Baylor’s Art Briles and Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury will meet for the first time as head coaches Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
But their relationship goes back more than a decade to when they spent time together in Lubbock.
After winning four state championships at Stephenville, Briles ventured into the college coaching ranks as an offensive assistant at Texas Tech under Mike Leach from 2000-02. During that period, Kingsbury was a record-setting quarterback for the Red Raiders.
“First of all, he’s the son of a high school coach, and has been around it all his life,” Briles said. “He’s very intelligent, driven and dedicated. He’s also an achiever, and those are good characteristics to have. I was there when he was getting going as a quarterback at Tech, and it’s been fun to watch his career.”
The 34-year-old Kingsbury is in his first year as a head coach after serving as Texas A&M’s offensive coordinator last season. As a young quarterback for the Red Raiders, Kingsbury felt fortunate to have Briles as an assistant, and isn’t surprised he’s gone on to great success as a college head coach.
“He had already been a legendary coach in Texas and you could see how the players gravitated to him,” Kingsbury said. “He’s got positive energy and football knowledge, and you could see he would go a long way in the profession. To see how he’s done it brick by brick and step by step and taken Baylor to the top of the college football world is a credit to his perseverance and the type of coach he is.”
Once the two hottest teams in the Big 12, Baylor and Texas Tech are now on different courses heading into Saturday’s game.
Starting the season with an 8-0 record for the first time in school history, the Bears are ranked fourth in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls and fifth in the Bowl Championship Series standings.
With seven straight wins to open the season, the Red Raiders were 10th in the BCS standings three weeks ago, but have since dropped three straight games to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State.
The Bears are 27-point favorites against the Red Raiders, but Briles is taking nothing for granted. Briles recalls how Texas Tech beat Baylor 15 straight years in the Big 12 before the Bears pulled off a 66-42 win two years ago and a 52-45 overtime win last season.
“Pull out your record book and dust it off,” Briles said. “They beat Baylor 15 straight years and the games really hadn’t been close. We beat them in 2011 and last year’s game went into overtime. You’re talking about a team that was No. 10 in America three weeks ago, and they’ve got the same players they had on the field three weeks ago.”
While Baylor’s Bryce Petty is the national leader in passing efficiency, Texas Tech has gotten mixed results from quarterbacks Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield. Webb has passed for 2,315 yards and 16 touchdowns with nine interceptions while Mayfield has passed for 1,764 yards and eight touchdowns with seven interceptions.
Kingsbury believes his team has to reduce turnovers and play much more consistently against a Baylor defense that leads the Big 12 by allowing 306.1 yards and 15.4 points per game. The Bears were at their best in last Thursday’s 41-12 win over Oklahoma as they allowed just 237 yards.
“Coach (Phil) Bennett has done a great job,” Kingsbury said. “You can tell it’s a very confident group with a lot of senior leadership with guys who have played a bunch of football. They give up nothing easy. Their pass rush has been big, and you can tell by his defensive calls that he has a lot of confidence in that group. If they don’t blitz, they bring a four-man rush with tremendous pressure.”
After playing solid defense earlier in the year, the Red Raiders have allowed 139 points in their last three losses. They’ll have a monumental test against a Baylor offense that leads the nation with 686 yards and 61 points per game.
Baylor came out of the Oklahoma game with three key injuries. Wide receiver Tevin Reese underwent surgery for a dislocated wrist and will be out at least for the remainder of the regular season. Briles said running backs Lache Seastrunk (groin injury) and Glasco Martin (sprained knee) are day-to-day.
While it’s unknown whether Seastrunk and Martin will be ready Saturday, freshman Shock Linwood will be prepared to play after earning Big 12 offensive player of the week after his 182-yard rushing performance on 23 carries against the Sooners.
“I didn’t expect those things to happen,” Linwood said. “But I try to play to the best of my ability when the coaches give me a chance. I played a big role and stepped up and helped us win, but I had prepared myself during the week.”
With Reese out of the picture, Briles expects other receivers Levi Norwood, Clay Fuller and Corey Coleman to play bigger roles along with Antwan Goodley.
“Tevin is the fastest receiver in America, so that’s a pretty big blow,” Briles said. “We’ll have to compensate in a variety of ways. We have players who are very capable, and it’s their chance to show how they can help us.”