clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Oklahoma Sooners Football: The Sooners and the Red Raiders — An Underrated Rivalry

New, 4 comments

Texas Tech has provided Oklahoma with a series full of excitement and drama through the Bob Stoops era.

Oklahoma v Texas Tech Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Young Kliff Kingsbury had no clue the college football history that was ahead of him. The odds are (usually) stacked against your favor if you’re facing the Oklahoma Sooners as Big 12 redshirt freshman quarterback with Bob Stoops on the opposing sideline. But the year was 1999 and Kingsbury was eager to make his mark on Red Raiders in Spike Dykes’ last season as head coach, and mighty Oklahoma was not yet the conference menace that would come to be feared over the next decade, as young Bobby Stoops was just beginning his spectacular rebuilding of a once-proud tradition that spent years dwelling in the doldrums of college football.

Kingsbury, making his first career start late in the 1999 season, spearheaded a pre-Mike Leach-era Texas Tech attack to an upset victory against the 6-3 Sooners by a score of 38-28 in Lubbock. That would be his last taste of victory over Oklahoma, as player or coach, ever since.

Oklahoma v Tex Tech
Kliff Kingsbury, the quarterback, drops back to pass against the Sooners during his playing days in Lubbock.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The series Oklahoma has played against the Red Raiders since the arrival of Coach Stoops in Norman sits at 12-5 in favor of the Sooners, with many lopsided wins scattered in between some bizarre losses. But after 16 seasons and three coaches later, Texas Tech has given Oklahoma plenty of drama, storylines, comical coach speak (looking at you, Mike Leach) through the years, including most recently, a Hollywood-esque Walk-On Quarterback vs DudeBro Coach rivalry in what will be Bob Stoops’ 17th game to coach against the Fightin’ Zorros. The unpredictability and excitement of what this series has brought the Big 12 through the last decade hints that this Saturday’s matchup could likely be a zany, Wild West shootout full of surprises.

In honor of this understated rivalry, let’s look back at the different eras of Texas Tech football through Bob Stoops’ long tenure at Oklahoma.

Oh, that Mike Leach

The Red Raiders were the first to pluck a Stoops assistant and immediately saw the results in an increasingly competitive program with Mike Leach at the helm from 2000 through 2009. The program’s success didn’t translate to wins against his former boss in Leach’s first five years until a strange, and infuriating, fall afternoon in Lubbock during the 2005 season, when a controversial, late Taurean Henderson touchdown sealed a close win for then-no. 21 Texas Tech over unranked Oklahoma. The “Where was his knee down?” goal-line scenario is still up for debate depending on your company, and the rebuilding season of 2005 would continue along for Oklahoma, only now with an especially bitter taste for Leach’s Raiders. That bizarre ending was the first of three straight OU losses in Lubbock.

The latter part of Mike Leach’s tenure at Texas Tech saw the program reach some highs, and ultimately some lows that culminated with the controversial parting of ways between coach and program following the 2009 season. But the always-entertaining Leach, in his final five years in Lubbock, went 3-2 against Stoops and had the Sooner Nation on edge in every matchup. A concussion suffered by Sam Bradford in 2007 caused then-No. 3 Oklahoma to fall short of a Joey-Halzle-led November comeback — full of animated Michael Crabtree trash talk — and eliminated them from that season’s national-title race with the loss in Lubbock.

Sweet revenge for OU was exacted the following year in the now-legendary primetime blowout of then-No. 2 Texas Tech in 2008, which is the most gratifying win to date for Stoops against the Red Raiders, as it catapulted the Sooners into the Big 12 Championship game in a season that ended with Oklahoma playing for the BCS title. But Leach ultimately went out a victor against his old friend and foe, embarrassing the Sooners — wearing throwbacks that should never be worn again — 41-13 in 2009, his final season in Lubbock.

Texas Tech v Oklahoma
A dejected Michael Crabtree walks off the field after a 65-21 demoralizing loss in Norman.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Thanks for stopping by, Tommy. Welcome Back, Kliff.

