Following the 2001 Texas Tech-Texas A&M game in which Tech won 12-0 and the infamous goalpost incident occurred, the rivalry between the two teams was at its fiercest. Aggie Chancellor Mike McKinney publicly likened the incident to the Alamo and claimed to have been assaulted by Tech fans in the stands. It was later revealed that it was in fact a Texas A&M student he got in an altercation with, and a photo emerged of children leading the supposedly fierce charge. The Aggies offered zero apologies for McKinney’s false claim and even doubled down on it to the extent of labeling Tech “classless clowns” in their official media guide.
Needless to say, tensions were high leading into the 2002 game. Texas Tech entered the game having already faced a gauntlet in losing two of three to eventual national champion Ohio State, an Eli Manning-led Ole Miss team, and a heartbreaker OT loss to a Philip Rivers-led NC State team. Texas A&M was #23 in the country, having only lost to a #7 Virginia Tech team 13-3, and packed the house at home hoping to see the Aggies get their revenge against the hated Red Raiders.
The game was surprisingly not televised, which left those not in attendance huddled around a radio as it was for myself and friends in the Weymouth dorm. Things got off to a poor start for the Red Raiders. Texas Tech barely moved the ball on its first drive, and Aggie star wideout Bethel Johnson broke a long receiving touchdown on one of its first plays from scrimmage. It would be nearly rinsed and repeated, as Tech went three and out on its second drive, and on the ensuing punt, Bethel Johnson broke off a big punt return to give Texas A&M a short field.
The Aggies would get into the end zone to take a 14-0 lead. Tech’s offense finally got going on the third drive, with Mickey Peters making a big catch over the middle and Wes Welker and Taurean Henderson moving the chains in the screen game. A red zone fade to Anton Paige was hauled in for Tech’s first touchdown. Joselio Hanson would nab a right place, right time interception on a ball thrown slightly behind an Aggie receiver. Tech moved the ball down near the red zone, but a timely blindside blitz caught Kliff Kingsbury as he was trying to throw to force a fumble that Texas A&M recovered.
The Aggies would march down the field despite several delay of game penalties to push the lead back to two scores at 21-7. Kingsbury connected with Anton Paige for a big gain on a sideline fade, and Carlos Francis would convert a big third down on an excellent grab by Carlos Francis. A few screens and slants to Welker got Tech inside the five-yard line, and Francis made a contested-catch for the touchdown to close the gap to 21-14. The Tech defense would hold and force a punt, and a nice return by Welker set the Red Raiders up at midfield.
Welker would then take a screen twenty more yards before being dragged down. Carlos Francis would catch a pass in traffic and attempted a hook and ladder lateral to Welker, but couldn’t get enough on the lateral while being tackled, and the Aggies recovered the fumble. Texas A&M would drive and Bethel Johnson nabbed a reception in the end zone on a ball that was thrown up for grabs to give the Aggies took a 28-14 lead.
Kingsbury moved the ball down the field via a steady diet of short passes to Taurean Henderson and Wes Welker, and Robert Treece converted a field goal as time in the first half expired to close the halftime deficit to 28-17. The Tech defense would bow up on a 3rd and short to force a punt, and another big punt return by Welker set Tech up at midfield.
An intentional grounding penalty stalled out Tech’s drive, however, and Treece would miss a long field goal attempt. The Tech defense would hold, though, and a long punt gave Tech the ball at its own 20. Henderson would rip off a nice run down the middle. Tech found itself in a 4th and short and initially lined up to go for it, but thought the better of it and ended up punting. On this possession, Texas A&M’s Jamar Taylor got behind the Tech defense for a big-play touchdown to push the Aggie lead to 35-17 late, and things were looking grim for Texas Tech.
Preston Hartfield and Trey Haverty would combine to move the ball down the field, but Kingsbury threw a pass a little behind the speedy Nehemiah Glover for an interception. Joselio Hanson very nearly returned the favor on what would have been a sure pick-six, but the Tech defense would hold and force a punt.
