End of an Era: Texas Tech and Texas A&M Close Big 12 Chapter|
Texas Tech and Texas A&M will meet for the final time as Big 12 foes on Saturday.
Defining Moments in the Texas A&M Rivalry
October 7, 2011
by Britton Drown
It might be a slight cliché to label Saturday night's prime time match up with Texas A&M as more than just a football game. Then again, maybe it's not. It's historic. It's tradition. It's the way football seasons, it seems, have always played out in Lubbock.
For some, the Texas A&M game has always been there.
Through the decades of memories on the field, it has created a beloved and celebrated rivalry--one that spans 84 years of football games. Games that have, and will forever be shared between the two schools. They are stories, and in time they have composed this rich and unique narrative between two teams separated by just over 400 miles of vast Texas landscape.
Though after tonight, that may be all that remains of this rivalry. The stories.
The annual gridiron battle between the Aggies and Red Raiders is truly more than a game, and Saturday night represents so much more than just four quarters can capture on their own.
It's more than just one story can tell.
Sitting comfortably in the seat of his red and black golf cart, Jess Stiles gazed out onto the hot practice field on a late September afternoon. He was in his usual spot on the sideline at Jones AT&T Stadium, watching intently, as he always does. In front of his watch, the Red Raiders prepared for yet another game on their schedule.
Beneath the shade of his straw hat he sat with one hand placed on the steering wheel, his 2010 Alamo Bowl ring reflecting in the bright sun as he spoke confidently of what he saw on the field in front of him.
But today, it's not the future of the Red Raider program that he talks about, but rather the past--his stories--and just what the Texas A&M rivalry has meant to this team, and this program, over the previous 84 years.
As he speaks, he leaves Jones AT&T Stadium and travels through his memories to another familiar stadium.
It's 2002 and Stiles, in his 29th year in the Tech program, is again on the sidelines, only this time at Kyle Field in College Station. Texas Tech trailed Texas A&M late in the fourth quarter, in danger of dropping their conference opener to their in-state rivals.
But then, as rivalry games tend to do, things quickly changed. Wes Welker returned an Aggie punt 88 yards, weaving in and around maroon jerseys then down the sideline to give the Red Raiders their first lead of the game with under three minutes remaining in the game.
"I could have reached out and touched him," Stiles said, now consumed with the vivid memory.
Texas Tech went on to win the game in two overtimes. For Stiles, it is one of numerous unforgettable games he has seen during his 42 years of involvement between the two schools--39 of which have been at Texas Tech.
The annual battle with Texas A&M runs through Stiles, beginning in 1969 when he first arrived in Lubbock as an assistant offensive line coach under head coach J.T. King. For the next 42 years, outside of the three years he spent in College Station as an assistant coach for Texas A&M from 1978 to 1981, Stiles has consumed himself with Texas Tech football and the stories it has created in his life.
"I treasure all of my memories at Texas Tech," he says. "I think it's a great rivalry because of the experiences that you are exposed to. The Aggies will always be good in just about everything you do, and you want to put on your best show against the Aggies."
It's a game that certainly holds a prominent place in those memories, and he admitted it was difficult to grasp the idea of playing the Aggies for what could the final time on Saturday night. -
"It's going to be special," Stiles said.
The Texas A&M rivalry is something that senior receiver Tramain Swindall has grown to understand during his career as a Red Raider receiver. Admittedly, he didn't quite grasp the depth to which it runs when he began his career, but that quickly changed as he became more enriched with the program.
After redshirting during his freshman season, Swindall made his debut in the rivalry during the 2008 season when the Red Raiders made the trip southeast to College Station.
The intimidating confines of Kyle Field hosted a crowd of 86,012 that day, but Swindall, a freshman from Oklahoma City, Okla. wasn't intimidated by hostile environment.
He brought down seven passes that day for a team-high 101 yards as the Red Raiders' beat the Aggies 43-25--their fourth consecutive win in the series.
"That's a game that I will never forget," Swindall said.
Now, Swindall is a senior on a Red Raiders team that will perhaps play the Aggies for the final time as conference rivals,
"Every time we play them it's just a fun deal," Swindall said. "It's just a great experience."
As Stiles finished his own narrative of memories involving Texas A&M, he paused for one final question.
He glanced out across the stadium, the one he has seen change so much over the years, paused, and tried to articulate the right answer.
"That's the way it is," he said. "If we lose them permanently, then that's fine, we'll find someone else."
Many things have changed during his 39 years at Texas Tech, but this was a change he certainly didn't expect. Soon, the game that has shaped so much history between both schools may be just another one of myriad of stories he has to cherish.
However, after Saturday, he hopes he will have just one more to tell.
"We just want to win that last one," Stiles said. "I want to remember that."