It’s tough to try to come up with anything insightful to say about the Texas Tech football team’s 23-0 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday night. After all, the Red Raiders hardly put up a fight on offense and were completely humiliated by a very good Oklahoma State defense.
The loss ended Tech’s streak of 302 games without being shut out, a run that dated back to 1997. It was also the first time that the Red Raiders had been shut out at home since 1987.
But though this is a game that we all would like to forget, let’s take a look at five takeaways from what we saw on Saturday night. And we will begin with the situation at QB.
QB picture far from settled
Last week, many Texas Tech fans (this writer included) may have thought we were seeing the birth of a new star at the QB position when redshirt freshman Donovan Smith put up 372 total yards and three TD passes against a stout Iowa State defense in his first career start. However, any thought that Smith’s ascension to the role of permanent QB1 would be without some bumps in was quickly put to bed on Saturday night.
Smith looked exactly like a freshman facing one of the nation’s top ten defenses usually looks. He was flustered, frustrated, and off his game from the first pass that he threw and he never found a rhythm.
The Frienship product would end the game just 9-29 passing for 89 yards. The only thing you can say positively about his night is that he didn’t turn the ball over through the air. However, he did have a lost fumble that hurt Tech’s efforts.
Now, it must be pointed out that true freshman Behren Morton wasn’t any better in his two series of action. In fact, he completed just one of three passes for no yards.
The result is that Tech enters the final game of the regular season against a tough Baylor defense with more questions than answers at the QB spot. Even if Smith or Morton play well in Waco this Saturday, Tech will have massive concerns about the position heading into bowl practices and likely the offseason as well.
There will almost certainly be a three-way competition between Smith, Morton, and Tyler Shough for the starting job in the bowl game and that’s far from ideal. And, it’s safe to say that getting the QB situation figured out will be the most important task new head coach Joey McGuire will have to accomplish before next season.
Cumbie completely outmatched by OSU DC
Those who are strong proponents of keeping interim head coach Sonny Cumbie as the offensive coordinator under McGuire don’t have much ammunition after Saturday night’s debacle on offense. Tech mustered just 108 total yards, 25 on the ground, against the Cowboys.
In fairness, not many teams have been able to put up huge numbers on the OSU defense this year. But, even lowly Kansas had a better day against the Cowboys than Tech did as the Jayhawks gained 143 yards and three points last month in a losing effort to OSU.
What was most disconcerting was that Tech never seemed to have a clue as to how to attack the Cowboys. And when the initial plan (whatever it may have been) didn’t work, there were no visible changes made.
Tech’s only offense seemed to be trying to throw the ball deep on go-routes and hope that a receiver could make a circus catch against man coverage. There were few crossing routes, few slants to your 6-foot-9, 250-pound tight end, and even fewer attempts to get Donovan Smith’s legs involved in the ground game.
It wasn’t Cumbie’s finest day and it certainly wasn’t a showing that will cement his status as this team’s OC moving forward. He will certainly need a rebound effort against Baylor this week.
Excellent defensive effort wasted
Tech wasted a fantastic defensive performance from Keith Patterson’s unit on Saturday night and that’s a huge disappointment. After all, in the three years that Patterson has been in charge of the Tech defense, this was just the fifth time that the Red Raiders have held a Big 12 team not named Kansas to under 30 points.
Tech has to capitalize on those types of games. In fact, this year, the Red Raiders have lost twice when holding an opponent below 30. The other instance was a 25-24 defeat at the hands of Kansas State in Lubbock.
Last night, OSU did have 427 yards of offense but they averaged just 6.3 yards per pass and 3.9 yards per rush. Those numbers should be good enough for Tech to be in any game.
However, the defense couldn’t manage to exploit OSU’s offensive weakness, turnovers from QB Spencer Sanders. Putting little pressure on the turnover-prone Cowboy passer, Tech didn’t even come close to generating a takeaway on a night when the offense desperately needed a short field.
Still can’t stack success
Tech still hasn’t managed to win back-to-back Big 12 games since beating TCU and KU in consecutive weeks in 2018. That’s a span of 32 conference games when you count next week’s contest against Baylor.
Three times this year, Tech had a chance to win two conference contests in a row with all three of those opportunities coming at home and on all three occasions, the Red Raiders spit the bit. For this program to get back to being a relevant factor in this conference, that has to change.
The most important aspect of the weekend wasn’t the game
Though the loss to the Cowboys is what Red Raider fans are talking about, the most important aspect of this past weekend wasn’t what happened on the field at Jones Stadium Saturday night. After all, Tech has already secured a bowl birth, something that is a mild step forward for this program.
Rather, the most critical goings-on took place on the recruiting trail where Joey McGuire was hosting dozens of high school prospects in both the 2022 and 2023 classes. And as of the publishing of this article, Tech has landed a commitment from one of those recruits, Ty Kana, a 3-star linebacker from Katy.
A 2022 prospect, he holds offers from the likes of USC, Baylor, Colorado, Virginia Tech, Washington, Washington State, and Oklahoma State among others. And there will likely be others who were on campus this weekend that will join Tech’s ranks.
So while what we saw from the Red Raiders on the field may have been a disaster, what happened with McGuire’s recruiting efforts is far more important for the future of the program. After all, he’s already put one more recruit on the board than Tech put points on the scoreboard.