ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Kliff Kingsbury was preparing for his first full season as Texas Tech's starting quarterback when the Red Raiders got a new running backs coach in 2000.
He still remembers the reaction Art Briles got after joining his alma mater after being a successful Texas high school coach.
"You could see the way the players gravitated toward him and how much respect and admiration they had for him," Kingsbury said. "The positive energy, the football knowledge, you could tell he was going to go a long way in this profession."
Kingsbury is now in his first season as head coach of the Red Raiders (7-3, 4-3 Big 12), who play Briles' fourth-ranked Baylor Bears (8-0, 5-0) in the Dallas Cowboys' stadium on Saturday night.
It will be Baylor's first game since Briles got a new 10-year contract this week through the 2023 season. The Bears have a school-record 12-game winning streak, are 8-0 for the first time ever and rank fifth in the BCS standings.
"I have a ton of respect for him, and admiration," Kingsbury said. "What they've done is remarkable. ... They're playing as well as anybody in the country right now."
Briles won four state championships in 12 seasons at Stephenville High before his three seasons on coach Mike Leach's staff in Lubbock that coincided with the rest of Kingsbury's playing career with the Red Raiders. Briles then got the head coaching job at Houston, which had gone 0-11 only two years before he got there.
The Cougars won a Conference USA title and made it to four bowl games the next five seasons before Briles went to Baylor for what is maybe an even more impressive turnaround. Baylor was coming off 12 consecutive losing seasons since the inception of the Big 12 when Briles was hired. The Bears are now a national title contender and will play in their fourth consecutive bowl game this season.
Texas Tech has welcomed Kingsbury with open arms, and the Red Raiders started 7-0 before losing their last three games.
Kingsbury, at 34 the youngest head coach in a BCS conference, started his coaching career on Kevin Sumlin's staff at Houston immediately after Briles left. Kingsbury spent four years there before going with Sumlin to Texas A&M, where in his only season he was offensive coordinator for quarterback Johnny Manziel, the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.
"He's the son of a high school football coach, first and foremost. So he's been around it all his life," said Briles, who turns 58 next month. "Very intelligent, driven and dedicated. Very creative and he's an achiever. And those are good characteristics to have. ... It's been fun to watch his career."
From a college quarterback who threw for 12,429 yards and 95 touchdowns to coaching a Heisman Trophy winner and now coaching the Red Raiders.
Now Kingsbury is trying to stop the nation's highest-scoring and most productive offense (61 points and 686 yards per game) when their series against Baylor is played at a neutral site for the fifth year in a row. The Bears snapped a 15-game losing streak in the series with a 66-42 victory in 2011 when Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III played only a half because of concussion-like symptoms, then won 52-45 in overtime last year.
Briles shrugs off the three-game skid of his opponent.
"You're talking about a team that's No. 10 in America three weeks ago," Briles said. "And they've got the same players on the field they had three weeks ago."