LUBBOCK, Texas – A field goal would’ve been just as good. And it would’ve been a lot less stressful on about 56,000 frenzied people packed into Jones Stadium at Texas Tech University on Nov. 1, 2008.
But with the clock running out, sensational wide receiver Michael Crabtree plucked Red Raider quarterback Graham Harrell’s dangerous pass out of the air near the sideline at the Texas 6-yard line, broke free from the hold of Longhorns cornerback Curtis Brown and pranced into the end zone for a game-winning 28-yard touchdown with just one second left.
If Brown had tackled the Red Raiders All-American in bounds, the game would’ve been another Texas victory. Instead, Crabtree wrote his own ending.
For their effort on a crisp Saturday night in the Texas panhandle, the Red Raiders’ wildly entertaining 39-33 come-from-behind victory over the then No. 1 Longhorns - their first win over Texas in six years - is the United States Sports Academy’s 2008 Game of the Year.
Not since 2002, when Tech beat Texas 42-38, had the Red Raiders had a chance to celebrate a victory over the Horns. This one couldn’t have come at a more important time in their history.
The win propelled the No. 7 team to the No. 2 ranking in the country, the highest ranking the program had ever been given. It set them up nicely to challenge for a spot in the BCS title game.
Those prospects got even brighter with a 56-20 win over Oklahoma State, before their national title dreams ended in a loss to Oklahoma two weeks later.
Still, that November night in Lubbock will forever reign in Texas Tech lore, writing USSA Alumni President Mike Leach’s name indelibly as the coach who made it all come true.
The high drama and fairy-tale ending of this Game of the Year made it a relatively easy pick for the Academy’s selection committee, despite Ole Miss’ stunning 31-30 defeat of then No. 4 Florida in Gainesville in September.
Texas Tech will receive a painting of Crabtree’s catch by renowned artist Daniel Moore and a $5,000 donation to the university’s general scholarship fund.
The selection committee is comprised of Chairman Jack Lengyel, Naval Academy, who was the inspiration for the book We Are Marshall; Mike Cleary, Executive Director, National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics; Gene DeFilippo, Director of Athletics, Boston College; Ron Dickerson, Director of Athletics Emeritus, Temple University/Alabama State; Vince Dooley, former Football Coach/Director of Athletics, Georgia; Keith Jackson, ABC Sports; Mike Lude, Director of Athletics, University of Washington; Daniel Moore, Sport Artist; Homer Rice, Director of Athletics, Georgia Tech; Gene Stallings, former University of Alabama Football Coach; Dick Tamburo, Director of Athletics, Missouri; and Richard Young, former Director of Athletics, Oklahoma State.