Saturday in Lubbock was a day that Texas Tech football fans won’t soon forget as the Red Raiders took down the hated Texas Longhorns 37-34 in overtime. Here are some rapid reactions to what we saw at Jones Stadium.
Tech wins the turnover battle
The key to this game was the fact that, for the first time this season, the Red Raiders won the turnover battle. However, it wasn’t just that Donovan Smith and the offense didn’t give the ball away at all, a first for the 2022 season.
Rather, it was that for the first time in this season, Tech actually converted a turnover into points. When Trey Wolff booted the game-winning field goal in the overtime period after Tech recovered a Bijan Robinson fumble on Texas’ prior possession, it was the first time that Tech was able to play complimentary football this season. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
Smith outplays Card
In the battle of backup quarterbacks, Donovan Smith played hero by outperforming Texas’ Hudson Card. It wasn’t that Card was poor. He completed 20 of 30 passes for 277 yards, two touchdowns, and a pick. He also picked up a key first down on the ground on his way to 24 yards on three carries.
However, when the Longhorns put the game on Card’s shoulders in the fourth quarter, he couldn’t deliver. Aside from the last drive of regulation when Tech stupidly played a prevent defense, Card couldn’t lead Texas to points in the final frame.
On the three drives prior to the game-tying FG drive to end regulation, Texas went 3-and-out, 3-and-out, and 5-and-out. In those possessions Card was just 1-5 passing for no yards.
Meanwhile, Tech got a fantastic fourth quarter from Smith. Completing eight of his eleven passes in the quarter, he threw for 109 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 19 tough yards on seven carries.
Ultimately, Robinson’s fumble will be the turning point in this game but don’t overlook the disparity in the fourth-quarter performances of the two QBs. Tech entered the 4th down by seven points and asked its backup QB to carry the offense to a win, and he did. Meanwhile, Texas tried to ask its backup QB to help salt away a victory, and he couldn’t.
Bijan doesn’t dominate
Not only did Robinson commit the game-changing turnover in overtime, but he also wasn’t able to dominate this game the way many feared he would. Sure, he ran for 101 yards and two TDs on just 16 carries. That’s not a bad day at the office.
However, when the game was on the line and Texas needed some offense, Robinson didn’t find much room to maneuver. On the three UT fourth-quarter drives that ended in punts, the nation’s top running back was held to just 13 total yards on four carries.
Now, Texas fans likely wanted to see their bell-cow get more action as the Horns tried to get this fish in the boat. That’s going to certainly be something that the Texas coaching staff will have to answer for. However, credit must be given to the Red Raider defense as well.
It wasn’t a perfect showing by the Tech run-stoppers. But they did make Robinson have to earn his yards the hard way, by breaking tons of tackles. What’s more, when the game was on the line, Tech’s swarming run defense was able to keep Robinson in check and that was a huge reason that the Red Raiders were able to secure the win.
McGuire the bold
Maybe it is his newfound love of analytics. Or, perhaps, maybe it is just who he is. But whatever the reason, Joey McGuire is proving to be one of the most brazen coaches we’ve seen come through Lubbock in quite some time.
On Saturday, he had his offense attempt eight fourth-down conversions. Fortunately, Tech picked up six of them, the most fourth-down conversions Tech has ever had in a Big 12 game.
The defining fourth-down conversion of the game came on Tech’s final drive of regulation, the drive that ended with Wolff’s field goal to stake Tech to its short-lived 34-31 lead. On 4th-and-3 at the 50, McGuire rolled the dice and was rewarded when Smith found Myles Price for six yards and a first down.
At the time, I didn’t like the call because there was still 2:10 on the clock and a failure to convert would have essentially set up Texas to win the game. Now that I’ve had time to process the decision, I like it even less. Analytics be damned, it was too risky of a call for the situation. But fortunately for McGuire, his players bailed him out and that was a huge moment in the game.
A signature win
For years, Tech has needed a signature home win and on Saturday, the program finally got one. Beating Texas in Lubbock for the first time since Michael Crabtree’s heroics in 2008, the Red Raiders picked up a win that not only moved the needle nationally but one that, more importantly, resonated with the fan base.
McGuire was already one of the most popular men in West Texas prior to this win. Now, he’s already approaching Mark Adams’ and Tim Tadlocks’ status.
Sure, he’s only coached four games with the Red Raiders. But he’s 3-1 with two top-25 home wins over in-state foes. That’s how you start to win back a fan base that had essentially written off the football program at this time last season.