Kingsbury, Texas Tech revive season, head to Birmingham
Kliff Kingsbury and Texas Tech pulled off a Thanksgiving weekend victory at Texas that will prove to be worth much more than Lone Star State bragging rights.
The Red Raiders' 27-23 win over Texas not only allowed them to go bowling this December, it also gave Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt a good reason to keep Kingsbury another year. That in itself was worth a chunk of change as Texas Tech would have had to pay Kingsbury a $6.8 million buyout if the school let him go.
Texas Tech's defense, which showed marked improvement throughout the season, came up with a pair of huge takeaways against the Longhorns that paved the way to victory.
The Big 12 didn't have enough bowl deals to accommodate the Red Raiders, though, so Texas Tech accepted an at-large invitation to the Birmingham Bowl. The Red Raiders will face South Florida on December 23 at Legion Field.
That means Texas Tech will have a reunion with former Texas coach Charlie Strong, who is in his first season leading the Bulls.
While the Strong vs. Kingsbury coaching matchup is interesting, the real selling point of this bowl game will likely be the quarterback battle.
Texas Tech features Nic Shimonek, who passed for 3,547 yards and 30 touchdowns with 8 interceptions during the regular season. He was benched for the first three quarters of the Texas game, but ended up being the hero with two TD passes in the fourth quarter.
How well Shimonek finds receivers in the bowl game will be a big determining factor in the Red Raiders' success. But so will Texas Tech's ability to contain South Florida quarterback Quinton Flowers, who personally accounted for 605 yards of offense in the Bulls narrow 49-42 defeat against Central Florida in their regular season finale.
"He is a real dual-threat type guy," Kingsbury said about Flowers. "To be able to transition into the new offense like he did and still have the same type of success I thought was very impressive going into his senior year. He's one of the best playmakers in America, so we'll have our hands full trying to contain him."
Flowers passed for 2,600 yards and 21 touchdowns with just 6 interceptions and rushed for 972 yards and 10 TDs during the regular season. He seemed to get more comfortable in the passing game as the season went on as all three of his 300-plus-yards passing games came in the last four contests.
Kingsbury saw Strong's style for three seasons while Strong was at Texas. But the Texas Tech coach has already noticed some new wrinkles at South Florida, especially where Flowers is concerned.
"I think he's done a tremendous job with that quarterback and adjusting to that young man's skill set," Kingsbury said. "They've been really good offensively, so that's going to be a challenge for our defensive staff. Coaching against him last year, they're going to have a feel for it somewhat, but he's definitely tweaked some things with the quarterback he has."