Texas Tech 2017 Spring Game Unique Experience
Special –- April 6, 2017
By Bo Carter, The Texas Sports Daily, NCBWA, NFF
Texas Tech Football Literally Stars
At The Star at Ford Center in Frisco For First College Event
FRISCO, Texas – From DL Nick McCann’s 27-yard pass interception return for a touchdown to a pair of Statue of Liberty runs for touchdowns by a pair of Make a Wish Foundation Youngsters, Texas Tech’s annual Red-Black spring football intrasquad game was not your typical spring-ending attraction on April 2 at The Star at Ford Center Frisco during the first college football contest staged at the one-year-old facility.
It was “live” hitting on both sides with quarterbacks outfitted in blue or red jerseys for off-limits to sacks, and the simulated situations of 3rd-and-1, Red Zone offense, midfield starts with reversals of Nos. 1 and 2 units on the depth charts. The only aspect missing was the kicking game, but that area will receive plenty of attention between the start of fall camp and Tech’s 2017 season opener Sept. 2 in Lubbock against NCAA FCS powerhouse Eastern Washington.
But for the 6-2, 310-pound McCann, a redshirt freshman from Texarkana, Ark. (also the hometown of 1980s Mississippi State RB standout Henry Koontz) and Fearless Dream Kids Braden and Andrew of Tarrant County and the sellout crowd of 12,000-plus, it turned out to be an afternoon of intriguing gridiron activity.
Projected starting quarterback Nic Shimonek of Mildred, Texas, near Corsicana turned heads again with 273 passing yards and three TDs for the winning Red squad in a 49-31 shootout (would fans expect anything else from a Tech spring encounter?), but defensive coordinator David Gibbs and his minions received praise from head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
“Dallas-Fort Worth is one of the biggest recruiting and alumni bases Tech has outside Lubbock,” Kingsbury began, “so it was great to be here and have the fan response and hospitality of the Dallas Cowboys organization and staff. Plus, our defensive units now have 21 interceptions in our last nine live scrimmages, and that is an area coach Gibbs and the defensive coaches really have emphasized.
“We hope to make this annual event in the spring like our regular-season Big 12 game with Baylor at AT&T Stadium (produced a 54-35 season-ending win for the Red Raiders) in Arlington,” he added. “Last year we didn’t have enough bodies for an 8-12-man rotation on the defensive, and this spring game helped us get some valuable experience.”
And Kingsbury also appreciated the team’s response and fans’ reaction (standing ovation) for the two Make a Wish youngsters who expressed delight in a postgame news conference and predicted a 14-0/15-0 season for the Red Raiders.
“Like these two young men, I always think we can go undefeated,” Kinsgbury said in the postgame briefing with a grin. “I also want to thank these youngsters for the impression they made on our players and coaching staff. We brought them into the locker room, and they got their own Tech uniforms and helmets, and their eyes just lit up immediately.
“It was an opportunity for our players to be appreciative of what they have,” he continued, “and what the game of college football can mean to them. The two young men also were some of the most polite people I have ever met. They continually thanked us for letting them play, and their parents and the Make a Wish Foundation could not have been more grateful. We were just glad to participate with them.”
Kingsbury also noted that The Star at Ford Center Frisco was one of the finest total football facilities he had seen.
“We never played in anything like this when I was in high school,” he laughed, “and it is a great thing that the Cowboys and Frisco school district have collaborated to have so many high school football events and playoffs here.”
The Tech mentor, entering his fifth season at the helm and with two bowl appearances since 2013, knew the game experience was critical for his 2017 squad as well.
“We usually are involved in 90 snaps in a typical game,” he explained, “and it was vital to have good conditioning and a football environment for this game and our last few scrimmages.
“We are getting some good performances from guys such as defensive backs Kevin Moore, Octavious Morgan and linebacker Tony Jones,” he noted, “and those guys will be leaders for us this coming season. Nick McCann also had that interception, Eli Howard and Broderick Washington played well in the defensive line, and we have worked with the defense quite a bit on getting takeaways.”
On the offensive side, Kingsbury was satisfied with a quicker start by the attack unit and the precision passing of Shimonek and some inside rushing on short-yardage situations.
“We did get revved up from the crowd and the facility after an early morning bus ride from Lubbock,” Kingsbury stated. “Zach Austin and Dylan Cantrell made some good catches in traffic, too, and the O-line did a pretty good of blocking and pass protection.”
All in all, the experience of playing before a fired-up crowd (complete with tailgaters and several fan experience traveling trailers) left everyone with a warm feeling.
And everyone’s favorite name in college football – junior WR Keke Coutee of Lufkin with a career-high 221 receiving yards and 248 all-purpose yards in the 2016 win over Baylor – had another solid performance for the winning Red crew with five catches for 55 yards to pace both squads.