With about two weeks left before Texas Tech and South Florida kickoff, the two head coaches shared their thoughts Thursday about this year’s edition of the Birmingham Bowl.
Red Raiders head man Kliff Kingsbury was quick to point out that the bowl game will be a new experience for his squad, which is comprised of players who are from the Lone Star State.
Texas Tech is set to face off against the No. 23 Bulls at 11 a.m. Dec. 23 in the 12th edition of the Birmingham Bowl held at historic Legion Field. The game is slated to be televised on ESPN.
“Most of them have not spent much time outside of the state of Texas and experienced that southern hospitality and the history of Birmingham,” Kingsbury said Thursday during a press conference for the bowl. “Legion Field is going to be incredible for them.”
For Texas Tech senior defensive tackle Mych Thomas, the chance to play another game is a blessing.
“Coach is just telling us to find a way to win,” Thomas said Tuesday when asked about the momentum gained from a win in Austin back on Nov. 24. “We fight through adversities this whole season. We just wanted one more game. We worked hard all year just to go for another game. … And I just appreciate the opportunity.”
As a program, Texas Tech will make its second bowl appearance in Birmingham. The Red Raiders defeated then No. 20 Duke 49-21 in what was then called the All-American Bowl back in 1989.
It marks the first time Texas Tech will appear in the Birmingham Bowl, which was created back in 2006 and normally pits teams from the American Athletic Conference and Southeastern Conference.
Kingsbury is expecting a great game between both teams, lauding the job USF first-year coach Charlie Strong has done in his first year at the helm of the Bulls.
Strong, formerly with the Texas Longhorns, inherited a senior-heavy Bulls squad and guided them to a 9-2 mark and national ranking.
“As far as a the game goes, a huge fan of coach Strong,” Kingsbury said. “Followed them closely this year. Have a ton of respect and admiration for him, from coaching against him when he was in the Big 12. They’re a couple of plays from being undefeated. So, he has a tremendous team.”
Just like the Red Raiders, South Florida touts a potent offense ranking eighth nationally in total Offense (508.6 yards per game) and No. 16 in scoring (38.3 points per contest).
The Bulls (9-2) are coming off a strong performance, offensively speaking, as they were edged 49-42 in the War on I-4 rivalry game against UCF — which went on to finish the season undefeated and win the American Athletic Conference. South Florida is making a return trip and third overall appearance in the Birmingham Bowl.
Much of the Bulls’ success on offense can be attributed to quarterback Quinton Flowers, who has thrown for 2,600 yards, 21 touchdowns and only six interceptions. The 6-foot, 210-pound senior also leads the team in rushing, notching 1,133 yards and 10 scores on the year.
“We have an unbelievable group of seniors,” Strong said. “We have a quarterback that is dynamic, everyone talks about him. … And the reason why we’re sitting at 9-2 right now is because of the job that he’s done.”
The Red Raiders are led by Nic Shimonek, who has thrown for 3,547 yards, 30 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. The redshirt senior also came on in relief to throw the go-ahead, 16-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Batson as Texas Tech defeated the Longhorns.
“Nic trusted me. I told him I was going to get open,”Batson said Tuesday of the catch. “I wanted to extend the season. I mean, it was my only catch of the game. I just made the most of my opportunities. I was able to catch that ball and extend the season.”
Texas Tech is ranked No. 17 in the country in total offense (468.4 yards per game) and No. 26 in scoring (34.6 points per contest).
“A couple of great offenses,” Kingsbury said Thursday. “I think their quarterback is one of the best in the country. I think it should be a heckuva game.”