A week after being taken down to the wire by an FCS opponent, the Texas Tech football team did not mess around with one of the worst FBS teams in the nation on Saturday night. In the Red Raiders’ 54-21 win over Florida International in Lubbock, Matt Wells’ team looked sharp and dialed in for most of the evening as Tech moved to 3-0 on the young season.
But for a quarter of the game, it appeared as if another nail-biter was in the works. Falling behind 7-0, the Red Raiders again came out of the gates looking lethargic and sloppy making it the third time this year that Wells’ team has played a poor first quarter.
However, the game would turn in Tech’s favor towards the end of the first quarter. Picking off a pass and taking it back 72 yards for his team’s first touchdown of the night, senior safety Marquis “Muddy” Waters helped prevent the Red Raiders from being in yet another hole after 15 minutes of play. And in the second quarter, Tech would come alive.
Scoring TDs on their next four possessions, the Red Raiders would jump out to 35-14 lead at the intermission and cruise to an easy victory. And along the way, several developments that he had been hoping to see came to fruition.
Most importantly, Tyler Shough looked like he found his rhythm again. After completing just 12 of 22 passes last week for 174 yards while also being picked off twice last week, Shough rebounded with a career-high 399 yards while also tossing four touchdown passes with no interceptions.
But it was who he threw the ball to that might have mattered most. A week after completing just six passes to players other than Erik Ezukanma, Shough found 11 different receivers against FIU while relying far less on his star wideout.
In fact, Ezukanma caught only three passes for 28 yards, the first time this year he has been held under 100 yards in a game. But while FIU was bracketing Tech’s best weapon all night, other targets stepped up in a big way.
Wideout Kaylon Geiger led the team with 121 yards and six catches. Meanwhile, tight end Travis Koontz also tied for the team lead with six catches while finding the endzone twice.
It was a performance that looked far more like what Tech fans have grown accustomed to on offense and it was the type of effort that might instill some confidence in the fan base heading into next week’s Big 12 opener in Austin.
Meanwhile, the Red Raider defense remained stingy. Holding its fourth-straight opponent (dating back to last year) below 30 points, Tech’s defense gave up just 251 total yards and 55 on the ground.
Most impressive by the Tech defense was what it did to FIU’s star running back D’vonte Price. Coming into the game averaging 138 yards per game on the ground, the FIU bell-cow mustered just 51 yards on 15 attempts while averaging just 3.4 yards per run, over six yards less per carry than he put up in his first two games.
In the end, this was a workmanlike performance by the Red Raiders and one that this program desperately needed after last week’s dud of an effort. Tech can now turn its attention to getting ready for the Longhorns without having to hear all week about a second-straight lackluster performance.
While beating FIU is not going to warrant any parades down Broadway, the manner in which Tech did it was what we had hoped to see heading into the weekend. Now, business is about to pick up and it will be fascinating to see if Tech can answer the call.