As we all wake up today we are reminded that Texas Tech is, again, finished alongside the regular season. There is plenty of room to discuss the variety-pack of “what went wrong, what went right” to the microscopic, but nobody in their right mind has the time or patience to do so for a 4-8 team. Instead we’ll stick with the easily recognizable good, bad, and ugly categorization to shake out the season’s performance – negating the first two games of the season for obvious reasons.
Far and away the best game for the Red Raiders was their 45-35 thumping of the, now, 8-4 T-3 Oklahoma State Cowboys. Though Spencer Sanders came in with some questions for the Cowboys, nobody expected the level of aggression that the Tech defense would put on him (Sanders ended the afternoon 22/37, 290 yards, 2 TD 3 INT, and a 21.8 QBR). Defensive stars of the game were numerous: Douglas Coleman with 2 interceptions, Demarcus Fields with an interception, Broderick Washington and Dadrion Taylor each with a fumble recovery, and Jordyn Brooks with 19 tackles, 3 sacks, and 4 tackles for a loss. Offensively the Red Raiders were firing on all cylinders: Duffey racked up 424 yards and 4 touchdowns (1 by his own legs), Sarodorick Thompson and Tazhawn Henry had significant runs. TJ Vasher had over 100 yards and a touchdown, followed nearly by Erik Ezukanma with 92 yards and touchdown. Despite a late third and fourth quarter comeback attempt by the Cowboys, Texas Tech played a complete game to win comfortably against a ranked opponent at home – the first time since beating no. 24 TCU back in 2013.
It is hard to put a 33-30 2OT loss to the team playing for the conference championship and a place in the College Football Playoff in the “good” category. It might be even harder to find a Texas Tech fan that would argue this wasn’t one of Texas Tech’s best games of the season. We will not address the extremely questionable butt-fumble that paved the way for Baylor to win; we’ll focus on the fight that our guys put up. Offensively, Thompson’s 153 rushing yard and 2 touchdown day was one of the best of the RS freshman’s year. When there was 1:45 on the game clock and Baylor led 17-13, Thompson hit the gap to breakaway for a 30 yard touchdown that put Texas Tech up 20-17 after the PAT. R.J. Turner also proved to be lethal out wide with 138 receiving yards on 7 receptions. Defensively, Texas Tech gave up 352 passing yards but 0 touchdowns to Charlie Brewer – instead intercepting three off the Big 12 star courtesy of Coleman, Evan Rambo, and Jamarcus Ingram. It wasn’t a pretty game from either side but, as far as junk yard brawls go, Texas Tech showed its most fight of the season in Waco.
Our fourth and final win of the season was convincingly “good.” West Virginia went on to beat Kansas State and TCU in the remainder of the season – proving that their loss to Texas Tech was not guaranteed. West Virginia managed only two touchdowns on the day; neither of them from the starter Austin Kendall – who still put up 355 yards through the air but gave up two interceptions (Coleman & Fields). The Mountaineer rushing attack felt more like a breeze against a concrete wall. Between five rushers they only managed 51 total yards, no doubt bullied by Tech’s defensive line and linebackers the whole game. Brooks put up another double-digit tackle day as well as 2.5 tackles for a loss – adding to his incredibly impressive resume on the season. Jett Duffey had a day moving the ball around, racking up 354 yards on 24 completions, but only managed one touchdown on the day. The duo of Tazhawn Henry and Sarodorick Thompson was the gut-punch West Virginia couldn’t handle. They put up 94 yards together that culminated in 4 touchdowns (2 a piece). Dalton Rigdon was the wide receiver of the day, putting up 106 yards on 3 receptions and bagging a touchdown himself. The last win of the season was a good one.
Death by a 1000 screens. The late-morning match up proved to be a dozy as they come; Texas Tech managing to scroll through about three different offensive plays and Iowa State scoring a touchdown each quarter. Coming hot off the close game against Baylor, Tech fans imagined that an Iowa State team that was shaky in prior games might be an easier win than expected. What they didn’t expect was a poorly drawn up offensive game plan and overall defeated attitude by the team. Sarodorick Thompson had himself a day, earning two touchdowns off 10 carries, but the passing game was hard to watch. Duffey completed 40 passes for only 239 yards (about 6 yards per pass) and one touchdown coming from TJ Vasher. What was even more difficult was that Texas Tech remained in-the-game for a majority of the contest – it was just a lack of aggressive play calling that kept the Red Raiders from having a fighting chance.
