The most epic post-game rant in college football history was not the only history-making thing to happen in Stillwater, Okla., on Sept. 22, 2007. Far from it.
Mike Gundy’s tirade came after perhaps the Peak Big 12 game. Oklahoma State beat Texas Tech 49-45 on that day, a game where the Cowboys and Red Raiders ran 182 combined plays for 1,339 yards. Red Raiders quarterback and current North Texas offensive coordinator Graham Harrell completed 46 of his 67 passes for 646 yards and five touchdowns; Michael Crabtree caught 14 passes for 237 yards and three touchdowns (but dropped the game-winning touchdown pass) and Danny Amendola added 14 grabs for 233 yards and a score.
But all those yards weren’t enough because Texas Tech simply could not stop Oklahoma State. Pokes quarterback Zac Robinson threw for 211 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 116 yards and two more scores. Dantrell Savage ran 25 times for 130 yards and a touchdown. Kendall Hunter added 113 yards and a score on 14 carries.
A day after he watched his team lose a game in which it gained 718 yards and scored 45 points, Leach fired defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich and promoted Ruffin McNeill to interim defensive coordinator.
The move worked. Texas Tech beat Texas A&M 35-7 in McNeill’s third game and later knocked off No. 4 Oklahoma en route to a Gator Bowl win over Virginia. Leach named McNeill his full-time defensive coordinator on Jan. 22, 2008.
“Ruffin took the reins of our defense and made it a more aggressive, successful unit than it had been,” Leach said. “The players responded and played with enthusiasm the rest of the year. In nine games, Ruffin took our defense to the top of the Big 12 Conference rankings. Our players are excited and looking forward to playing for him.”
McNeill stuck around through 2009, when history intervened again.
Texas Tech fired Leach ahead of the Red Raiders’ appearance in that December’s Alamo Bowl. The school appointed McNeill as interim head coach and a 26-year-old inside receivers coach named Lincoln Riley to interim offensive coordinator.
That exposure helped McNeill get the East Carolina head coaching job, where he brought Riley along as offensive coordinator. The two grew incredibly close during their five years in Greenville, and Riley turned down numerous job opportunities to leave until an offer he couldn’t refuse appeared on his doorstep.
After a disappointing 2014 season, Bob Stoops revamped his offensive staff and placed Riley in charge. Paired with another new arrival, a walk-on quarterback named Baker Mayfield, Riley lit the world on fire, helping Oklahoma to win back-to-back Big 12 championships and reach the College Football Playoff in 2015.
So comfortable was Stoops with Riley that, on June 7, 2017, Stoops retired and handed the keys to Riley.
Ten years after Mike Leach fired Lyle Setenich and named McNeill as his replacement, and eight years after Leach himself was fired at Texas Tech and Riley promoted to interim offensive coordinator, Riley was now Oklahoma’s head coach.
A week into his new job, Riley made McNeill his first hire, naming him as assistant head coach and defensive tackles coach.
“I’m very excited that Ruffin McNeill is joining our coaching staff,” Riley said at the time. “Personally, I have a great history with him from our time together at Texas Tech and East Carolina. We’re getting an extremely high-quality person and coach. Our team and fans will love the personality and energy he’ll bring to our program.”
McNeill, fired at East Carolina after the 2015 season, left his job as assistant head coach at Virginia to join Riley’s new staff.
“I was very happy at Virginia. Bronco’s a great head coach, and a great person, and he’s gonna win there,” McNeill said. “I had my best friend (offensive coordinator Robert Anae) coaching on the other side of the ball there. Lincoln was the only person that I would leave there for.”
Fast forward 16 more months and now, after his own team lost a game in which it gained 532 yards and scored 45 points, Riley has fired his defensive coordinator, Mike Stoops, and named McNeill as his interim defensive coordinator for the second time in McNeill’s career.
“Ruffin has an impressive résumé,” Riley said. “That’s why I wanted him on our staff in the first place. I have confidence in his knowledge and leadership.”
History is repeating itself before our eyes, completing a chain of reactions that began that fateful, explosive day in Stillwater 11 years ago.