In the Texas Tech football team’s 24-23 last-second victory over Baylor on Saturday, these hidden moments proved to be critical junctures of the game.
Finally, the Texas Tech football program was able to come up with key plays in the 4th quarter of a game to pull out a close win on Saturday. That was something we’d yet to see from the Matt Wells era prior to Saturday’s 24-23 win over Baylor.
While some may be pointing to the fact that the Bears are now just 1-5 on the season as a reason to discount this victory, the truth is that any type of Big 12 win is important for the Texas Tech football program in its current state. After all, this was just the fourth conference win in the last two seasons for Wells and Co.
So never mind the quality of the opponent. Though Baylor is a bad team, so is Texas Tech. And the only way for a bad team to get better is to start beating other bad teams and learn how to win games.
That’s what the Red Raiders did on Saturday and there were a number of hidden moments that helped pave the way for the Red Raiders’ third win of the year. So let’s look at those plays that might have seemed somewhat insignificant at the time they occurred but which had a serious impact on the outcome.
Bradford stops Ebner on 4th down on the first drive of the game
There were a couple of times in this game when we had reason to seriously question Baylor’s decision-making. One of those was on the opening drive of the game.
It wasn’t that Dave Aranda decided to have his team go for it on 4th-and-1 at the Tech 41-yard-line. That was a reasonable decision given how the winds were howling in Lubbock during the game.
Rather, the questionable decision was who Baylor gave the ball to. On that drive, the Bears had pounded the ball down Tech’s throat on the ground using 230-pound running back Qualan Jones who ran three times for 20 yards on that possession.
Thus, it made no sense to give the ball to 208-pound scat-back Trestan Ebner. After all, he is more of a pass-catcher than a runner. In fact, he’s run for just 75 yards on 30 carries this year.
For the remainder of the game, Ebner did not have another carry. (He did have one catch for four yards before his day was cut short by an injury.) So why ask him to pick up a tough yard on 4th down? That’s not his game.
Perhaps it was an attempt to catch Tech sleeping as Baylor did snap the ball quickly and were that the plan, Aranda’s team probably didn’t want to substitute any players in order to prevent the Red Raiders from subbing as well. And being as Ebner was already on the field, he was the option that the Bears went with.
But giving the ball to a small back who doesn’t carry it often proved to be unwise. Red Raider DE Tony Bradford Jr. broke through the line and brought down Ebner by himself to turn the ball over to the home team. One has to wonder if he would have been able to do that to Jones, who would have been much more difficult to bring down.
This play proved to be significant because had Baylor picked up a few more yards, they would have been in range to kick a field goal and in a one-point game, every scoring opportunity is amplified.
What’s more, on the ensuing possession, Tech managed to pick up only 29 yards on nine plays and that was just enough to get Jonathan Garibay into field-goal range. Had Tech not been gifted the ball at their own 42 to start that drive, there likely wouldn’t have been any points at the end of it and that could have changed the outcome of the game. But because Baylor tried to pound the ball with a lightweight RB, Tech was able to make the game’s first big play and turn that into three points.