With respect to Tommy Tuberville During the mostly forgettable three-year stretch between the Leach and Kingsbury tenures at the helm of Texas Tech football, the night of October 22, 2011 will always be remembered in OU history. On that bizarre night in Norman, an ominous weather delay led to the unranked Red Raiders handing No. 3-ranked Oklahoma its’ first loss of the season, and more importantly, ending the Sooners’ 39-game home-winning streak — the ninth longest in college football history — by a score of 41-38 in a mistake-filled game that renewed the hatred for Texas Tech once more.

With Tuberville gone after the 2012 season, Texas Tech brought back its’ star quarterback from a decade earlier to again be the face of the program after Kliff Kingsbury, the offensive coordinator, had developed his most recent quarterback into the reigning Heisman winner at Texas A&M. It’s been mixed results for Kingsbury as head coach in Lubbock, and despite another exciting, weather-delayed game in Norman in 2013 (highlights below), his Red-Raider-coached teams are so far winless against the Sooners.

In two days and exactly five years removed from that October 2011 evening in Norman, the Sooners travel to Red Raider country, this time with another compelling storyline in the background — the return of quarterback Baker Mayfield to Lubbock. Despite making the trip in 2014, the Sooners’ quarterback was unable to play because of, well, Texas Tech. But that didn’t stop fans in a Lubbock restaurant from letting their former walk-on know how they felt about his defection to Norman by having him kicked out of a restaurant for simply just being there. Even before ever taking the field against them, he was showered in boos and that famous Red Raider hospitality.

These are straight-up fightin’ words:

More recent shots fired...

But Sooner fans know their quarterback with swagger welcomes, even relishes, the trash talk and heckling, and he’s ready for all the fun when he finally takes the field against his former school this Saturday. The more the fans rev up Mayfield, the more it should ignite the Oklahoma offense and his electric playmaking ability.

Mayfield’s offensive coordinator, Lincoln Riley — yet another link to this weekend’s enemy — was on the Texas Tech sidelines from 2002-09 as a player or coach, and also remembers the special love Red Raider fans have for his current team. The Sooners play-caller recently told SportsDay of the antics the wild Raider fans in west Texas resort to when their storied rivals come to town, which have been known to include throwing tortillas, batteries, bottles and trash onto the field.

“I used to enjoy it. I probably won’t enjoy it this time around as much,” Riley said. “Yeah, tortillas, batteries. They’re a passionate group. Great fan base. Good, fun place to play.”

They’re a passionate group, indeed. Behind Texas and Oklahoma State (and Nebraska while it lasted), there have really only been two other Big 12 schools that have been consistent and relevant rivals to OU with consideration to drama, storylines and/or conference implications, and those are Kansas State and Texas Tech. Considering the overall relationship and mutual respect shared between the K-State and OU coaching staffs (and fan bases), it can be argued that the Red Raiders have been the Sooners’ biggest and most heated rival behind the ‘horns and Pokes through the Bob Stoops era.

And as they enter Saturday desperately seeking a win in a season that could slip into complete disarray with a loss, the Red Raiders should have the Sooners on alert for some wild theatrics in a series that’s been ripe with them on many occasions. On paper, even without the team’s leading rusher, OU should be able to put up enough points and come up with at least a crucial stop or two against a potent offense to win this time around in Lubbock. But crazy things can happen in that stadium full of crazies.

It’s make or break time for Texas Tech’s season, and it’s come full circle for Kliff Kingsbury, a now-seasoned coach facing off against Bob Stoops and his flashy, former quarterback, at home 17 years after his first and only win against the mighty Sooners. Leach vs. Stoops. Kingsbury vs. Mayfield. The Fans vs. Mayfield. Mayfield vs. Mahomes... Yep, a series ripe with intrigue almost every time around. Perhaps the explosive Oklahoma offense shredding a porous Red Raider defense is all the intrigue needed for a big Sooner win in Lubbock on Saturday.