LUBBOCK, Texas – Tommy Tuberville knows a thing or two about rival games.
But the first-year Texas Tech coach hasn't yet coached one in Lubbock, nor in the Big 12. He gets both against No. 6 Texas this weekend.
Tuberville is a new kid on the conference block this season after replacing Red Raiders coach Mike Leach, who for 10 years swashbuckled his way along the sideline before his firing in December.
Leach built a "swing your sword" mentality with a fan base that embraced his love of pirates. He also delivered some good wins for the Red Raiders.
Arguably the biggest came in 2008, Texas' last visit to Lubbock. Michael Crabtree caught a touchdown pass with 1 second left to give Texas Tech a 39-33 win and the school its first-ever win over a No. 1 team.
It pushed the Red Raiders to No. 2 in the nation, the program's highest ranking.
But Leach is gone and Tuberville is preparing to coach his first Big 12 game and his first against Texas coach Mack Brown. The teams play Saturday night in an early conference matchup that finds both teams unbeaten at 2-0 but still looking for their groove.
Tuberville says he's got a good record in playing top 10 teams. And a formula.
"I've learned ... just get out the way and let the players play," he said. "Don't try to out coach. Just give them an opportunity to play and do what they do best and see what happens."
Despite never having faced one another, Brown and Tuberville have spent time together. The two visited troops in the Middle East the year after Tuberville left Auburn at the end of 2008.
Brown said he seized the opportunity, quizzing Tuberville on what he'd do were he to get another coaching job — what kind of offense he'd run, do you run on third down, how about fake punts and kicks. And so forth.
"I've got all my notes ready now," Brown said this week, smiling.
Tuberville called the 2008 game "probably the game of the decade." He'd rather not have Saturday's game be similar.
"I would like to put anybody away early," he said. "I am getting to the point where my heart can't take a lot of these games. ... last-second games are always exciting for the fans but it is tough on the players and coaches."
He knows it will probably be a close one, though.
"Any time you play a good team you know it's always going to go down to the end," Tuberville said. "I don't care how it started or where it's at in the middle you better play like it's tied all the time."
As for the atmosphere in Texas Tech's stadium that Nov. 1, 2008, when the Red Raiders faithful stormed the field three times, Tuberville wants a repeat.
"Hopefully, we will have a lot of the same things in this game coming up, he said. "We have our hands full. We aren't as good a team as we will be in five or six weeks from now. But this is how the schedule lays."
Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who coached with Tuberville for two years at Auburn, said his former boss isn't shy about shaking things up, occasionally by going for it on fourth down (as Leach often did) or mixing things up with a fake punt or onside kick.
"If he feels like he's losing the momentum of a game, he'll try to create something," Muschamp said. "He's doing what he's got to do to win the game."
Tuberville, whose 56th birthday is Saturday, is 2-0 in games played on Sept. 18. And games against rivals in recent years? He won six straight against Alabama to close his tenure at Auburn.
After two weeks of using plays coaches were secure with, it's time for some more interesting play calls.
"Be a good time, wouldn't it?" Tuberville said. "We're going to have to open it up, there's no doubt about that. We've got to do things on both sides on the ball. Not that we've been hiding things. We just didn't feel like going into the games that we were ready to do those."