play worked to perfection as Grant scampered 40 yards for the game-winning score.

Granted, it is tough to imagine this year’s team pulling off back-to-back wins over the Wildcats and Longhorns.  While that 2015 team was far from legendary, on defense it was every bit as bad as this year’s team (if not worse), but obviously there is not a Mahomes, Washington, Grant type of trio available to give this year’s offense the same explosiveness that Tech had four years ago.

But the point is that we’ve seen Tech head into the final two games of the year and beat the Wildcats and Longhorns in the recent past and it’s not inconceivable that the same could happen again.  While Tech will be the decided underdog in both games, there’s no reason to believe that either of these games is unwinnable.

Kansas State is 6-4 on the year with a win over Oklahoma in its back pocket.  But last week’s loss at home to West Virginia has certainly cast some doubt on the thought that KSU is the third or fourth-best team in the conference as many had thought.

What’s more, the Cats are just 1-2 on the road in Big 12 play with losses to Oklahoma State and Texas and a win at Kansas.  That means that Kansas State has lost to the two Big 12 teams that Tech has beaten, OSU and WVU.  In other words, this is a game that Tech can win.

As for Texas, one has to wonder what the mindset on the 40 Acres is these days.  After last week’s loss to Iowa State, the Longhorns have gone from a preseason top 10 team that was a trendy pick to be a playoff team to just another also-ran that is destined to play in some mid-tier bowl named after a lawn care equipment company.

What’s more, Texas has to play at No. 13 Baylor this week meaning that the Horns could meet the Red Raiders in the midst of a two-game slide.  In previous years, we’ve seen the Longhorns fail to put forth their best effort when they find themselves out of the running for a conference or national title.  It would surprise no one if Texas sleep-walks through its game with Tech on the day after Thanksgiving in front of what will be far from a capacity crowd.

Next. Offense not coming through in key moments. dark

The point is that Red Raider fans still have a reason to support this year’s team, especially Saturday night at home.  Though most of us have already checked out on this season and moved into basketball mode, there still an outside chance that Tech can get to a bowl this year and that’s worth tuning in for.  After all, once the season is over, we’ll start to crave Tech football so we might as well invest in the final two games we have while we can.