It was all TCU. It was a dog fight. It was all Texas Tech. It was a battle for field position that set up TCU’s game winning field goal. That’s the best summation of each quarter in this game. In complete contrast to the Iowa State game, the gameplan against TCU featured a lot more down the field passing. Duffey tossed 4 touchdowns (1 INT) and 333 yards off 19 passes. R.J. Turner continued to be the deep threat by hauling in two touchdowns off three receptions that earned 116 yards. Erik Ezukanma and Dalton Rigdon also each had a four receptions, a touchdown, and 75+ yards. The rushing game suffered mightily with only 69 yards on the day, and the defense had a hard time early but came alive in the third and fourth quarters. The defense made the stop of the game to set up a punt and game-winning drive opportunity for Texas Tech, but a short pass from Duffey to Mannix ended in a fumble that TCU recovered to run out the clock. Easily one of the hardest losses of the season.
This senior night match up against Kansas State was weird. Texas Tech outplayed Kansas State in nearly every category but capitalizing on drives was all Wildcat. Both Duffey and Kansas State’s Skylar Thompson had iffy nights at QB. Thompson and James Gilbert did just enough for the rushing game. R.J. Turner actually balled out with a touchdown and 141 yards on 7 receptions, and Ezukanma likewise had a touchdown on 69 yards of play. When the game was 6-3 KSU at the half, it felt like Texas Tech could rally back and win for the seniors. A 31 point third quarter opened up a 6 point deficit for the start of the fourth quarter – and then it became a dog fight. Near back-to-back interceptions, and a big time 58 yard touchdown by Turner brought the game to 3 points. Tech had the Wildcats at a 3rd and 11 on Kansas State’s 24, but Skylar Thompson got a 17 yard run off to give them the 30-27 victory. This was yet another game decided by 3 points or less. That always leaves room for speculation on what kept Texas Tech from finishing.
The first loss of the season was the worst loss of the season. Texas Tech had a lot of gumption heading into Tuscon behind Alan Bowman and the revitalized defense, but despite having so many offensive weapons the Red Raiders only put up 14 points against a poor, poor defense. Arizona had one of the worst passing defenses in the nation at the time, and while Bowman carved them up with 300 yards through the air he only managed one touchdown while giving up two interceptions. Tech’s defense did semi-well against the dynamic Khalil Tate, but even in his fourteen completions and 17 carries Tate still managed over 400 yards of total offense. The Arizona game challenged our notions about Yost, exploited Tech’s inability to guard the deep ball, and – yet again – removed Bowman out of the starting lineup due to injury.
Not that anybody thought this would have been a victory; especially with Bowman out and Jalen Hurts at the helm for the Sooners. But a 55-16 loss with over 640 yards of offense for Oklahoma can’t simply be put in “bad.” There’s no pity party here! The long ball was used early an often. Hurts completed 17 passes. 17 passes for 415 yards and 3 touchdowns. It was his prime, no doubt. This was also a good time for fans to see that Jackson Tyner was not good, Jett Duffey would start going forward, and Douglas Coleman was a dude after giving Hurts his first interception of the season. Our punter, McNamara, had himself a bad ass day though. On six punts he managed nearly the same amount of yardage as our entire offense.
In the first two offensive series of the game, Texas Tech strung together some of the best collection of plays and touchdowns of the season. 14-0 Texas Tech. That was pretty much the only real offense of the game outside of a gimme touchdown pass from Duffey to Ezukanma in the second quarter. Where the Red Raiders stagnated, Texas took off. In the remaining five series of the Longhorn offense, they scored on 4 of them. I couldn’t tell if it was superior play calling by Texas (surely not, right?) or just exposure of our poor defense, but the Longhorns took a 14-0 deficit and churned it into a 49-24 victory over the Red Raiders. Even worse I had to watch it with members of my family who are vehement Texas fans.
Texas Tech was punched hard early, punched hard late, and got in a few punches here and there this season. Finishing 4-8 was a hard pill to swallow for a lot of Texas Tech fans who have watched this team struggle for the better part of a decade. Though it is only Wells’ first season, the expectations were high, but it seems like the opinions haven’t stifled his process and resolve.
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