Lincoln Riley's first impression for the Oklahoma offensive coordinator job came long before he ever interviewed with Bob Stoops. Five years before, in fact.
Here was the situation: on Dec. 30, 2009, Riley was Texas Tech's inside receivers coach. By Dec. 31, he'd been promoted to offensive coordinator at age 26, charged with running Texas Tech's offense in the wake of Mike Leach's abrupt and controversial firing. The Red Raiders were already in San Antonio, preparing to face Mark Dantonio, Pat Narduzzi and Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl two days later.
“Professionally, toughest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Riley told Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman. “Don’t know that I’ll ever have to do anything tougher. Biggest mix of emotions I’ve ever had.”
Stepping into those size-27 shoes Leach left behind, Riley performed well in his first and short-noticed stint as a play-caller. Very well, in fact. Texas Tech out-performed its season averages with 41 points (up from an average of 30) and 579 yards of total offense (up from an average of 504) in a 10-point victory over the Spartans. Texas Tech quarterbacks Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield combined to complete 38-of-54 passes for 460 yards with three touchdowns, and Baron Batch rushed 22 times for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
It was a Leach-ian performance in Texas Tech's first game of the post-Leach era. And it put Riley on Stoops' radar, five years before the match was made.
"With a lot of things stacked up against us, it was a major stepping stone for me," Riley said. "It was a lot of fun. But it was tough. It was hard seeing a guy that’s done so much for you. Just a really, really tough situation all the way around. I think it turned out to be a great opportunity for Ruffin and I. Everybody landed on their feet.”