Texas Tech football notebook: Tech, TCU bring back historic Saddle Trophy

Texas Tech and TCU will renew their battle for the Saddle Trophy beginning with Saturday’s game at Jones AT&T Stadium, restoring a tradition that originated from 1961-70.

 

The original saddle disappeared after the 1970 game. Discussions between Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt and TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte that began last year led to the crafting of a replica. It is to be presented to the winner each year.

“Chris Del Conte and I have discussed bringing back the saddle several times to honor this great series that dates back to our time in the Southwest Conference,” Hocutt said in Tech’s announcement. “We look forward to playing for the saddle for many years to come.”

During the years of the original saddle, the Tech-TCU game also was christened the West Texas Championship, based on Lubbock’s geography and Fort Worth’s motto, “Where the West begins.” The two teams went 5-5 against each other during those 10 years.

M.L. Leddy’s Boots and Saddlery in Fort Worth made the new trophy. The saddle sits on stands and features both schools’ logos and scores of the series’ 59 games. It will be brought to Lubbock and presented to the winning team following Saturday’s game.

Emotional day

Saturday is Tech’s final home game of the season, the last appearance on Jones AT&T Stadium for the seniors. Asked whether the emotions would stir right away, quarterback Nic Shimonek said he’s “not a very emotional guy” and “not going to be shedding a tear down there or anything.”

That prompted a question about which Red Raider senior is most likely to cry.

“Probably Dylan (Cantrell) and Zach Barnes and Talor Nunez,” Shimonek said, “because they’re all best friends, so if one of them starts crying, I feel like they’ll feed off each other. I think me and Big Mych (Thomas) and Cam (Batson) will be all right.”

Told later about Shimonek’s observation, Nunez said, “I’d say he’s right. Nic knows us pretty well.”

Nunez said Barnes, his fellow defensive lineman, might be first of the group to be emotional.

“I wouldn’t be the first,” Cantrell said, “but I’m just so close with Talor. We’ve been through some of the worst and best things you could imagine together, so … if I saw him, it’d be hard not to. I’m not a crier. I like to think I’m in touch with my emotions, though. I’m not afraid to, so we’ll see what happens.”

First impressions

Asked his favorite story about the recruitment of one of his team’s seniors, Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury recounted the time he passed on wide receiver Dylan Cantrell. Kingsbury was on the Texas A&M staff at the time, and Cantrell attended an Aggies junior day.

“We kind of brushed him off as just a guy,” Kingsbury said, “so he’s let me remember that. He’s turned into a heck of a player, and anybody in the country would be lucky to have that young man on their football team.”

Cantrell, now 6-foot-3 and 223 pounds, pointed out he didn’t have the same physique then. Cantrell said had he been an A&M coach, he probably would’ve rejected him, too.

“I always took that a little personal,” Cantrell said, “not from him (Kingsbury), but as a whole in the recruiting process, getting overlooked by some schools. Skinny white kid, they probably didn’t think I could play very well, so that just motivated me a little bit more.”

Cantrell is Tech’s second-leading receiver this year with 58 catches for 723 yards and six touchdowns. He caught 58 for 675 yards and eight TDs last season.

Ailing Frogs

Tech could benefit Saturday from TCU having key personnel out or limited. According to the Dallas Morning News, TCU coach Gary Patterson confirmed Tuesday that leading rusher Darius Anderson will miss the rest of the season and postseason with a foot injury.

The report also said quarterback Kenny Hill, linebackers Travin Howard and Montrel Wilson and safety Nico Small all could be game-time decisions. All four are starters with Howard being the team’s leading tackler.

The Horned Frogs have an experienced option to replace Anderson in senior Kyle Hicks, a 1,000-yard rusher last season who also has 88 career pass receptions. If Hill were out, the TCU quarterback would be true freshman Shawn Robinson, a highly touted signee who led DeSoto to a Class 6A Division II state championship.

 

More