The wind was swirling all around Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock as Jonathan Garibay stepped up for the biggest kick of his life. Baylor called timeout to try and ice the college kicker in his first college start, but Garibay didn’t lose his cool.
Garibay didn’t know he would be taking over kicking duties until five days before this game and his ascent to the top job came in a critical spot. The Red Raiders were desperately searching for a win after losing five of six and a matchup against rival Baylor was one of the last chances on the schedule.
When these two teams played last season, it was Baylor kicker John Mayers nailing a field goal to eventually send the game to a controversial double-overtime victory. This time would be different. Even after going down double-digits, it had to be different.
The day before, Garibay was treated to a shock after his mother and two siblings flew in from his hometown of Rubidoux, Calif., to surprise him. Garibay comes from a deeply religious family and his mother was not able to see him play very much in high school because of church services. But when they got the news Jonathan would start his first FBS game, they made the 1,000-mile trip and surprised him at Friday walkthrough. Jonathan had not seen his mother in a year.
Garibay looked down at the spot and took a few steps back and to his left. The ball was snapped. Baylor came after him with everything it had. The snap was good. The hold was good. The kick was good. Texas Tech won 24-23.
“It was such a blessing,” Garibay said. “You kind of dream of this moment.”
Garibay was only told five days before the game that he would be assuming full-time place kicker duties. He had yet to attempt a kick in his Texas Tech career. Later that week, All-Texas College punter Austin McNamara was ruled out too, meaning Garibay would be pulling double-duty.
“He texted me when he said he was going to get the kickoff and field goal kicker position,” said Shandon Silva, Garibay’s former special teams coach at Riverside City College. “I joked around when he texted me and said, ‘what happened with punting?’ Two days later, he texted me that he was punting too.”
Garibay ran all three positions at Riverside City College, just 15 minutes from where he went to high school, but that’s a rarity at the collegiate level. Most specialists can’t do all three roles at an FBS level. Fewer can with just two practice days to relearn how to punt.
“It did take a little extra time,” Garibay said. “When I found out, I went home and was watching some of my old film trying to relive those moments.”
Whatever Garibay did worked impeccably. The junior hit all four of his field goals, including bombs of 48 and 46 yards. In a one-point game against a conference foe, scoring 12 points made all the difference.
He punted five times for a 49.4-yard average, a mark which would rank second in all of college football. Half of his kickoffs flew through the back of the end zone. In 11 combined kickoffs and punts, Baylor accumulated just 70 total return yards. In fact, the only thing preventing this from being a perfect kicking day is that he had his lone extra point blocked – no fault of his, of course.
“Coming out of high school, I thought the ball just reacted different coming off his leg,” Silva said. “As you can see tonight, it did on everything from kickoff to punt...he’s relentless in his pursuit to be great. I hope the sky’s the limit.”
Garibay is just the latest backup to step in and become a difference maker at Texas Tech. True freshman running back Tahj Brooks led the Red Raiders in carries and scored two touchdowns. Quarterback Alan Bowman came off the bench and provided a game-changing spark in the second half. Even when Texas Tech went down big, every player 1-85 kept fighting. These are the moments where programs change.
“I think we’ve been training for that since fall camp with corona and the pandemic going on,” Bowman said. “We practice everyone working on different routes and different positions – on ‘cross training’ as we call it...I think everyone kind of expects that no matter who you are, no matter what position you play, 2-3 people could be out.”
Before his mother made the trip to Lubbock, Garibay had not seen his family in a year. Jonathan went and visited during the Christmas season last year, but the COVID-19 pandemic meant sacrificing his ability to see his family to stay in Lubbock, just another one of the toughest sacrifices that a college football player must make because of the pandemic.
Capping off an emotional family reunion with Garibay’s first ever game-winning kick made the moment straight out of a Disney film.
“We might have to get them in here every weekend,” Texas Tech coach Matt Wells said after the game with a chuckle. “What a performance he had.”
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