The Texas Tech football team will set off on its 2022 journey this Saturday when Murray State comes calling. However, many wonder if there is much we can learn from a game against an FCS opponent.
Certainly, there is little to be gained for Joey McGuire’s team when playing an opponent from a lower level of the sport. Win by a huge margin and it will merely be looked at as doing what the Red Raiders were supposed to do. Win by just a few points and early concern may creep into the minds of people across Raiderland. Lose and…yikes.
Fortunately, we haven’t ever seen the third of those scenarios play out for the Red Raiders when hosting an FCS team. However, three times in recent years we’ve seen Tech have close calls against FCS teams. What’s more, in each of those years, the early close call was a sign that all was not right at the corner of University and The Marsha Sharp Freeway.
Back in 2014, excitement was through the roof as the season began given that Tech was coming off of a nice 8-5 season in Kliff Kingsbury’s debut. Yet, concern quickly arose when QB Davis Webb and his Red Raiders struggled to put away Central Arkansas.
The sophomore QB was picked off twice helping to keep Central Arkansas in the game until late in the fourth quarter. Additionally, the Tech defense surrendered 406 yards while failing to generate any turnovers of its own in the 42-35 Red Raider win that saw Central Arkansas cut the lead to just seven points in the final 3 minutes.
Little did we know it at the time (or if we did, we didn’t want to admit it) but this game was a sign that the 2014 team was not very good. A week later, Tech would have to fight for its life and pull off a late comeback against UTEP in El Paso to win 30-26. Then, in week three, Arkansas would bully Tech on the ground in a 49-28 win in Lubbock. In all, the 2014 team would go just 4-8 and 2-7 in Big 12 play that season.
The next time that Tech was pushed to the brink against an FCS team was in 2020 when Houston Baptist was throwing into the endzone on a two-point try in the final minutes to tie the game. Of course, they would fail in that endeavor and lose 35-33 but again, it was a sign that the Red Raiders were in for a poor season. In that COVID-19 abbreviated year, Tech would go just 4-6 overall and 3-6 in conference action.
Last season, Tech would go 7-6 overall thanks to a mid-season coaching change. But the second game of the year gave everyone in scarlet and black a scare as Stephen F. Austin would nearly pull off an upset in Lubbock falling 28-22. Again, that game was a signal that all was not right with the program under Matt Wells and six games later, he would be fired.
This year, the hope is that there will be no doubt about the outcome of the annual FCS game. While we all expect the Red Raiders to have their way with the Racers, there are some specific things we will be looking for as this game unfolds. Here’s a look at what we want to see from McGuire’s squad on Saturday evening.