It wasn’t the greatest of tests for the Texas Tech football team in its first game of the season. So how much stock we put into what we saw Saturday night is up to each individual.
On the one hand, Tech looked like a spectacular team loaded with dominant athletes. But on the other hand, Murray State looked like a team that wouldn’t even make the playoffs when competing in District 5-3A in the Texas high school ranks.
Regardless, Tech had some encouraging signs for week one of any season. First of all, the Red Raiders managed to get out to an early multiple-score lead in the first quarter. That was something that didn’t happen much in 2021.
Even against last year’s FCS opponent, Stephen F. Austin, and woeful FBS team Florida International, Tech was tied 7-7 after one quarter in both games. In fact, only three times last year did Tech have a two-score lead after the first quarter.
Also, the team managed to avoid early mistakes. Specifically, the Red Raider starters were excellent with the ball as they didn’t turn it over until late in the game when third-string QB Behren Morton threw an interception. Taking care of the ball is going to always be an emphasis for a team however it has to be especially important for a Tech team that was 92nd in the nation and 7th in the Big 12 last year in turnover margin.
Another positive sign is that Tech was able to minimize penalties until late in the game. Committing only four penalties when the starters were in, Tech played a particularly clean game while the players who will matter this year were on the field.
As a result, the game was never in question, as should be the case against an FCS opponent. Still, there were some moments when Murray State could have made things more interesting. So let’s take a look at five hidden moments that turned this game into a blowout by halftime.
Tech recovers Loic Fouonji’s fumble
The best way for an FCS team to pull off an upset of a Power 5 team is by forcing turnovers. As we have already mentioned, the Red Raiders didn’t give the ball away on Saturday night until late in the contest after the affair had already gotten out of hand.
However, there was one near turnover in the first quarter that could have given the Racers some early momentum.
With Tech already up 7-0 and facing a 1st-and-10 on their own 41, QB Tyler Shough got his team’s second drive of the game off to a great start by hitting Loic Fouonji in stride on a skinny post. But as Fouonji turned up field, he simply dropped the football.
After the fumble, the ball bounced right to a Murray State defender who was in full-speed pursuit of the play. Diving for the ball, the defender was unable to corral it despite the fact that it rolled right under his body.
Also in pursuit of the play was Texas Tech wide receiver Jerand Bradley, who did come up with the loose ball. It was a great play by the redshirt freshman who did not give up on the play and who was hustling to try to get in position to throw a block for his teammate.
Of course, this play would prove to be pivotal as Tech would reach paydirt just four plays later to take a 14-0 lead. Putting a huge underdog into a multiple-score hole early in the game is what good teams do and it is the best way to avoid an upset.
That’s what the Red Raiders did but only because of the heads-up play that Bradley made. On the day, he would catch six passes for 108 yards and a pair of TDs but pouncing on Fouonji’s fumble might have been his best moment on the night.