Graham Harrell

Red Raiders fans are some of the most boisterous in the Big 12, and many don boy paint in lieu of clothing for home games. (Daily Texan file photo)

Photo Credit: Andrew Rogers | Daily Texan Staff

We remember the sequence of the day’s events all too well.

In 2008, the No. 1 Texas Longhorns marched into Jones AT&T Stadium on the high plains of Lubbock looking to keep their undefeated season and national championship aspirations alive.

Awaiting them were the fifth-ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders, salivating at the chance to ruin Texas’ undefeated season while keeping their own dream season intact. ESPN’s College Gameday was in attendance, and for the night, all eyes were fixated on a tiny West Texas town to see who would prove to be victorious.

Colt McCoy and the Longhorns got off to a slow start as their first play from scrimmage was blown up by the Red Raiders, resulting in a safety and the game’s first points. A pair of Hunter Lawrence field goals in the second quarter got Texas on the board, but Graham Harrell and company put together a 22-6 halftime lead for the Red Raiders. Texas fought its way back in the second half, finally erasing the deficit with 1:29 left in the fourth quarter thanks to an 11 play, 80-yard drive capped off by a four-yard touchdown run by Vondrell McGee. The Longhorns had silenced the raucous crowd, and appeared as though they had put an end to the Red Raiders fairy tale season.

On the ensuing drive, Graham Harrell took the ball at the 38-yard line and began to march. Texas safety Blake Gideon nearly clinched the game by intercepting a deflected pass at the Texas 14-yard line, but couldn’t secure the catch, giving the Red Raiders one more chance with eight seconds remaining from the 28-yard line. One more shot was all they needed, and the sequence that followed will forever be remembered.

Harrell dropped back and hit superstar wideout Michael Crabtree six yards outside the end zone. Crabtree broke through the tackles of Earl Thomas and Curtis Brown and, surrealy, walked into the end zone. Game, set and match.

The Red Raiders had won what was dubbed the biggest football game in school history, leaving the Horns and their fan base with a gutted, empty feeling. Texas was left out of the BCS National Championship game due to a three-way tie breaker in the Big 12 that awarded the appearance to Oklahoma, making the scar from the game a deep and agonizing reminder of what could have been.

Jones Stadium has long been a difficult road venue for Big 12 teams to venture to. In 2002, the fourth-ranked Longhorns lost 42-38 to an unranked Tech team. In 2007, it was the Oklahoma Sooners who felt the pain of playing in Lubbock, as they waltzed in with the third-ranked team in the country, and left with a 34-27 defeat. The No. 14 ranked Missouri Tigers headed to Jones Stadium in 2010 and they were also upset 24-17. And just three short weeks ago, the newest member of the Big 12 found out how difficult of a place Lubbock is to play, as the fifth-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers were decimated to the tune of 49-14, all but crushing their biggest goals and aspirations.

Prolific quarterback play makes road games to Tech even more treacherous. Current quarterback Seth Doege is merely building upon the tradition set in place by the likes of Kliff Kingsbury, B.J. Symons, Sonny Cumbie, Cody Hodges and Harrell. All were near the top nationally in total passing yards, helped by Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense. When Leach was forced out in 2009, it was assumed by some the Red Raiders’ offense would weaken. Not so. Under coach Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech has had the nation’s No. 15 offense (2010), the No. 13 offense (2011) and the No. 11 offense (2012).

It is fitting the Longhorns get to travel 400 miles to West Texas the weekend after Halloween, because Lubbock has become a haunted house for Big 12 title contenders. A smaller venue that puts a hellacious crowd right on top of the football field, Jones Stadium is no place to get caught overlooking what is often a very scrappy bunch of farm-raised kids. One twist: for the first time in awhile, it is the Red Raiders who will be favored.

It’s not every day a quarterback passes for almost half a mile, guiding his offense to more than 807 total yards. However, if the feat were going to be accomplished, West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen’s air-it-out offense would be the likely gateway. Last Saturday, Geno Smith, West Virginia quarterback and Heisman frontrunner, burned Baylor for 656 passing yards, and 8 touchdowns, en route to a 70-63 victory. 

Even though the Big 12 is known for spread-style offenses, Holgorsen was well aware of his team’s feat last weekend.

“Not every Big 12 game is like this,” Holgorsen said following the game.

And he would know best after stints at Oklahoma State and Texas Tech as offensive coordinator.

With West Virginia heading to Austin Saturday, let’s take a look at how Texas has fared against Holgorsen-coached offenses.

In 2005 Holgorsen’s first season with offensive coordinator duties at Texas Tech, the No. 10 Red Raiders visited Austin only to be dealt a 52-17 loss. Tech quarterback Cody

Hodges was coming off a 643-yard performance the week before but only managed 369 yards against the Longhorns’ defense. Overall the Red Raiders eked out 468 total yards, averaging 5.8 yards per pass.

