Texas Tech hasn’t won many football games on the road against Texas, so Red Raiders who make plays that decide games in Austin tend to be remembered in Tech circles forever.
John Scovell for his option wizardry in 1967. Jamie Gill and Anthony Manyweather for their touchdown connection in 1989. Dane Johnson with his kickoff return in 1997. Jakeem Grant for his trick-play touchdown in 2015.
Cameron Batson joined the club this year, catching the 16-yard touchdown pass with 1:47 left that lifted Tech to a 27-23 upset at Texas in the Nov. 24 regular-season finale.
An outcome like that’s what Batson had in mind when he addressed teammates after a 27-3 loss to TCU the week before.
“We didn’t play well at all,” Batson said Tuesday. “I just stood up in front of the team and asked them, ‘Just give it your all one more time. It’s the last time I’ll be able to play for Texas Tech, so I want to go out with a win, want to go out on top.’ That was my message to those guys.”
Tech’s coming through as a 10-point underdog at Texas enabled the Red Raiders to finish the regular season 6-6 and qualify for a bowl. They’ll play No. 23 South Florida (9-2) at 11 a.m. Dec. 23 in the Birmingham Bowl.
Batson said his message was received the right way.
“We took it to heart,” safety Jah’Shawn Johnson said. “He shed a few tears. We knew it was his senior day and we didn’t perform well. It was the last time for those guys to be out there in the Jones, and we didn’t give him our best performance, so he challenged us to give it all we had that week in practice and go out and do what you’ve got to do to get the win for that game.”
“Coming from a guy like Cam, he’s a guy that lays it out there every day,” center Paul Stawarz said. “He’s definitely a guy this whole team looks up to. For him, getting up and trying to get the team going, it says a lot and it’s good to hear from a guy like that.”
As for the lasting recognition that comes to Tech players who make plays that lead to wins in Austin, Batson will have company in that category. Quarterback Nic Shimonek came off the bench and threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes — one to T.J. Vasher, the other to Batson — to rally the team from a 23-13 deficit. Justus Parker set up the winning TD with a 55-yard interception return. And Douglas Coleman sealed the outcome with an interception of his own.
“It was definitely a team effort,” Batson said. “I’ll be glad if people remember my name. I’m not all about the fame. Justus Parker, the defense, those guys did a phenomenal job. They kept that game alive for us. … I’m just happy to be a part of it, really.”
In the post-game after Texas Tech’s victory at Texas, Kliff Kingsbury and Nic Shimonek both related an amusing exchange on the sideline. Each told how Shimonek walked up to the Red Raiders’ coach and told him, “You’re running out of time” before Kingsbury finally inserted Shimonek early in the fourth quarter with the team down 23-13.
It was the first time all season Shimonek hadn’t started at quarterback, and he had pent-up energy.
“We were just joking around,” center Paul Stawarz said. “He was saying, ‘What if I came in and won it for us?’ And he came in and did.”
Receiver Cameron Batson chuckled as he related, “I heard some rumors that he was talking to himself: ‘Nic is going to go in.’ ‘Nic is going to get the job done.’ It’s all fun.
“It’s definitely fun when you come out on top and get the win versus a good Texas opponent.”
Tech nose tackle Mych Thomas is especially looking forward to the Birmingham Bowl. Thomas said one of his grandfathers who died three years ago was born and raised in Birmingham before moving to Dallas.
“He was kind of like my best friend,” Thomas said. “I could tell him anything. He taught me mostly everything since I’ve been growing up. So it means a lot to finish it off in his home city.”
Thomas said the last time he’s been to Birmingham was for a family reunion when he was in elementary school.
Thomas, a senior from Dallas Skyline, has 38 tackles, a sack, an interception and two fumble recoveries this season.
Who: Texas Tech vs. South Florida
When: 11 a.m. Dec. 23
Where: Legion Field, Birmingham, Alabama
Records: Texas Tech 6-6, South Florida 9-2
Rankings (AP/coaches/CFP): Texas Tech unranked; South Florida 23/24/unranked
Last game: Texas Tech 27, Texas 23; Central Florida 49, South Florida 42
Last meeting: Never played
Line: South Florida by 2 1/2
Fast fact: USF finished 11-2 last year and is trying to reach double-digit wins in consecutive seasons for the first time.