Texas Tech Football: A look at the Red Raiders’ history in the Independence Bowl

Texas Tech Football: A look at the Red Raiders’ history in the Independence Bowl

Texas Tech football is heading to the Independence Bowl to finish their season. A bowl bid at 6-6 in a lower-tier bowl like the Independence Bowl might not be a desired destination but it is the one for Joey McGuire and his team in his second season. This marks the third time in program history the Red Raiders have played in this bowl. This time they will face a different opponent than their first two trips.

Tech will face the 6-6 Cal Golden Bears under head coach Justin Wilcox, who is in his seventh season. This marks the first matchup for Tech in this bowl game not being Ole Miss. The Red Raiders faced the Rebels both times in 1986 and 1998. Both of those games ended in losses.

The 1986 game marked the beginning of new era in Lubbock. The Red Raiders hired David McWilliams to be their new head coach that season after he had spent three years as Texas’ defensive coordinator. He led the team to a 7-4 record and 5-3 Southwest Conference record, but left after the regular season to go back to Texas to accept their head coaching job. That left a little known defensive coordinator named Spike Dykes to coach the bowl game.

Tech’s offense was led that season by quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver, who would go on to play many years in the NFL as a backup and part-time starter with a few teams. Running back James Gray was in his freshman season. He would go on to be one of the best backs in program history.

In the Independence Bowl the Red Raiders trailed early against Ole Miss 17-0 in the second quarter. Tolliver marched the team downfield ending with a Gray touchdown run towards the end of the first half. Tech got a big boost from their defense in the third quarter with an interception return for a touchdown by Merv Scurlark. In the fourth quarter, Tech tied the game at 17 with a field goal before Ole Miss kicked one of their own to secure the victory.

The game might have ended in a loss, but it was the beginning of a successful era under Spike Dykes. Tech officially hired him as head coach before the bowl game with a five-year contract. Coincidentally, his final bowl game as head coach of the Red Raiders would be a spitting image twelve years later.

In 1998 Tech again finished 7-4 with a 4-4 Big 12 record. The Red Raiders were led by standout Big 12 running back Ricky Williams. 1998 marked his best season as a Red Raider with 1,582 yards rushing along with 13 touchdowns. Williams would also go on to be regarded as one of the best backs in program history. He earned first team All-Big 12 honors his senior year in 2001 and spent two years with the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL after making the team as an undrafted free agent.

However, the story of this bowl game was the running back from Ole Miss. Deuce McAllister put on a clinic in Shreveport that night with three total touchdowns; one receiving, one rushing and one on a kickoff return. McAllister would go on to be drafted by the New Orleans a few years later, where he spent his entire NFL career.

The game actually started with Tech seizing an early lead with a Rob Peters touchdown pass to Derek Dorris. The Rebels then scored two touchdowns to grab the lead with Tech tacking on a field goal to end the first half at 14-10.

This was when McAllister took over. After increasing their lead to 21-10, Ole Miss had a touchdown run and kickoff return from McAllister to pull away at 35-10 in the fourth quarter. The Red Raiders scored one more time with a fumble recovery for a touchdown by Kevin McCullar along with a two-point conversion. And yes that is the father of Kevin McCullar Jr. who previously played for the basketball team.

Texas Tech’s first two trips to Shreveport have ended in two losses to the same opponent. They say “third time’s the charm” and that is what this team is hoping for this trip. They might not be competing for the Big 12 title much less the College Football Playoff, but the Red Raiders have an opportunity to end their season on a high note by exercising some demons and finish with a winning record.