Xavier White’s kickoff return sets Tech up for a score
Special teams often provide unforgettable turning points in a close game. While this game was not close, the kicking game did come into play in the second quarter.
After Murray State scored their lone TD of the night to cut Tech’s lead to 21-10, wide receiver Jacob Bell was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct as he stood over Tech’s Adrian Frye after hauling in a 54-yard TD reception.
As a result, his team would have to kick off from the 20-yard line. That allowed Xavier White to field the ball at the Red Raider’s five-yard line and return it 36 yards. What’s more, after the play, Murray State was assessed another unsportsmanlike penalty to move the ball to the Racers’ 39.
That set Tech up with great field position and as a result, offensive coordinator Zach Kittley decided to go for the jugular. On the first play of the drive, Donovan Smith would unleash his cannon of an arm and connect with Loic Fouonji for a TD.
This sequence is a stark reminder of how important it is for a team to be mature and disciplined. Playing with passion is one thing but taking that past the whistle is often a game-changing mistake.
It’s great to see a team other than Tech make those types of gaffes after years of seeing the Red Raiders commit such acts in critical situations. It was also great to see a special teams return change a game.
Last year, Tech was just 84th nationally and last in the Big 12 in kickoff return average. With only a 19.3 average on the kickoff returns, Tech rarely flipped the field in the return game. Maybe that will change this year as Xavier White certainly looked like a dangerous returner on Saturday night.