Tommy Tuberville's attempt to build No. 23 Texas Tech back into a regular Big 12 contender and a player on the national stage reaches a checkpoint Saturday at Oklahoma State.
The Red Raiders (7-3, 4-3 Big 12) hit rock bottom during Tuberville's first season with a 66-6 blowout loss to the Cowboys, the most lopsided defeat in the program's history.
NFL-bound quarterback Brandon Weeden shredded the Tech defense and endured a biting wind far better than counterpart Seth Doege, who enters this weekend's game as the nation's fourth-leading passer — and with a bit of a chip on his shoulder.
"It was an embarrassment, I think, for the entire program," Doege said. "I mean, they were probably the better football team last year, but there was no reason that it should have been that lopsided. ... I probably played one of my worst games I've ever played, and the defense didn't play a very good game either. It was just all around. It was just a terrible football game by us."
This time around, both teams are neck-and-neck in the Big 12 standings, posturing for a better postseason destination after locking up bowl eligibility early. Oklahoma State (6-3, 4-2) has fallen out of contention for a second straight conference championship despite finding ways to win with three different starting quarterbacks this season.
While Weeden and fellow first-round NFL draft pick Justin Blackmon are gone, there are plenty of holdovers who remember everything about what receiver Charlie Moore called "the massacre."
"It was one of those things when everything went right for us and everything went wrong for them. The chance of that happening again is a million to one," Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young said.
"They're going to be up for us. If I were in that situation, I'd keep that picture on my desk every day."
For Tech, the memories are horrendous. The Red Raiders turned it over three times in the first half, including a fumble on a kickoff that Josh Stewart picked up for a touchdown and a 35-0 lead in the first quarter.
"I try to wash that out of my mind," Texas Tech safety D.J. Johnson said. "That was a tough one, man. I've never in my wildest dreams even — or nightmares even — imagined getting beat like that. ... We remember what happened last year, and we definitely want to make sure that that doesn't occur again. If possible, we want to reverse it, and make it occur the other way."
While giving the Red Raiders all kinds of credit for improving — coach Mike Gundy called them "completely different" — the Cowboys would like nothing more than a repeat performance.
"From the get-go, it just got out of hand. It was just one of those games. We blew them out, but at the same time we got ahead of them so quick we just took them out of the game. That's always the goal," Moore said. "Hopefully we can do that this week. That would be awesome."
"We'd love that," defensive end Ryan Robinson added, "especially to help our seniors go out with a bang."
It should be more difficult this time, with Texas Tech's defense giving up the fewest yards of any Big 12 team. Oklahoma State counters with the conference's highest-scoring offense.
"They were embarrassed last year and when you're embarrassed you'll work even harder so we know they'll come in and give us their best game," OSU defensive end Cooper Bassett said. "They're going to be a bunch of ticked off guys coming in here."
The Red Raiders will be trying to snap a three-game losing streak in the series and win in Stillwater for the first time since 2001, before the stadium was named after Boone Pickens and renovated. For seniors like Johnson and Doege, there's a desire to keep from getting swept throughout their career by the Cowboys — even more so after last season.
"We're a totally different football team than we were last year," Doege said. "I don't think we'll lay an egg like that ever again."
In a recurring theme for Oklahoma State, there's some mystery as to who will start at quarterback. Clint Chelf got the call last week against West Virginia, leading the Cowboys to victory with starter Wes Lunt and backup J.W. Walsh both hurt.
As the only one who's remained healthy all season, he could be the favorite to start again.
"He's kind of on fire right now but he's being real humble, he's working hard and watching extra film," Moore said. "Hopefully, he'll put up some big numbers again this week."