The next year, Texas headed to Lubbock and struggled with a 21-point deficit in the first half. While Texas eventually rallied back to win the game 35-31, the game was deemed more of an escape. The Red Raiders, behind sophomore quarterback Graham Harrell, put up 518 yards of offense, 519 through the air and -1 via the ground. Harrell threw all three of his touchdowns in the first half as the Texas defense gave up 10 plays of 16 yards or longer all before the half.

“Everything he did was right. The right throw, the right receiver, the right route,” former cornerback Aaron Ross said. It goes to show how disciplined a Holgorsen-coached quarterback is.

In 2007 the Red Raiders came back to Austin and, in Holgorsen fashion, tallied 476 total yards, 466 of them through the air. Harrell sought revenge from the previous year throwing five touchdowns but ultimately came up short, as Tech lost 59-43 behind the Longhorns’ 551 total yards of offense.

Texas had a two-year breather from Holgorsen when the coach headed to Houston for the 2008 and 2009 seasons. However, the offensive mastermind re-emerged at Oklahoma State in 2010 as the offensive coordinator. The No. 10 Cowboys visited the 40 Acres and dropped 532 yards of offense on the Longhorns’ defense en route to a 33-16 victory.

Behind junior quarterback Brandon Weeden’s 409 passing yards, the Cowboys snapped a 12-year losing streak to the Longhorns.

Holgorsen-coached offenses average 499 yards against Texas, 441 of those yards through the air. However, the Longhorns have always held their own, averaging 459 yards through those four games, and have an overall 4-1 record against the offensive guru.

While the Longhorns have found success against Holgorsen-mentored teams, the Mountaineers squad visiting Austin Saturday is arguably his best ever. Behind Smith, the school’s all-time passing yardage, touchdown passes and completions leader, West Virginia is averaging 442 yards through the air, with help from arguably the nation’s two best receivers, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, who have 17 touchdowns and 1,195 yards between each of them.

If the Longhorns’ defense isn’t ready for a track meet Saturday, Holgorsen and company will fly out of Austin with another victory.

Printed on Wednesday, October 3, 2012 as: Holgorsen's offenses test Texas

Big 12 Gunslingers

Zach Long | AP Photo/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

It had been almost two years since Seth Doege made his last start at quarterback for the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

But last Saturday, the junior from Wolfforth stepped back onto the field of Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock at the helm of the Texas Tech offense and looked to continue the streak of Red Raider quarterbacks with big passing numbers.

Completing 23 of his 33 passes for 326 yards and two TDs, Doege led the Red Raiders to a 50-10 victory over the Texas State Bobcats on Saturday during his first full game as the Texas Tech starting QB.

“I just saw in his eyes, he was a little bit nervous,” Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville said about Doege’s performance against Texas State. “But you would be, too.”

Despite the nerves, Doege completed nine passes of 20 yards or more — including a 41-yard toss to junior receiver Darrin Moore in the first quarter — and avoided any turnovers.

“I thought he kept his composure fine. Made some great, long throws and thought he did a good job and pulled the ball down a couple times and ran it when he needed to,” Tuberville said. “Again, he’s a first-year player. So we’ll get better as we go. We just have to have some luck.”

Although Doege had a solid showing and led the Red Raiders to a win over the Bobcats, he has a long way to go to match the career performances of past Texas Tech quarterbacks such as Kliff Kingsbury and Graham Harrell.

In his four years for the Red Raiders, Kingsbury threw for 12,429 yards including 95 TDs and a completion percentage of 65.4. Graham Harrell, who is now a backup quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, threw for a school record 15,793 yards and 134 TDs with a completion percentage of 69.2.

Unlike Doege, Kingsbury and Harrell both started three of their four years at quarterback and each ran the Texas Tech offense under former head coach Mike Leach — a coach known for his love of the passing game.

In their first games as starting QB for the Red Raider offense, Kingsbury threw for 492 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-28 win over Oklahoma in 1999, while Harrell threw for 342 yards and 5 TDs to give Texas Tech a 35-3 victory over SMU in 2006.

Despite the pressure to live up to his predecessors, Doege said the pressure didn’t get to him during Saturday’s game against the Bobcats.

“I never felt rattled,” Doege said. “Maybe the first drive I was a little anxious, but overall I felt calm the entire game. Once we started making some plays, got the ball rolling, things started clicking for us.”

During his first start as a Red Raider in 2009, Doege — then a redshirt freshman — threw for 159 yards, completing 14 of his 28 passes during his one half of play against Kansas. Doege then spent the next two years on the bench behind quarterbacks Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield, appearing in only two games in 2010 and throwing four passes for a combined 58 yards.

Although Doege won’t have to wait two years again to get his next start, he will have to wait one more week as the Red Raiders have a bye week before they face New Mexico on Sept. 17.

“When I first got here, I hadn’t played in a while and I was a little bit insecure about things, and now that the new coaching staff has come along they have really brought me a long way from where I was at the beginning,” Doege said. “They have really helped me mature and bring confidence to my game.”