Much water has passed under the bridge for the Texas Tech football program since 1979, but one thing remains very much the same: beating the Texas A&M Aggies is sweetness itself.
In the first week of October, 1979, the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Texas A&M Aggies were a pair of bruised, desperate football teams, yet both had much for which to play.
The Aggies entered the contest with a disappointing 2-2 mark, the most important component of which was a 17-7 loss to Baylor in Waco. Still, the Aggies did have a legitimate Heisman candidate in running back Curtis Dickey, and were coming off a 27-14 victory over Penn State in Happy Valley. Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions had come within a single touchdown of winning the national championship in 1978. Bear Bryant's boys denied them in the Sugar Bowl.
The underdog Red Raiders entered the tilt with a 1-2-1 record. They had opened the season with a hard-fought 21-7 loss to No.1 Southern Cal, followed that up with a 17-7 victory over New Mexico, tied Arizona 14-14 in Tuscon, and opened Southwest Conference play with a 27-17 defeat at the hands of Baylor in Waco.
Neither team could afford two conference losses, always the death knell for championship hopes in the SWC. So an intense game was in the offing for over 52,000 Red Raider fans in Jones Stadium that night.
The Aggies, despite not starting Dickey, who was bothered by a thumb injury, fairly well dominated the first three quarters of the game. The Red Raiders did open the scoring with a 22-yard Blade Adams field goal in the first quarter, but almost lost touch with A&M as the game wore on. Adams' field goal was set up by a 28-yard punt return from Ted Watts, who would later be selected by the Oakland Raiders in the first round of the NFL Draft.
With the offense sputtering midway through the second quarter, A&M head coach and former Tech quarterback Tom Wilson, pulled freshman running back Johnny Hector and inserted the wounded Dickey. The move paid immediate dividends as the Aggies marched 79 yards for the touchdown, which was scored by Dickey on a one-yard run.
The Aggies tacked on another first-half touchdown via a five-play, 95-yard scoring junket. Fleet A&M quarterback Mike Mosley—who very nearly signed with Tech—keyed the drive. Mosley's most explosive play was a 56-yard option keeper to the Red Raider 32. Following a pair of 12-yard plays that put the ball at the Tech 8, Mosley rolled out, eluded the grasp of a Red Raider defender, and pranced into the end zone, staking the Aggies to a 14-3 lead.
Just before the intermission, Tech linebacker Lewis Washington blocked an Aggie punt, setting up a 27-yard Adams field goal to make the score 14-6.
Despite another Adams three-pointer early in the third quarter, it appeared as though the Aggies had pretty much slammed the door on Tech thanks to a Ron Reeves fumble at the Tech 20 which A&M cashed in for six on a Mosley-to Doug Carter TD strike of six yards. The score read Texas A&M 20, Texas Tech 9 entering the final stanza.
But the Red Raiders were not to be deterred on this evening.
Tech got its initial touchdown of the game just seconds into the fourth quarter on a six-yard Reeves-to-L.M. Cummings pass, which culminated a 14-yard drive. Tech's two-point conversion attempt failed and the score stood at 20-15.
An inspired Tech defense threw a three-and-out at the Aggies, and the Red Raider offense took over at its own 35-yardline. As usual, James Hadnot was the Tech workhorse and the guy who picked up the tough yards, but Reeves was huge as well. He connected on a 16-yard strike to tight end Kevin Kolbye on 2nd-and-10, and scrambled for 18 yards on the very next play to set up the Red Raiders at the Aggie 8.
Then, with less than six minutes remaining and the Tech crowd bruising the West Texas firmament, a totally unknown player by the name of Greg Tyler etched his name in Tech football history. The Red Raiders lined up in the power-I, and with the Aggies expecting action from either Hadnot or Reeves, forgot about Tyler.
Reeves faked to Hadnot and pitched toward Tyler. The ball, however, caromed off running back Dale Brown before finding the junior from Houston, who broke an arm tackle deep in the backfield, split two other defenders, and lanced into the Aggie end zone for the winning score. Tech's try for two failed, but it mattered naught as the Red Raiders salted away a sweet 21-20 victory over Texas A&M.
Tyler was never heard from again in any particularly meaningful way, but he'll always have the memory of scoring the winning points against Texas A&M. So will 52,000 Red Raider partisans.