Tech took over on its own ten and moved the ball for a first down, but then a pair of sacks put the Tech offense right back where it started for a 3rd and 21. Welker broke open for a big gain but was tackled a yard short of the sticks to set up a 4th and 1 as the third quarter ended With the game on the line Tech ran an outside toss to Taurean Henderson, who very nearly broke the play for a touchdown but barely stepped out of bounds at the Aggie 41. Still, Tech had plenty of work left to do.
A sack pushed Tech back to a 4th and 13. Wes Welker got open again to convert and keep the slightest hopes alive, and a few plays later, Welker broke across the seam for a touchdown reception. Tech went for two to try and close the gap to 35-25, but the pass was deflected and the score remained 35-23 with Texas A&M getting the ball. The Aggies attempted to bleed the clock on some short runs and had to punt back to the Red Raiders. Another good return from Welker got Tech out to the 33, and Anton Paige brought in a 50/50 ball to get Tech out near midfield. Texas A&M would interfere with Nehemiah Glover on a deep pass, and Taurean Henderson took a shovel pass and weaved his way into the end zone to close the gap to 35-30.
On the next Aggie drive, a fumble squirted loose, but Ryan Aycock tried to scoop it for the return and failed to do so. Still, the Tech defense would get a sack and force a punt. In one of the more infamous plays in Tech history, Welker fielded the return, broke through a tackle, stumbled into the open field, and streaked down the sideline to give Tech its first lead of the game.
Tech would again go for the two-point conversion and this time would convert on Anton Paige simply winning on a quick slant to put Tech up 38-35. Texas A&M would move the ball down the field on a great catch by Greg Porter and converted a 4th and 6 later in the drive. A bit of good fortune would go the Aggies’ way near the goal line as Porter was stripped stretching for the score and a Texas A&M player fell on it in the end zone. John Pierson would miss the extra point wide right, however, to keep Tech within a Field Goal.
Anton Paige would make a great adjustment on a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage, and Mickey Peters would catch one near the ground to get Tech out to midfield. On a screen pass, Taurean Henderson tried to make a cutback and ended up short of the market, which kept the clock running and Tech needing to get down the field in a hurry. Kingsbury was as cool as a cucumber as the clock wound under thirty seconds, and Kliff floated a beautiful pass to a diving Carlos Francis at the 20.
Kingsbury clocked the ball with only ten seconds left in the game and the Tech offense came out to try to win it in regulation. Kingsbury dropped a pass in the bucket for Anton Paige and it looked for a moment like Tech had won it in the waning seconds, but the officials said they didn’t get the snap off in time. Treece would kick the short Field Goal to tie it at 41 with two seconds left, and the game would go into overtime.
Texas A&M got the ball first in OT and was stuffed twice on runs, but converted a 3rd and long then got in the end zone. The Aggies celebrated wildly in the end zone, but the extra point was very nearly blocked and the pressure caused the kick to again sail wide. Texas A&M held a 47-41 lead, but a touchdown and an extra point could win it for Tech. On a 3rd and 6, the Aggies would interfere with Carlos Francis in the end zone.
Nehemiah Glover snatched a tunnel screen in a crowd with a convoy in front of him and slipped into the end zone to tie it at 47. Treece trotted onto the field and did what Pierson could not in making the extra point for a 48-47 victory that broke Aggie hearts. In a bit of payback for the Aggie slander, Treece offered the savage postgame quote of “I like to think extra points are guaranteed. High school kids and junior high kids make them all the time.”
Welker had 327 all-purpose yards. Kingsbury was 49-59 for 474 yards. This game arguably marked the death of the Aggies’ once-vaunted Wrecking Crew. Texas A&M’s season would not recover, as the Aggies would lose four of their remaining seven games to finish 6-6. The Aggies would fire legendary coach R.C. Slocum, and the struggles against Tech in losing his sixth of his final eight games against Tech was certainly a factor in that decision. Tech would win five of the next six games against the Aggies and go on to have one of its best decades of football. The photo of Welker running down the sideline in front of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets is still a forever favorite in Tech circles, and this game remains one to remember for those who were there and even those who weren’t.