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Homecoming: A Time To Remember Classic '76 Team

For long-time Red Raider fans, it does not seem like 20 years ago when Texas Tech claimed its first Southwest Conference football championship. The glories of 1976 will be remembered when the '76 team is recognized during pre-game ceremonies Saturday night.

A number of former players will be on hand at the Homecoming game against Baylor to renew old friendships and recall a season that was special:

  • It was Texas Tech's first Southwest Conference championship football team.
  • It was one of only two Red Raider teams to win 10 games during the regular season while a member of the Southwest Conference.
  • It was the only Texas Tech team to beat Texas, Texas A&M and Arkansas in the same season.
  • It won a school-record seven Southwest Conference games.
  • It was nationally ranked for a school-record 10 weeks, rising as high as No. 5 in the country.

Expectations were not great since the Red Raiders were just 6-5 the previous year. Coached by the "Kid Coach" Steve Sloan, the team got off to a rousing start despite getting little respect in the pre-season polls. Colorado roared into Jones Stadium for the season opener ranked No. 18 nationally but left with a lopsided 24-7 defeat. The victory seemed to set the tone that 1976 would become a special season on the South Plains.

Special teams make special plays. Like the 69-yard pass to Godfrey Turner that proved the difference in a 20-16 victory at New Mexico. Or the emergence of quarterback Rodney Allison, who replaced injured Tommy Duniven in a 27-16 victory at Texas A&M. Or a fourth-quarter rally capped by a touchdown dive by Billy Taylor (the "B.T. Express") in a 31-28 victory over No. 13 Texas. Or a late interception deep in Tech territory by Eric Felton to preserve a 14-10 victory over TCU.

Tech went on to win its first eight games to set up a showdown with the Houston Cougars. A late rally fell short, and Tech lost 27-19 but secured a share of the championship by finishing with victories over Arkansas and Baylor. The Red Raiders closed out the banner season with a narrow loss to Nebraska in the Bluebonnet Bowl.

A pair of local products -- running back Larry Isaac and linebacker Thomas Howard -- joined offensive guard Mike Sears and defensive end Harold Buell as co-captains of the team. Howard received All-American honors while Allison, Buell, Isaac, Sears, defensive back Greg Frazier and offensive tackle Dan Irons earned All-SWC recognition. Defensive coordinator Bill Parcells went on to become a successful head coach in the NFL.

1976 Texas Tech Red Raiders

Tres Adami          Chris Campbell        Kevin Gandy
Gregg Adkins        Larry Cone            James Hadnot
Mark Allen          Jeff Copeland         Brian Hall
Willie Allen        Wilbert Cunningham    Craig Harris
Rodney Allison      Greg Davis            James Harris
Terry Anderson      Robert Davis          David Hill
Richard Arledge     David Dudley          Thomas Howard
Sam Bailey          Tommy Duniven         Dan Irons
Mike Barnes         Tom Dunlap            Larry Isaac
Angel Berlingeri    Larry Dupre           Johnny Johnson
Karl Biggs          Mickey Elam           Mark Johnson
Walter Bond         Alan Emerson          Louis Jones
Bill Bothwell       Pat Estes             Roger Jones
Mark Brinkley       Mike Farst            Mark Julian
Sylvester Brown     Eric Felton           Don Kelly
Harold Buell        Larry Flowers         Russell Kelner
George Burns        Greg Frazier          Dane Kerns
John Klinger        Brian Nelson          Willie Stephens
Ed Koester          Edwin Newsome         Douglas Streater
Jim Krahl           Bruce Odom            Travis Tadlock
David Kuykendall    Mike Patterson        Kim Taliaferro
Russell Lepard      James Person          Billy Taylor
Howie Lewis         Roy Poindexter        Freddy Taylor
Mike Lillpop        Johnny Quinney        Kenny Thiel
Marshall Mangum     Lynn Ramsey           Andrew Thomas
Greg Mahoney        Curtis Reed           Willie Thomas
Larry Martin        Billy Roberson        Olan Tisdale
Gary McCright       Don Roberts           Godfrey Turner
David Mellott       Mark Rose             Joe Walstad
Gordon Michaels     Mike Sears            Ken Walter
Travis Mileur       Larry Selby           Richard Weaver
Max Minter          Rick Sims             Greg Wessels
Mike Mock           Ricky Smallwood       Jimmy Williams
Eddie Monaco        Harmon Staus          Sammy Williams
Gerald Mymbs        Bill Stephens         Charles Wittmer
                                          Greg Wooddell

Red Raiders 'D' Makes Name For Itself

By Amy Gunter

The big stars of the 1995 Jones Stadium nights are gone, but this season a no-name defense has often left opposing offenses in the dark.

The 1996 Tech defense was viewed as questionable by the media, fans and scouts coming into this season. With the loss of All-Americas Zach Thomas and Marcus Coleman, critics everywhere were skeptical of the Red Raider defensive strategy.

This attitude has shifted with the Red Raiders ranked among the top defenses in the nation. After the big win over Utah State, where the Red Raiders forced six turnovers, Tech is listed among the top five in all of the Big 12 defensive categories and ranks 11th in the nation against the run.

In the season opener at Kansas State, the defense outmanned KSU's offense, giving up 160 yards of total offense and minus 12 yards rushing. The strong defense reappeared against Oklahoma State, leading Tech to a 31-3 victory. Two weeks later, the Tech defense held Georgia to 15 points in the heartbreaking loss. Since '88, only five teams have held the Bulldogs to 15 points or less at home.

With a start like this, the questions asked all summer now had answers.

