AUSTIN, Texas (AP)—Traveling to Texas Tech has never been kind to Mack Brown and his Texas Longhorns.
The screaming Red Raiders fans. The insults. The howling wind.
Brown is 3-3 in six trips to Lubbock and all three losses have cost Texas dearly in the chase for Big 12 and national championships. None was more devastating than a last-second 39-33 defeat on Michael Crabtree’s highlight catch of the 2008 college football season.
The No. 6 Longhorns (2-0) trek back out to Lubbock this weekend with a new quarterback and expectations of another zany night in the wild, wild West.
“It’s a fun challenge,” Brown said Monday. “We’re going to find out who we are Saturday night.”
Longhorns players say that while Jones AT&T Stadium is on the small side— it only seats 60,454—it is one of the toughest venues in the Big 12.
“Lubbock is an awesome place to play. The whole environment (is crazy),” said junior safety Blake Gideon. “It’s going to be a blast.”
Gideon and senior cornerback Curtis Brown expect special attention from Red Raiders fans. Both were directly involved in the two most critical plays of the 2008 game.
Gideon, then a freshman, dropped what looked like an easy interception on Tech’s final drive. One play later, Crabtree beat Brown and Earl Thomas on the sideline to score with 1 second left.
Curtis Brown sees replays of the catch “every time I turn on the TV” but says it doesn’t bother him.
“It was just a play made by a good player. He just made it against me,” Brown said.
The loss was the Longhorns’ only one of the 2008 season. It felt even worse when the Big 12 tiebreaker sent Oklahoma to the championship game instead of them.
Texas Tech (2-0) has a way of spoiling Texas’ championship hopes.
In 1998, Brown’s first season, a win in Lubbock would have set up a showdown with Texas A&M the next week for the South Division title. The Red Raiders won a back-and-forth contest 42-35. Texas’ loss gave the Aggies the division crown two weeks before Texas beat Texas A&M in the regular season finale.
In 2002, Texas was ranked No. 4 and in the thick of the national title chase. Wes Welker and the unranked Red Raiders chased them right out of town 42-38 in another shootout.
Texas has won the South Division title outright four times under Brown. None of those seasons included a win in Lubbock.
But Brown isn’t the only Texas coach to struggle in Lubbock. Texas is 9-9 there since 1974.
It hasn’t been all hard luck on the road. The Longhorns blasted Texas Tech 52-21 in 2004 and then-freshman Colt McCoy rallied them back from a 21-point deficit to win 35-31 in 2006.
New Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert will get his first start on an opponent’s home field. He was still in high school in 2008 and watched that game on television.
“It will be a lot of fun,” Gilbert said. “I’m really looking forward to the environment of the game. It’s going to be a test.”
First-year coach Tommy Tuberville promised a hostile one.
“You’re not a good football team unless you can go into a tough environment and overcome all the obstacles that come along,” he said. “This year it’s our advantage … Our fans will be here. They’ll be here early.”