Welcome to a new mini-series from Viva the Matadors! Today and the next four Fridays will be committed to counting down the top 5 season in Texas Tech’s long football history! Let’se start with the second 10-win team in school history, the 1938-1939 Texas Tech Red Raiders!
It might be interesting to point out that 1938 was only the second season that the team was named the Red Raiders as in the team’s first 11 years in existence they were known as the Matadors. The Head Coach of the team was none other than Pete Cawthon. Cawthon was the Head Coach at Texas Tech from 1931-1940, where he was also the athletic director during that same time. He had many successful years in Lubbock, as he ended up with 6 conference championships in his many seasons with the team.
The Red Raiders played in the Border Conference, a conference stretching from West Texas to Arizona. It’s charter members included the University of Arizona, Arizona State Teacher’s- Flagstaff (Northern Arizona), Arizona State Teacher’s- Tempe (Arizona State), New Mexico A&M (New Mexico State), and New Mexico. In addition to these team, Texas Tech and Texas Mines (UTEP) were included in the conference’s second and fourth seasons respectively. West Texas A&M and Hardin Simmons were both added in 1941.
The Border Conference was one of the stronger conferences in the nation at the time and lasted until 1961. The Red Raiders were only a part of the Conference until 1956, when the school decided to become independent and eventually joined the Southwest Conference in 1960.
In 1938, the Red Raiders were invited to their second bowl game ever. And although they lost, it was honor to be even invited as there were only 5 bowl games played in that season. The Red Raiders started off 10-0 on the season and won both of their conference games, tying for first in the conference for the Conference Championship.
There isn’t anything stats-wise in this season that I was able to find. The team did however, get invited to the Cotton Bowl, where they played St. Mary’s. The team lost by a score of 20-13, and the game is considered one of the biggest upsets in College Football History, as the Gaels of St. Mary’s only had a 5-2 record. Two MVPs were given out in this game, one to each team. The Red Raiders’ MVP was running back Elmer Tarbox, who had a touchdown catch in the game.
The Gaels’ MVP was Center Jerry Dowd. The Gaels were able to stop the high-flying air attack from the Red Raiders, as the Gaels forced 8 Red Raider turnovers in the game. A Quarterback with the last name of Flusche (all I could find) started the game for the Red Raiders and was taken out of the game for Gene Barnett, who orchestrated a comeback attempt that fell short.
St. Mary’s was able to shoot out to a 20-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter when the Red Raiders came fighting back with two passing touchdowns and a final drive that ended at the St. Mary’s 15 yard line.
Most of the information or stats taken on this season is lost, unfortunately. This team was no doubt one of the best in team history, as it finished 11th in the final AP poll. Most of the information from the Cotton Bowl game the Red Raiders played in was found on a Pittsburgh Post from 1939. I had a ton of fun working on this and I hope you all had fun reading.
Be sure to tune in next week for another of the greatest teams in Red Raider football history! If you have any suggestions for teams you think should make the list, be sure to comment down below!