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Red Raiders Excited About 1996 Season

Aug. 20, 1996

LUBBOCK, Texas -- For the sixth-straight season, a Texas Tech football "We're Up to Something Good" is more than a catchy phrase for this fall's Texas Tech football campaign. It's double meaning certainly has Red Raider fans excited.

One aspect is Texas Tech's membership in the newly-formed Big 12 Conference. The league is earmarked for greatness, not only on the field but in fan and media interest.

Another aspect actually is nothing new. Texas Tech has been up to something good for a number of years now, and 1996 has the makings of more of the same as far as head coach Spike Dykes is concerned.

Fifteen starters return from last year's 9-3 season that was capped by a rousing bowl victory. Three straight post-season appearances, a 1995 Top 20 national ranking and a nine-game home winning streak all combine to give the Red Raiders credability. A number of preseason pollsters agree, picking the Red Raiders among the nation's Top 25 teams this fall.

"We have a chance to have a good football team," said Dykes, who is entering his 10th title chase as Tech's head coach. "We have a lot of positive momentum carrying over from last fall."

Just about anybody who is anybody is back offensively from the attack that clobbered Air Force 55-41 in the Weiser Lock Copper Bowl. The primary guy is junior tailback Byron Hanspard, who is the school's first Heisman Trophy candidate in 20 years. Quarterback Zebbie Lethridge is a two-year starter with a large arm and sprinter's speed. All but one blocker return on the offensive line.

While holes at linebacker and cornerback need to be plugged, there is nothing to doubt the Red Raiders will field another group of fast and aggressive defenders. Senior Robert Johnson is one of the nation's smallest linebackers at 5-11, 188, but also one of the most productive.

The schedule is king sized. Teams on the '96 slate carved out a combined record of 82-44-2 last year, and only two of the 11 opponents suffered losing seasons. Five conference foes were ranked among the nation's Top 15, making the schedule possibly the toughest in school history.

Things will get interesting quickly. Texas Tech and Kansas State play the inaugural Big 12 Conference game on August 31 in Manhattan, Kansas and Tech hosts Oklahoma State in Irving's Texas Stadium on September 7.

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