A decade-plus ago, whenever there was a night game in Lubbock, it was often considered the toughest atmosphere in the Big 12 Conference. Many highly-ranked teams went in, with hopes of competing for a national title, and they would see those hopes dashed after a trip to the Jones. But over the last decade, Texas Tech has suffered through one of the worst worst decades in program history. Fans have left early and crowds began to thin out. But we all remember that atmosphere for the 2016 Oklahoma visit, and what the crowd could be for basketball after last year’s Texas Tech vs. Texas clash. Following Joey McGuire’s hire, there’s a new optimism in Lubbock and there may be one last chance to get their most-hated rival in Lubbock for the first time since 2008.
Misery vs Texas in Lubbock
Ever since the Crabtree catch vaulted Texas Tech to #2 in the BCS, and to the top of the Big 12 standings in 2008, things have gone downhill for Texas Tech. Later that season they got smacked by Oklahoma, finished 11-1, missed a BCS Bowl, and lost the Cotton Bowl. Mike Leach was embroiled in a scandal that saw him lose his job. And then, his replacement, Tommy Tuberville, left for Cincinnati during a recruiting dinner. Kliff Kingsbury lost the fanbase over his time and never lived up to expectations. Then Matt Wells never had the fanbase, and couldn’t even name a thing he enjoyed about Lubbock, before being fired at what was a paper tiger 5-3 record, the next week. But no match ups have better represented Texas Tech’s unusual struggles in Lubbock than their games against Texas.
Back in 2010 Texas got out to a hot start leading 14-0 within 5 minutes, before Texas Tech tied it going into the half, but in the end their offense would fall apart in a 24-20 loss. Then in 2012, Texas Tech came in ranked #20 against an unranked Texas, a unique situation for them to find themselves as favorites against Texas, but they’d fall again 31-20. 2014 brought non-stop pain in Lubbock during the first of what would unfortunately become multiple four-win seasons losing to Texas 34-13. In 2016, it was supposed to be a different story. They had Patrick Mahomes, and his favorite target Dylan Cantrell, however unfortunately it was more of the same. Texas Tech blew a 23-14 lead, D’Onta Foreman would torch the Red Raiders on the ground and Mahomes down 8 would throw a bullet to Cantrell late that he caught just one-yard outside of the endzone before Mahomes would be picked off the next play sealing Texas’ fourth-straight win in Lubbock. Two years later, Jett Duffey would lead a dramatic comeback for the Tech taking them all the way back from a 27-10 deficit in the fourth quarter to a 34-34 tie, however Sam Ehlinger hooked up with Lil’Jordan Humphrey to send the Horns back to Austin with a win in Lubbock for a fifth-straight time.
Now the first five losses were definitely painful, and Tech fans did have a couple dramatic wins in Austin, including one to clinch a bowl appearance in the final week of the regular season. But there’s not much that could console the pain of Red Raider fans from the 2020 loss. Texas Tech led 56-41 with just 3 minutes to go, Alan Bowman was flashing the Horns Down, and it seemed the losing streak was broken. Then Texas would make it 56-48, recover an onside kick, and score another touchdown before converting the two-point conversion to tie it at 56 with just 40 seconds to go. Tech would fail to even get a first down in overtime, and fall 63-56 for the sixth-straight time in Lubbock
Last Chance at UT
While Texas isn’t scheduled to leave the Big 12 until 2025, their last season for football would be 2024 which also coincides with their next trip to Lubbock. However, the college landscape is changing quickly, there’s four new teams coming into the Big 12, and new commissioner Brett Yormark signaled he’s not opposed to Texas and Oklahoma leaving early. So it’s very possible Texas could leave before another trip to Lubbock. While there were reports Texas and Texas Tech would continue to play, the Texas side called that premature, and considering how strained the relationships are between the administrators at both schools, I’m extremely skeptical that the two will come to any agreement anytime soon.
Reasons For Optimism and Hate
There’s been tension between Texas Tech and Texas for decades now. Texas Tech accomplished their biggest feat when they joined the Southwest Conference back in 1956, meaning this will be the 67th- straight year they’ve shared a conference. Contrary to what many may think now, Texas was firmly in Tech’s camp to join the SWC, and political ties would bring Tech and Baylor along with Texas and A&M to the Big 12. But since 1967 relations between the two have cooled, and for the most part they just can’t stand each other. There’s been huge disdain over the Texas PUF funds that see Texas take home two thirds, A&M one third, and Tech nothing. In 2008, after the loss I distinctly remember listening to a Texas radio show say they should just refuse to play in Lubbock again because of the crowd. Then on April 1st of 2021, Texas hired former Tech head basketball coach Chris Beard, and Tech AD Kirby Hocutt would call a press conference promising an intense atmosphere in Lubbock, and to fill up the stadium in Austin, both proved true. Then of course Texas decided to join the SEC and for a summer it seemed Tech would be left out in the cold. While those concerns have cooled the hate, hasn’t, neither has the optimism.
Texas Tech has new hope for the future, the Big 12 appears to be stable, there’s a $200 million dollar renovations that will break ground after the season, and Joey McGuirre has engaged a once disengaged fanbase. For a few weeks the 2023 recruiting class ranked #1 in the nation, while that has fallen, there’s hope they can finish top 25 for the first time in a decade. Reigning OCZach Kittley has his choice between three really good QBs. They have a difficult non conference stretch with home games to Murray State, and Houston before a trip to NC State, but should they start 2-1 you can expect a packed house to welcome Texas, and Quinn Ewers who visited and considered Tech, before choosing to head to Austin.
Now there’s no guarantee that Texas Tech will win this one, they’ll be underdogs for sure, but week 4 against Texas could flip the page from a decade plus of pain, to a future competing in the new Big 12, and could kiss Texas goodbye to the SEC, and snap their winning streak in Lubbock. If they can do that with the recruiting and facility boosts, Texas Tech could get some much needed momentum for the future.