In the end, the assumed showdown between the Texas Tech football program and its former head coach, Mike Leach, proved to be a one-sided tail kicking with the Red Raiders being the team that delivered the punishment. Here are some quick thoughts on the 34-7 Texas Tech victory.
Keith Patterson and the defense shine
Over the last three years, no one has been harder on defensive coordinator Keith Patterson than I have been. But after the performance of Patterson’s defense on Tuesday night, the man deserves all the praise that one can muster.
Coming in, Mississippi State had been averaging 30.9 points and 449.6 yards per game but the Tech defense held the Bulldogs to just one touchdown and 344 total yards. It was the fewest points that the Bulldogs scored in 2021 and one of the most dominating defensive showings by the Red Raiders in the past decade.
Tech held MSU quarterback Will Rogers to just 290 yards passing and a completion percentage of 60.3. Entering the game, he’d been averaging 370.7 yards and had a completion percentage north of 75.0.
If you saw that defensive effort coming, you should go out and buy a lottery ticket because completely dismantling a Mike Leach offense that way was something that few people anticipated. Kudos to Keith Patterson in his swan song for the Red Raiders.
Tyree Wilson dominated
All year, we’ve known that Tyree Wilson was Texas Tech’s most physically gifted pass rusher. But we hadn’t seen him completely take over a game and carry his team the way a player with his talent should.
Tuesday night, that’s exactly what he did. The defensive end registered two sacks, two tackles for loss, one QB pressure, and even a pass breakup in what was his most effective game thus far as a Red Raider.
His two sacks came on consecutive plays in the third quarter to kill a promising MSU drive. After the Bulldogs had reached the Tech 20 and were threatening to make something interesting out of what was a 20-7 game at the time, Wilson brought down Rogers on both third and fourth down to give the ball back to the Red Raiders.
Tech would then take the ball 60 yards on 9 plays on the ensuing drive to essentially put the game out of reach. And it was all set up by Wilson, who was as dominant as he’s ever been as a Red Raider.
Smith has a fantastic second half
Texas Tech QB Donovan Smith was shaky in the first half (and that’s being kind). It appeared as if the speed of the MSU defense and the gravity of the moment were going to be too much for him to handle as he was just 7-16 passing for 60 yards in the first half.
But after the break, he started to identify one-on-one matchups in the secondary and exploit them. He completed 8-12 passes for 192 yards and a TD after the intermission as he appeared to be a different player.
Now, he enters the offseason brimming with confidence and riding a wave of positivity as he is set to compete for the starting QB job with Tyler Shough and Behren Morton. And by performing the way he did on Tuesday night, especially in the second half, he certainly put his best foot forward and gave the new coaching staff something to think about.
The offensive line played its best game of the year
I don’t know what the grades will work out to be for each Texas Tech offensive lineman in this game and whether the sites that issue those grades will have this as that unit’s best game of the year but there’s no way you can argue that the Liberty Bowl wasn’t the offensive line’s best showing of 2021.
After struggling against Oklahoma State and Baylor to end the year, Tech’s line was able to absolutely dominate a Mississippi State defense that entered the game No. 21 in the nation in total defense and No. 10 nationally against the run.
For the game, Tech galloped its way to 260 yards and three TDs on the ground against an MSU team that was giving up just 100 rushing yards per game in the rugged SEC. Meanwhile, Smith was sacked just once as the Bulldog pass rush was rendered virtually impotent in the second half.
The big guys up front don’t get a lot of attention unless they are struggling but on Tuesday night, Caleb Rogers, Weston Wright, Dawson Deaton, Josh Burger, and T.J. Storment were fantastic and they deserve a huge round of applause.
It feels good to finally feel good about Tech football again
How long has it been since we’ve gone into an offseason feeling good about Texas Tech football? One could argue that it has been since the end of the 2013 season when Kliff Kingsbury led his team to an upset victory over Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl.
Since then, every Texas Tech football season has ended with either a loss or a failure to appear in a bowl game. But now, the vibe around this program is certainly as positive as we’ve seen it in quite some time.
There’s a new optimism with the hiring of Joey McGuire, a figure who appears well on his way to being the type of unifying force that this program desperately needs after the unpopular tenure of his predecessor left this fan base feeling apathetic about the program.
What’s more, the program finally exorcised some of the Mike Leach demons that had haunted it for over ten years. Now, it is time to turn the page and move on from that era of the program and we can do that because we finally have a reason to look upon the future with optimism. Needless to say, September 3, 2022, can’t come fast enough for Texas Tech football fans.