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Williams: September upset a good sign

Red Raiders took a step Thursday night, knocking off No. 24 TCU

Posted: September 14, 2013 - 10:50pm  |  Updated: September 15, 2013 - 3:44am

Doing the research in the days leading up to Texas Tech-TCU last week, I reminded myself you had to go back to 1989 to find the last time the Red Raiders beat a nationally ranked team in week three or earlier.

Of course, Mike Leach tried not to play nationally ranked teams early if he could help it. Spike Dykes, maybe with some prodding from athletic director T. Jones, played plenty of marquee intersectional games in September. He had some near upsets to show for it at places such as Ohio State and Penn State.

The exception was the 1989 season opener, probably because 1989’s was such an exceptional team. Those Red Raiders were picked sixth in a nine-team Southwest Conference and finished 9-3. They started six walk-ons, including — incredibly, given their success — two offensive linemen and one defensive lineman. They beat four Top 25 teams, starting with No. 20 Arizona on opening night.

They embodied, more than any other Red Raiders team, what Tech folks view as their identity: underdogs beating the odds.

Closely parallelling the one identity was another unique to that particular team: James Gray taking toss-sweep pitches and weaving his way behind an offensive line with seven seniors who played prominent roles.

If you’re a Texas Tech fan and that team doesn’t rank high among your favorites, the only explanation is you came along later.

I’m not sure any others will ever replicate what those Red Raiders achieved. Exclude from this discussion those teams between 2005 and 2008. Those teams’ high win totals were in line with what was expected.

Who expects to beat two Top 25 opponents with fourth-quarter touchdown passes, both, by coincidence, on third-and-26? That was another angle to the fairy-tale 1989 season.

So the 2013 Red Raiders took a step Thursday night, knocking off No. 24 TCU. That snapped Tech’s oh-for-13 streak in games against ranked opponents in the first three weeks of the season.

Other elements are in place, at least, for this team to similarly endear itself to Red Raiders fans. They were picked seventh this summer in the 10-team Big 12. The upcoming schedule gives them a chance to build confidence. In comparison to the 1989 team, they don’t have so many walk-ons in the starting lineup, but they do have a walk-on at the most visible position, quarterback.

And when Baker Mayfield got kicked in the thigh Thursday night and came hobbling to the sideline, another freshman quarterback came in and threw a game-winning touchdown pass on third-and-long in the fourth quarter.

Mayfield and-or Webb will have to make many more such plays to match Jamie Gill’s crunch-time performances.

This is not to suggest Kliff Kingsbury’s first Tech team will reach the bar that group set 24 years ago. Who has?

You could find a lot worse standards to aim for, though.

don.williams@lubbockonline.com

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1989 team

Yes, I remember that team well. I remember going to the UT game in Austin that year. UT set it up to celebrate their 20th anniversary of winning the NC. They broke a state record for attendance... about 82,000. McWilliams was the coach. With all that going on they also got to see a "little regarded" Texas Tech team come in and smack their team in the mouth. Late in the game on a Third and 26 play, Anthony Manyweather gets behind the defender and pulls in a pass from Jaime Gill for a game winning TD! What a day!

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I Was at That Game

Too funny...that was my first game I attended as a Tech student. Another cool thing that season was we beat A&M and UT that season...that was a great season.

Will

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My favorite game

that I actually attended was the 2002 come from behind defeat of UT by Kliff and Co at the Jones. I know that team wasn't as spectacular as the ones mentioned above but it was special to me. It was the last home game that me (and Kliff also) attended as a student. Perhaps more importantly to me at the time was the fact that we beat every school from the State of Texas that we played. For the first time as a TTU fan I could look around at aggies and longhorns and all the rest with a feeling of accomplishment. Being from a small Texas town that was crawling with aggie and ut alum I really enjoyed going home to work that summer. The only other recent year I recall winning out in the State of Texas was 2008. We went 9-5 in 2002 which was respectable...but I would rather not talk about the OU game.

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