Texas Tech football: Beating Oklahoma State first building block for Matt Wells

LUBBOCK, TEXAS - OCTOBER 05: Head coach Matt Wells of the Texas Tech Red Raiders (left) and head coach Mike Gundy of the Oklahoma State Cowboys greet each other after the college football game on October 05, 2019 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TEXAS - OCTOBER 05: Head coach Matt Wells of the Texas Tech Red Raiders (left) and head coach Mike Gundy of the Oklahoma State Cowboys greet each other after the college football game on October 05, 2019 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images) /

The Texas Tech football team’s 45-35 win over Oklahoma State in Lubbock on Saturday felt like the first building block in this program’s reconstruction under Matt Wells.

Entering Saturday, the Texas Tech football program was in desperate need of a win that everyone from the players to the fans could hang their hats on.   But no one needed the 45-35 win over the No. 21 Oklahoma State Cowboys more than first-year head coach Matt Wells.

Still trying to gain the adoration and confidence of a cynical and apathetic fan base, Wells had yet to bring the Red Raider faithful win over a Power 5 team.  But that all changed in a huge way as Tech took down a ranked team in Lubbock for the first time since early in the 2013 season.

Third-string QB Jett Duffey made his first start of the season and just his fourth as a collegiate and turned in the best performance of his career.  He completed 26 of 44 passes for 424 yards and four touchdowns with no picks.  It was the first start of his career in which he did not throw the ball to the opposition.

What made his day even more impressive is that he did not have to rely on his legs to be effective as has been the case for most of his career.  He ran only five times for 26 yards, 16 of which came on his scramble for the game’s first TD.

Tech jumped out to a 20-0 lead in the second quarter thanks to an efficient offense and a dominant defensive showing.  The Red Raiders forced three of their five takeaways in the first 30 minutes of action to help set the tone while coming up with a stop on OSU’s first nine possessions.

Speaking of setting the tone, senior middle linebacker Jordyn Brooks was the player of the game with 19 tackles and three sacks.  His dominant showing came against the nation’s leading rusher Chuba Hubbard, who had 156 yards (40 below what he had been averaging against FCS teams in 2019 prior to Saturday) and three touchdowns.

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Keeping the Cowboys’ star RB from taking over the game was certainly the focus of Keith Patterson’s defense and it came after two games in which the Red Raiders have struggled to stop the run.   Shockingly, the Red Raiders were actually more effective on the ground than OSU by averaging 4.6 yards per carry compared to the Pokes’ 3.9.

But to the credit of Mike Gundy’s team, the visitors kept trying to chip away at the lead.  And after recovering a fourth-quarter onside kick, a TD pass to the Big 12’s leading receiver, Tylan Wallace, pulled OSU to within ten points with still 3:27 to play.

The play of the game happened on the subsequent OSU two-point try.  Corraling a scrambling Spencer Sanders in a one-on-one situation, Brooks kept the Cowboy QB from making the game a one-score affair.

It was an inspired defensive effort from a unit that was depantsed in front of the entire nation last week in Norman when OU put up 55 points without breaking a sweat.  The Raiders recorded seven sacks, 14 tackles for loss, and held OSU to 219 rushing yards, 74 yards below their season average.

The five turnovers forced surpassed the team’s season total prior to Saturday.  Two of those were interceptions by Douglas Coleman who now has picks in three-straight games and five on the season.  His second of the game came on OSU’s last possession and sealed the program’s first win in Lubbock over the boys from Stillwater since 2008.

We will break down all the individual showings in the upcoming days.  But for now, let’s consider what this win means for Matt Wells’ program.  This feels like the first time the Red Raider fan base can have some confidence in the ability of this new coaching staff to return this program to a place of relevance in the Big 12 and on a national scale.

Prior to this, Wells had delivered just two wins over teams in Montana State and UTEP that had as much of a shot at beating the Red Raiders as a mosquito has at beating a T-Rex.  Taking down OSU was different.

Tech was by far the more physical and aggressive team on the field, something that we have not said of the Red Raiders on a consistent basis for at least a decade.  That was a trait Matt Wells’ teams were known for at Utah State and what caught Kirby Hocutt’s eye in a near-upset of USC in 2013 that put Wells on the radar of the Tech AD.

Tech desperately needed this win at home to show the fanbase that something worth investing in emotionally and otherwise is starting to take shape.  There will still be ups and downs but this is proof that the direction of this program and the atmosphere and attitude that Wells is trying to instill is one that we all can get behind.

In the past handful of years, much has been made about the dwindling fan engagement at Red Raider home games.  To remedy this problem, the athletic department has tried to do everything from selling alcohol at the games to lowering concession prices, to bringing more entertainment to the pregame festivities.

But nothing will bring the masses back to the Jones (and keep them there past halftime) except winning important games against worthy opponents.  Tech will need to string more such wins together before we start to see crowds of over 55,000 on a weekly basis as we did a decade ago.

dark. Next. 3 players that had to step up vs. Ok St.

Still, that process had to start with a single win over a Big 12 team other than Kansas.  In giving the home fans a win over a conference foe other than the Jayhawks for the first time in 1,421 days, Tech and Matt Wells took a critical first step towards showing the folks that matter most, the home faithful, that there’s a reason to believe in this program once again.