Defensive coordinator John Goodner sees no loss to this season's squad. "Any time you lose good guys, you miss them," Goodner said. "But these guys have played behind good players and are now good players themselves."

This year, Tech again has outstanding ability. But the defense must earn the respect and recognition that last year's group had. Led by defensive ends Tony Daniels and Montae Reagor, the Red Raider defenders are doing just that.

Daniels and Reagor are working so well that it seems they've played together for years. But, that's not the case, since Daniels redshirted last season with a knee injury after an outstanding '94 campaign. This year, he has transformed into a legitimate All-America candidate with big plays week-after-week.

Reagor, a sophomore from Waxahachie, Texas, is excited about the return of Daniels. "He's so explosive. It makes a big factor with him back on the team," Reagor said. Reagor broke into the Tech defense in 1995 by causing a fumble which led to a touchdown in his first collegiate game against Penn State.

There is nothing more valuable than experience for any team. The defensive tackles are stocked with players who have seen action in collegiate games. Corey Chandler led the group with 35 tackles in 1995. With 10 starts last season, Cody McGuire also has experience in his favor.

"Corey (Chandler) and I led the defense knowing that was our job," McGuire said. "The Lord has really blessed our defense and we have come together as a team."

Chandler has been limited due to injuries the last two games, making room for backups John Abendschan and Jason Jones to gain considerable experience. Both have performed well as Tech has faced talented offensive attacks.

When one reflects on past Texas Tech defensive units, linebackers come to mind. The '96 linebackers have seen great talent ahead of them and have patiently waited for their own turn at center stage. Take Eric Butler for example. Butler played behind Miami Dolphins rookie-of-the-year candidate Zach Thomas for two years. He has met the challenge of his new role as the team's starting middle linebacker.

"It's been nothing but a joy to play," Butler said. "It fires me up to hear me associated with Zach and Shawn (Banks) and I learned a lot about the defense from those guys."

Senior team captain Anthony Armour, the team's leading tackler after double-digit performances against Utah State and Georgia, is playing is playing his third position. The team's leading tackler, he moved to inside linebacker after playing outside his first two years, and defensive end as a junior. Armour, who had 11 solo tackles last week, gives credit to the coaching staff for this year's success.

"The coaches are doing their homework and putting guys where they need to be," Armour said. "We are successful because of the scheme we have going." Ryan Donahue and Kyle Shipley have also performed well at linebacker through the early juncture of 1996.

The outside linebackers have waited for this chance to take control. Lubbock senior linebacker Robert Johnson turned in his best game as a Red Raider last week with nine tackles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery. He set up two of Tech's scores with turnovers.

Raider Jody Brown has fit in nicely at the role of raider, replacing All-America Marcus Coleman. His patience playing behind Coleman for two years and his outstanding special teams efforts have paid huge dividends this season.

Questions abounded about the secondary in preseason, but the group is solidified behind junior co-captain Dane Johnson. Johnson was among Tech's five best tacklers last season. He believes the key to the defensive success this year relies on one simple word execution.

"The defense runs the way it's executed," Johnson said. "The nucleus of the defense is doing exactly what you are suppose to do."

Tech's starter at right corner, Corey Turner entered the season with the most experience of the cornerbacks, and that was limited to say the least. Tech's 'jack-of-all-trades,' Tony Darden, had never played on the collegiate level other than offense. He is starting his third position in three years and already has two interceptions. Darden came to Tech as a quarterback in 1994, and spent last season at wide receiver.

Duane Price, playing at the number-two slot at free safety, snared his first interception last week and returned it 51 yards for a touchdown. Sophomore Mike Benefield and redshirt freshmen Darwin Brown and Oscar Solis are providing solid help at cornerback.

Tech's First Big 12 Game At Home Like Old Times

By Garrett McKinnon

It will seem like old times when the Texas Tech Red Raiders (2-2, 1-1) host the Baylor Bears (3-0, 0-0) Saturday in the first Big 12 game to be played in Jones Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 6:30 p.m.

The Bears and Raiders have been conference enemies for more than 30 years. Rarely have the contests between the two teams been blowouts.

Last year, a stingy Bear defense pitched a shutout for 59 minutes and 55 seconds, and breakdowns in the kicking game led to two Bear field goals as Baylor won 9-7 in Waco.

The Red Raiders are coming off a 58-20 pasting of the Utah State Aggies. Junior I-back and Heisman Trophy candidate Byron Hanspard rushed for 224 yards and three touchdowns on only 22 carries during the game as Tech amassed 527 yards of total offense.

Senior linebacker Robert Johnson was named Big 12 defensive player of the week for his performance in the Utah State game. Johnson was credited with nine tackles to go along with two interceptions and a fumble recovery.

"Robert Johnson continues to amaze me. Robert is a quiet, great football player. He gets very little exposure, but, he continues to make play after play," said Tech head coach Spike Dykes of the 5-11, 194-pound linebacker.

The Bears are coming off an off week after going undefeated in non-conference play. The Bears defeated Louisiana Tech 24-16 in Ruston, La. to begin the season, then followed that with a 14-13 nail-biting victory at Lousiville. Baylor defeated Oregon State 42-10 two weeks ago.

Saturday's game will mark the first Big 12 gridiron contest in Baylor's history, though against a familiar opponent. The Bears lead the Raiders 32-21-1 in a series that dates back more than half a century.

Texas Tech brings a 10-game home winning streak into the game, though. The last time the Red Raiders lost at home was to No.1-ranked and eventual national champion Nebraska in 1994.

Tech has outscored its four opponents 115-59 this year, while Baylor outscored its first three opponents 80-39.

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