The Ugly Win

Texas A&M vs. Texas Tech

So the Aggies are sitting pretty at 6-0. Undefeated and in the top ten in all the land. Into this situation comes the Texas Tech Red Raiders. They sought to challenge the Aggies. And this they did. What a game it was that day. The weather was perfect, and full of tension. It was going to be a battle. The starter for A&M was none other than Jeff Granger. Forever, Granger will have one of the best records as a starter ever compiled by an A&M quarterback, but he was never graceful. His biggest problem was that he was also a pitcher. And a damn good one. I once saw him get 21 strikeouts in a single game. There are only 27 outs in nine innings. And he was making them miss. He could pitch a baseball artistically. It was pretty to watch him pitch. Too bad he wasn't a QB like that. He never seemed to have command of the football like he did a baseball. His arm was strong, but his mechanics were not quite right. As a result, he could throw, but often lacked precision. And young Corey Pullig was challenging Jeff for the starting position. But that day against the Red Raiders belonged to Granger. That was his day. And it was without a doubt one of the most satisfying triumphs I have ever witnessed.

So what happened that day you are asking. Let me tell you. The Aggies came out strong with a 3 point lead. They added a touchdown for good measure, and seemed to be in control with the score sitting at 10-0. Unfortunately, nobody told the Red Raiders that they were defeated. So right before the half, the Texas Tech quarterback connects for a TD. 10-7, the halftime clock read, and A&M felt less secure of itself. With good reason too. Those pesky west Texans came out gunning, and drove for another TD to lead the game 14-10. Unthinkable. The Aggies would have to do something. So they did. The offense responded and punched in another TD. But the extra point was shanked. 16-14 was the score. And that missed extra point was like a sword of Damocles. The announcers jumped on the opportunity to state that it could be the difference in the game. And they were right. But not for the reasons they thought. To this day I think that missing that extra point won the game for the maroon and white. And here is why. Trailing 16-14 in the fourth quarter, Texas Tech mounted a drive in which it seemed God was on their side. Twice I saw them convert miracle 3rd downs. One such time was right on the 40 yard line where I sat. It was 3rd and 9. Tech dropped back to pass, and the ball was thrown into traffic. Two Aggies deflected the ball, and had chances to intercept. They should have batted it down. Instead it bounced away and fell into the outstretched arms of the Tech receiver who was falling in such a way that he could not have caught it if it had fallen at any other angle. As he caught it the ball crossed the marker for the first down. Divine assistance was the only possible culprit for such events. And so they drove and drove. They moved the ball down the field against the Aggie Defense that played with ferocity, and yet could not stop the unflappable Red Raiders. It was the kind of drive that undermines the confidence of a defense. But they were playing well. Tech was in the zone though. Until they got a first down at the 17. Three plays were executed, and resulted in the ball being moved to the 8. It was fourth down. And less than a yard.

The drama was thick, and everyone knew the difficulty of the next play call. And it was here that the missed extra point played its role. Had Spike Dykes been forced to choose between a tie with a field goal and a win with a touchdown, the decision would have been made. They would have gone for it on fourth down. And the way they were getting the breaks on that drive, they had a better than average chance of converting. But that was not the choice Dykes had to make. He could win with a field goal. A chip shot from 8 yards and Tech would lead 17-16. Not much of a lead, but the Aggies had been out of sync offensively all day. It would give them the easy lead, and assure that they would capitalize on that epic drive. To not make it on 4th and inches would be devastating. So he played it safe. The field goal was kicked, and the lead was 17-16 them. And time was short.

Under 6 minutes remained, and Jeff Granger jogged out to try and lead the team to victory. Would he do it? Could he do it? Nobody knew. But he was going to try. On first down, he ran a draw and got 19 yards. He might have gone for a touchdown but for a shoestring tackle. And confidence was high. But the drama was yet to come. The Aggies moved to mid-field when things got dicey. First down was a bust, and second down yielded but a single yard. Now it was the beloved Ags who faced 3rd and long. 9 long yards. Granger came to the line of scrimmage under center, and hiked the ball. The next seconds seemed to take an eternity. For up the middle came a blitzing middle linebacker. His name was Aubry Beavers. And he had an open shot at Granger. To catch the Aggie QB meant almost certain defeat for us. To lose yards would mean 4th and long with 3 minutes remaining in the game. That would create a 4th and almost 20 that we would have to convert or face the shadow of being outscored. A big loss. What a sack that would have been for Beavers. And he had his chance. But he made a cardinal mistake. He jumped. He left his feet. He wanted to staple Granger to the turf so much he could taste it, and in his overeagerness, he threw his body at Granger to tackle him. But Granger did a novel thing. He ducked. You could see Beavers try and grab the QB he just jumped over, and he tore a piece of Granger's jersey off, but when Jeff stood up again, he was free from pressure, and threw an 18 yard pass to the tight end Greg Schorp that cut like a knife into the hearts of the Tech defense. That pass was precise, and it was well delivered. And it was a death blow to the Red Raiders who had felt victory so tantalizingly close. After that, the Ags marched down inside the Tech 10 yard line, called timeout with under 10 seconds remaining, and had Terry Venetoulias deliver the coupe de grace with a short field goal as time expired to win the game 19-17. The Aggies had won and remained undefeated. In my opinion, this was the greatest win I have ever seen the Aggies pull off.

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Copyright © Richard Hay 1998