Texas Tech football can pay off an old debt when the Houston Cougars take on the Red Raiders at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium.
Last season, then-ranked No. 17 Houston pulled off a mild 29-28 upset against the Red Raiders in Houston after the Red Raiders elected to attempt a game-winning touchdown on fourth and goal midway through the fourth quarter, coming up just short of the goal line.
Led by Houston quarterback Case Keenum, the Cougars marched 99 yards for a touchdown and go-ahead extra point with 49 seconds left in the game. Tech’s abridged final drive failed to get the Red Raiders into scoring position, and Houston fans rushed the field in celebration as their ranked Cougars had just knocked off the unranked Red Raiders.
Still, Tech was a Big 12 Conference team that had just lost to Houston of Conference USA, and Red Raider fans might believe that has to irk players from last year’s Tech squad.
“A lot of these guys know some players on the other team, and last year they went down and played and felt like they had a chance and it just didn’t work out,” Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. “When you lose a close game to an in-state team, it brings back old memories. Not that there is a revenge factor here at all; it’s just a game last year that had they had a chance and didn’t get it done.
“This is one game they want to play better in. Whether we can win it or not, they want to go out and perform better than they did last year.”
Keenum, a senior, won’t be a factor in Saturday’s game, and the Cougars have been sputtering most of this season because of it.
Then-ranked No. 23 Houston took on UCLA on the road during week three, and Keenum was lost for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament knee injury midway through the second quarter en route to a 31-13 loss.
Since then, it has mostly been true freshman quarterback David Piland’s offense to run, and the Cougars have suffered because of it, posting a 5-6 record entering their final regular season game against the Red Raiders.
In fact, if the Red Raiders can defeat the Cougars – once favored to win their conference – on Saturday, then Houston will not be eligible for a bowl game.
Still, Tech quarterback Taylor Potts insists that there will not be much of a revenge factor in Saturday’s game.
“I am excited,” Potts said. “I think a lot of us are ready to play them. We walked away from that game last year feeling like we should have won that game. A couple of plays here and there and the game would have turned out different, but it didn’t. So, we have this year and, we are definitely trying to win this year.”
Instead, Tech’s senior quarterback looks at the prospect of potentially pulling out an eight-win season amid the turmoil of a coaching change and some bad luck this season.
“We want to win,” Potts said. “I think if we win this game, it’ll put us in a good bowl game, and hopefully we’ll win our bowl game. That’s an eight-win season; that’s pretty good. For whatever one might say about all the new coaches coming in, all the transition type stuff that goes along with that, finishing out with three wins in a row will be a good success to our season.”
Tech got its sixth win of the season last week against Weber State, clinching bowl eligibility for the Red Raiders, but it’s not like they’re going to just hand a victory out to Houston on Saturday.
Also, a Tech win could potentially put the Red Raiders in a more prestigious bowl game than a six-win season would.
“I am sure we will get their best effort,” Tuberville said. “So, we will bring that up to our players all week long, about this is not just another game for them. This is a chance (for Houston) to play for another month and go to a bowl.”