Tech lost the turnover battle
Another belief that was widely held heading into this game was that tur turnover battle would prove to be massive. It didn’t.
In fact, the team that lost the turnover battle 3-2 won the game. And making it more problematic for Tech was that it was the QB turnover battle that really went in Houston’s favor.
Donovan Smith was picked off three times and all three were massive shifts in the game. The first one came when Tech was at the Houston 24 and likely took points off of the board as the Red Raiders were in the midst of their first quality drive of the second half.
The second interception was the pick-six that tied the game at 17-17 and came one series after Tech’s lone INT gained on the day. That play was an instance of Smith being impacted by his lack of protection as he appeared to be doing all he could to get rid of the ball as fast as possible as threw it to a pre-determined read.
Of course, the third pick of the day from Smith looked like it might be a game-sealing play for the Cougars. Snapping the ball from the Red Raider 8, Smith actually had a decent pocket for a change but he made another poor read and threw a deep ball into double coverage on 3rd-and-17. Picking the ball off, the Cougars would return it 34 yards to set themselves up in field goal position with just 59 seconds to play.
Meanwhile, the often turnover-prone Clayton Tune was only picked off once this year by the Red Raiders rather than the four times he was intercepted last season. It was a much better showing for the senior who was the sole reason his team lost last year’s opener to Tech in Houston.
In all, Houston would win the points off of turnovers battle 10-0. Yet they would still lose the game. That is another development that defies all general football wisdom.