WVU football: Red Raiders' Kingsbury is cool and successful
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The opportunists in Lubbock, Texas, didn't need much time to stock their shelves with party favors celebrating Kliff Kingsbury's return to Texas Tech.
The former Red Raiders quarterback was hired in December after Tommy Tuberville literally left in the middle of a meal with recruits to take over at Cincinnati. Within just a few weeks, T-shirts in storefronts bragged how "Our Coach Is Hotter Than Yours." Another design showed a pair of the Ray-Bans with the multicolor, mirrored lenses Kingsbury is known to wear atop the words "The future's so bright ..."
And of course there was the mandatory "Schedule Cincinnati."
"It's more, I guess, embarrassing than surreal," Kingsbury said in April.
That's what happens when a 33-year-old who set 39 school records saunters onto a campus in West Texas, fresh off a headline-grabbing run with the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at Texas A&M.
That's why a prominent Texas Tech graduate, one who owns one of those timely clothing stores in town, emailed an assistant athletic director with tips to make the most of Kingsbury's age, coolness and popularity.
The email, obtained by Deadspin.com in the spring, suggested nicknames for Kingsbury and names of stylists and branding firms to help Texas Tech and its coach cultivate their image.
The Red Raiders, not long removed from Mike Leach's highs and controversial low as head coach - never mind Tuberville's cold and abrupt exit - could be forgiven for not restraining their enthusiasm. They were going to do things like print T-shirts that read "Swagger's back."
"I'd like to actually do something on the field first before all the other stuff comes into play, but that's part of the position, part of the job," Kingsbury said after spring football.
Well, No. 20 Texas Tech (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) is one of 17 remaining unbeaten teams. If they win Saturday's home game against Iowa State (1-3, 0-1), the Red Raiders will be the fifth undefeated opponent for WVU this season.
The Mountaineers (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) play host to Texas Tech at noon Oct. 19 at Mountaineer Field.
"It's been fun watching him since leaving Houston and all the success he had at Houston and Texas A&M," said WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen, who was an assistant coach with Kingsbury at Houston after he coached Kingsbury at Texas Tech. "He'll have lots of success at Texas Tech. He's a true Red Raider."
Like Holgorsen, Kingsbury has made his mark as a first-time head coach with the Air Raid offense.
The Red Raiders are No. 3 in passing offense, No. 13 in total offense and No. 19 in scoring offense.
Like Holgorsen, Kingsbury has used multiple quarterbacks this season. Baker Mayfield, a walk-on true freshman, made the most of a preseason injury to presumed starter Michael Brewer. Mayfield was named the starter before the season began, but injured his knee in last week's win against Kansas.
It was first thought to be a severe injury, but Kingsbury said Mayfield won't miss the rest of the season. He likely won't start and probably won't play against the Cyclones. Kingsbury nevertheless believes freshman Davis Webb, who has played in four games, and Brewer, a sophomore who has played in one game, are similarly skilled.
Thus far, Texas Tech has been everything people expected. The Red Raiders opened with a win against SMU and later won the Big 12 opener against TCU. They faced a 10-0 deficit on the road against the Jayhawks, but won 54-16.
It's getting harder for Kingsbury to escape the sort or celebrity he sought to avoid in the spring.
"I keep it pretty secluded to my office and my house," Kingsbury said. "It's been incredible. The support of the entire team, the entire program has really been amazing. It's helping push the players and push the staff to work hard each and every day. The sense of pride about this place again, you can feel. I hope we can keep it rolling."
Texas Tech's average attendance for three home games is 57,928, which would be a record for an entire season, though Jones AT&T Stadium only expanded to 58,930 in 2009, 60,454 in 2012 and 60,862 this season. The crowd of 60,997 against Texas State was a stadium record.
"It's electric," defensive end Kerry Hyder said. "He's got the whole community together behind the whole program. He's bringing everyone together in Lubbock and we're enjoying it right now."
The student section crowd of 16,092 for the Thursday night game against TCU was a record and broke the mark of 14,915 set in the home opener against Stephen F. Austin.
The Red Raiders lead the Big 12 in student attendance with an average of 13,750 per game. The capacity is 12,577, meaning Texas Tech's 109-percent capacity tops Texas' 99-percent capacity.
"Our student section right now, I've never seen one like it," Kingsbury said. "Hopefully they'll keep coming. I know our players feel that. To have their peers in the stands cheering for them, that goes a long way with them and it really shows what Texas Tech is all about to have that kind of school spirit."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.