The most bitter loss of all-time for Texas Tech fans still stings, 41 years later . . .
In the fall of 1976 the Texas Tech Red Raiders were rolling. 8-0 and a national ranking of #5 in the country. Tech was set to win their first SWC championship with Rodney Allison at QB, Billy Taylor ( The BT Express ) at tailback and a defense led by the likes of Thomas Howard at LB. The Red Raiders under Steve Sloan had built talent for years and 1976 was going to be the crowning moment for the most recent addition to the SWC.
Except for the fact that the Red Raiders weren’t the most recent addition to the SWC. . .
The Houston Cougars under offensive guru Bill Yeoman were the most recent add to the league, coming in that season for the first time after rolling up huge point totals and massive yards in the 1970’s utilizing the “Houston Veer” offense Yeoman had perfected based off the wishbone. Houston showed up in Lubbock that year with a lone loss to Arkansas.
The winner of the game had the inside track to the Cotton Bowl, which for our younger readers was kinda a big deal then.
The Astro-Turf at Clifford B. and Audrey Jones Stadium was about to witness its most important game and for those in Scarlet and Black, the most painful.
Tech LB Mick Mock started the scoring when he sacked dynamic UH QB Danny Davis in the end zone for a quick safety. The success was short lived though for Tech because the Veer was about to go to work.
Davis would lead Houston back after a Tech punt for a TD taking a 7-2 lead. After that Tech kicker, and moderate legend, Brian Hall made it 7-5 Houston with a 37 yard FG.
After that Houston would score on passing strikes form 39 and 7 yards out with a couple of field goals thrown in. Going into the 4th quarter the Cougars had Tech on their heels down 27-5. The dream season for Tech was unraveling.
That’s when Texas Tech woke up.
Starting the final quarter, Texas Tech’s Richard Arledge snared a pass from UH QB Davis and took it back for a Tech TD. The next Tech possession saw Allison hit Taylor for a 16 yard TD pass.
Now down 27-19, with the season in the balance, Allison began a drive that will be remembered for all-time.
With 2:00 minutes left, Allison nailed Larry Isaac for 11 yards, and then TE Sylvester Brown for 26. After that Isaac pulled in another pass for 27 and the Red Raiders were within striking difference.
Now Tech had a little more than a minute to play and first and goal. The Cotton Bowl and an SWC hang in the balance on a fall afternoon.
Allison dropped back, fired, into the end zone.
Houston CB Elvis Bradley, crossed over the route, intercepted the ball and was stopped at the one yard line.
1:17 showed on the Jones Stadium clock, but it was over.
Tech wouldn’t lose again, beating Arkansas 30-7 and then Baylor 24-21.
A date in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl against Nebraska waited, but the wind had gone out from the Red Raiders. While Taylor scored 3 TDs in the bowl game, Nebraska and QB Vince Ferragamo were too much. 27-24 was the final and 1976 would shortly turn into 1977 – ushering in a decade of frustration for the Red Raiders on and off the field.
10-1. SWC Co-Champs.
But, the day that many Texas Tech fans will remember is that afternoon in Jones Stadium against first-year SWC foe Houston. The band played Cotton Fields that day, but they were as far away as they’d been since 1938. . .
For just a 20-year “rivalry” in the SWC Houston and Tech made for some memorable game.
Two years later James Hadnot and Ron Reeves would help ease the pain of that 1976 loss with a stunning upset over the Top 5 Coogs. In the late 80’s Tech and Houston would play a game in the snow in Lubbock that most folks there still talk about. Rodney Blackshear would set an all-time receiving record against Houston in the early 90’s and a few years later Tech’s Bam Morris would break Earl Campbell’s single season rushing record against Houston. Throw in a Thursday night half-time show on national TV that featured the Gatlin Brothers singing “Houston” and the Tech crowd responding, “Sucks!” and you had more than a few games over 20 years that demand attention.
So, there’s a few of the games we recall in Raiderland about Tech and Houston. Go ahead and give us your memories of the Red Raiders and Cougars and we’ll post them below in the comment section.
20 years and lots of memories.
Here’s hoping the Red Raiders create one more with an upset Saturday in Houston.
For great information and background on Texas Tech Football we recommend getting a copy of “The Red Raiders” by Ralph L. Sellmeyer and James E. Davidson, published in 1978. It’s a must-have for true Tech fans.