Texas Tech football: Red Raiders just aren’t good enough to have so many mistakes

LUBBOCK, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 16: Quarterback Jett Duffey #7 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders is hit by defensive tackle Corey Bethley #94 of the TCU Horned Frogs during the first half of the college football game on November 16, 2019 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 16: Quarterback Jett Duffey #7 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders is hit by defensive tackle Corey Bethley #94 of the TCU Horned Frogs during the first half of the college football game on November 16, 2019 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images) /

We learned again Saturday that this year’s Texas Tech football team simply is not good enough to win a game in which it makes numerous key mistakes.

One of the reasons this year’s Texas Tech football team is facing the prospect of missing out on a bowl bid is that the current version of the Red Raiders simply has no margin for error.  That was evident again in Saturday’s 33-31 loss to TCU in Lubbock.

Falling to 4-6 on the year and 2-4 in Big 12 play, Matt Wells’ team now has to win its final two games against Kansas State and Texas to qualify for a 13th game.  That seems unlikely because as we saw against the Horned Frogs, for the Red Raiders to win Big 12 games this year, almost everything has to go their way while they make virtually no mistakes.

Unfortunately, mistakes were abundant for the Red Raiders in their second-straight home loss. Tech lost the turnover battle 2-0 with a Jett Duffey interception ending the team’s first drive of the game and a McLane Mannix fumble ending its final drive of the afternoon to seal the win for the visitors.

In the kicking game, redshirt freshman kicker Trey Wolff shanked the extra-point try after his team’s second touchdown of the day to put his team behind the eight ball on the scoreboard.  That proved to be a critical moment because it forced Tech to try to pick up that missed point on two separate two-point conversions, both of which were unsuccessful, and those points proved to be the difference in the game.

Let’s also not forget the mistakes the coaching staff made.  First of all, they failed to find a way to get their team ready to play right out of the gate for the second-straight home game.  After Tech fell behind Iowa State 21-0 in the first quarter back on October 19th, it was disappointing to see the Red Raiders face a 17-0 deficit in the first quarter on Saturday.

Additionally, Wells’ decision to try to pick up the point his team missed on Wolff’s PAT flub after scoring a TD on the first drive of the 3rd quarter proved to be ill-advised.  Had Tech kicked that extra point and the one following the Red Raiders’ next TD, the game would have been tied at 33 in the final minutes of the 4th quarter.  It’s not smart to chase a single point with nearly two quarters remaining in the game and that risky decision backfired on Wells.

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We have to give credit to this team for not folding up like a card table after going down three scores right off the bat.  Minus starters like T.J. Vasher (suspension), Jack Anderson (injury), Jordyn Brooks (injury), Des Smith (injury), and Dalton Rigdon (injury) for all or parts of the game, the Raiders fought back and eventually took a 28-27 lead.

But like mistakes, injuries are proving to be too much for Tech to overcome in 2019.  The lack of Big 12 quality depth has been evident, especially on defense where the beleaguered unit was on the field for 95 plays and 43:26 of the clock.  That allowed the Frogs, which came into the game with the No. 7 offense in the Big 12 to amass 549 yards.

The truth is that in the only two Power 5 wins the Red Raiders have managed to bring home this year, virtually everything has gone Tech’s way.  Against Oklahoma State, the Red Raiders had the benefit of a 5-0 edge in the takeaway department and last week at West Virginia, Tech had a 4-0 advantage in that critical aspect of the game.

Saturday was just the third time that the turnover game didn’t go Tech’s way in conference play.  But thus far, the Red Raiders have needed not just a slight edge but a massive advantage in that stat to be able to win.  Even when having a one-turnover advantage over OU and Iowa State, it wasn’t enough to push this flawed team to victory.

Expecting any team to play a perfect game is unrealistic.  But when Tech is without the benefit of massive charity from its opponent, that’s what seemingly has to happen.

For example, Jett Duffey was a one-man offense for his team on Saturday.  With both available running backs Ta’Zhawn Henry and SaRodorick Thompson each a shell of their former selves because of injuries, Duffey threw for 333 yards and 4 touchdowns while leading the team with 42 rushing yards.  But it was his one missed deep ball early in the game that proved to be huge.

With Tech trailing 10-0 in the first quarter and desperately needing points to stem the TCU tide, Duffey had Rigdon streaking downfield with on defender closer than 10 yards from him.  But Duffey’s pass was off the mark forcing Rigdon to make a diving catch, rather than allowing him to pull the ball in and score an easy TD.

Three plays later, the Red Raiders punted and on the ensuing drive, TCU took a 17-0 lead.  It was an example of how virtually every play that is there to be made for the Red Raiders has to be made if they hope to win.

That’s not a way to survive in college football.  The best teams are able to overcome their mistakes because they either have such talent or such a strategic edge that they can still pull out the win.  But that’s not the life the Texas Tech football program lives these days.

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This loss to TCU revealed quite a bit about where the program is under Wells.  The good news is that this team has shown on a number of occasions that it is not going to give up even when the cards are stacked against it.  But it has also shown that Wells’ program lacks the talent and depth to overcome mistakes.  Hopefully, as this rebuild progresses, the margin for error with this team will increase and days like Saturday will prove to be less frequent than they have been in 2019.