Texas Tech football: Reactions from Red Raiders’ workmanlike win over Tarleton

Sep 16, 2023; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders running back Tahj Brooks (28) runs the ball against the Tarleton State Texans in the first half at Jones AT&T Stadium and Cody Campbell Field. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 16, 2023; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders running back Tahj Brooks (28) runs the ball against the Tarleton State Texans in the first half at Jones AT&T Stadium and Cody Campbell Field. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

Saturday night in Lubbock, the Texas Tech football team put forth a workmanlike effort en route to a 41-3 win over Tarleton State.  Jumping out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, the Red Raiders were never threatened on the way to their first win of the season.  Here are a few rapid reactions to what we saw at Jones Stadium.

Texas Tech QB Tyler Shough is just a guy

I don’t know what’s going on with QB Tyler Shough but so far in 2023, he’s been just a guy.  Certainly, he has been far from the player we saw at the end of 2022 after he returned from his second broken collarbone in two years.

Only 10-20 on the night for 123 yards and a TD before being taken out of the game after the first Red Raider drive of the second half, the best thing we can say about the senior’s performance was that he finally didn’t turn the ball over, a first for this season.  However, on many throws, he was well off the mark, and on a number of others, he simply threw blindly to his first read putting the ball in harm’s way.

The reality is that Shough just isn’t that talented as a passer.  For his Red Raider career, he’s had only two games in which he’s completed more than 65% of his attempts when attempting more than 30 passes in a game.  Still, after the game, head coach Joey McGuire said that Shough would remain the starter and that backup QB Behren Morton’s insertion into the game early in the third quarter was planned and not a result of anything Shough did or didn’t do.

For what it’s worth, Morton was 8-13 for 72 yards with a pair of TDs and a pick.  He got the loudest ovation of the night when he entered the game but it appears that we will continue to wait for his time to come as QB1 even though he can make throws and plays that Shough simply can’t.

On a related note, Morton is one wild but fun ride at the QB position.  Man, I can’t wait for his time to come.

Tahj turned loose

Finally, offensive coordinator Zach Kittley was willing to turn Tahj Brooks loose.  The senior RB had season highs in carries (19) and yards (158) but he did not find the endzone.

It was nice to see this offense feature a traditional running attack and not live on the legs of Shough.  Brooks is simply too good to be a secondary rushing option and here’s hoping he gets more carries moving forward because so far this season, he’s averaging 7.3 yards per carry.

The defense takes three

After not taking the ball away from Oregon last week, the Red Raider defense finally met DC Tim DeRyuter’s goal of three turnovers per game.  Malik Dunlap became the first Red Raider since Douglas Coleman in 2017 to pick off multiple passes in a game with his first of the night being returned for a TD.  Meanwhile, Dadrion Taylor-Demerson corraled a wounded duck for his seventh career pick.

Dunlap’s two picks were just awful throws by Tarleton QB Victor Gabalis while Taylor-Demerson’s pick came on a play where the Texans’ QB had his arm hit by backup Red Raider defensive end Harvey Dyson III.  I’m not sure how encouraged I am by these takeaways given that only one was truly created by something the Red Raiders did.  I still worry about this defense being able to take the ball away from Big 12 teams with any consistency.

Disaster Averted

On the final drive of the first half, Texas Tech inside LB Jesiah Pierre left the game favoring his shoulder.  However, he returned to action after the intermission on his way to a five-tackle night.

Tech can’t afford to lose their senior LB given that there simply is no suitable replacement for him on the roster.  In fact, given that fellow inside LB, Jacob Rodriguez is out for multiple weeks, Pierre might be this team’s most indispensable player.  Therefore, everyone in Raiderland exhaled a sigh of relief when Pierre returned to action after what looked for a moment like a disaster in the making.

Myles Cole shows up

Tarleton made a concerted effort to get rid of the football in a hurry.  Thus, the Red Raider pass rush didn’t get home all that often.

However, defensive end Myles Cole made an impact with a pair of second-half sacks.  That’s an encouraging sign for a player we highlighted as one who needed to be more productive after a slow start.

The referees certainly weren’t paid by the hour

The officials in this game had no plan to drag things out.  In fact, they threw only one flag in the first half (a holding penalty against Tech’s Monroe Mills which was declined) and the first accepted penalty of the game came with less than five minutes to play in the third quarter.

Tech would end up with only two penalties for 24 yards while Tarleton had five for 56.  It was nice to see the Red Raiders play a relatively clean game in that respect after a couple of games that saw critical and avoidable penalties rear their head at inopportune times.

Loic Fouonji doesn’t play until late

Loic Fouonji didn’t register any statistics on the night after catching no passes last week either.  What’s more, I didn’t even see him on the field against Tarleton until late in the 4th quarter.

In his place, Jordan Brown had his best game at Tech.  The former Kansas transfer led the team with 6 receptions for 73 yards and a TD.  Has there been a changing of the guard at that position?

Young players impress

Several young players got their most extended action as Red Raiders.  LB Ty Kana had a team-high six tackles while fellow LB Miquel Dingle (a true freshman) was noticeable with a pair of tackles while playing with his hair on fire.

Defensive backs Brenden Jordan (four tackles), Jalon Peoples (three tackles), and Chapman Lewis (two tackles) also got some extended run, as did Maurion Horn.  That’s what games against FCS opponents are supposed to give teams like Texas Tech an opportunity to do.