Texas Tech football: Same song, different verse in loss to Kansas State

LUBBOCK, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 23: Wide receiver RJ Turner #2 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders runs a reception for a touchdown against cornerback Lance Robinson of the Kansas State Wildcats during the second half of the college football game on November 23, 2019 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 23: Wide receiver RJ Turner #2 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders runs a reception for a touchdown against cornerback Lance Robinson of the Kansas State Wildcats during the second half of the college football game on November 23, 2019 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images) /
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In the Texas Tech football team’s 30-27 loss to Kansas State on Saturday night, it felt like we were all watching an awful repeat of frustrating losses from earlier in the year.

We’ve seen this script play out time and time again in recent years.  The Texas Tech football team plays poorly out of the gate, falls behind, rallies and gives the home fans hope, but can’t make the critical plays down to stretch to drop a close game.

Saturday night followed that same formula as the Red Raiders lost to Kansas State 30-27 in Lubbock to drop to 4-7 overall and end any hopes of a bowl bid.  This was the team’s fifth loss since beating Oklahoma State at home on October 5th and four of those games have been decided by three points or less.  But that only adds to the frustration for this fan base and everyone associated with the program.

"“I think we’re pretty close,” head coach Matt Wells said after the game.  “We are very, very thin in some spots.  I think we’ve got to build our depth and our numbers are very, very low in some positions.“We have to recruit.  We have to develop.  I’m not sure we’ve completely lost our poise but there’s been some times that you do make mistakes at the end of the game where it can be pointed at poise.  There’s a couple of games that I don’t think should have gotten to that too.  So, I do think that’ll be something that’s looked at and addressed as we get into the offseason.”"

In a first half that saw the Wildcats lead 6-3 at the break, Tech was sluggish offensively.  The Red Raiders managed only eight first downs while turning the ball over twice, once on a Jett Duffey interception and once on downs when a puzzling fake punt call by Wells was snuffed out by KSU.

In the second half, the offense came alive just in time for the defense and special teams to collapse.  After both teams scored touchdowns on their first drives of the third quarter, KSU got a 100-yard kickoff return from Joshua Youngblood, a play that proved to be a game-changer as it put the Wildcats up 20-10.

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Tech did manage to answer with its own TD drive and after the teams traded field goals on the next two possessions, the Red Raiders trailed just 23-20.   But a key moment kept the Red Raiders from putting seven points on the board instead of three on the drive that spanned the end of the third quarter and the start of the 4th.

On 3rd and goal from the KSU 9, Duffey appeared to have connected with Kesean Carter for a touchdown pass next to the pylon.  However, the officials gave differing signals on the play and after review, it was deemed that Carter did not maintain possession and he was not awarded the score despite the fact that he touched the pylon while possessing the football.

This will be the key play that Tech fans remember from this game and it’s easy to understand why.  After Big 12 officiating incompetence in Waco cost Tech a likely overtime win over Baylor, you’ll have to excuse Red Raider fans if we feel like continued incompetence once again impacted another potential win.

But Tech still had its chances even after the controversial call.  Trailing 30-27 with 3:58 to play, Tech had the Wildcat offense backed up to 3rd and 11.

For some reason, DC Keith Patterson called an all-out blitz leaving no defenders in the middle of the field.  That allowed KSU QB Skylar Thompson to run for 17 yards and essentially ice the game.

Thomspon was far from impressive(14/28 passing for 248 yards, two touchdowns, and a pick) but he made enough plays to win.  The same can’t be said for Jett Duffey, who had one of his more lackluster games of the season.

Completing just 28/49 passes for 334 yards and two touchdowns, the junior struggled to get the ball downfield.  What’s more, he was intercepted twice, including once in the end zone after he had guided his team to the KSU 24-yard-line needing a score down by ten points with just under nine minutes to play.

Texas Tech fans are tired of the so-called moral victories this program seems to be so fond of.  Sure, this is another game that the team could have thrown in the towel on but is that the standard that we’ve come to accept, simply refusing to quit?  That should be the expectation and not something that we laud or praise.

This is the world of major college football and close calls, especially against teams as pedestrian and TCU and Kansas State, aren’t going to suffice.  Close calls don’t win over recruits, don’t earn you national recognition, don’t put you in the top 25 and, as we learned this year, don’t get you to bowl games.

This season will finally be put out of its misery on Friday in Austin when two teams with absolutely nothing to play for will meet to see which can break out of its tryptophan hangover long enough to claim a meaningless win.  Had Tech beaten Kansas State, the season-finale against Texas would have been quite meaningful with bowl eligibility on the line but now it is just a formality.

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After another one-score loss, the 12th game of 2019 almost mattered.  Just like this season almost turned out to be a pleasant surprise.  Just like this program has almost been relevant so many times in the last decade.  But ask any Texan what “close” gets you and you’ll be certain to hear about a backyard game and exploding hand-held weapons.  What you won’t hear about are bowl games.