It just feels as if last night’s 39-14 beating of Baylor in Waco could be a turning point in the 2023 Texas Tech football season. Finally picking up a road win this year, the Red Raiders played what many are suggesting was their best overall game of the Joey McGuire era.
"“We haven’t been good on the road,” McGuire said following the victory, “and I thought the guys really were focused all week long. We had some of our best practices Tuesday and Wednesday.”"
Winning away from Jones Stadium is a hurdle that Tech must clear with consistency if this program is going to develop into a conference contender. To simply qualify for the league title game, teams usually can afford only one (or perhaps two) losses during conference play meaning road wins have to be a big part of a team’s success.
However, Tech has been absolutely dreadful as a program when playing on another team’s campus. Since the start of the Kliff Kingsbury era (2013), Tech is just 15-31 in true road games.
That’s the sign of a program that is in trouble. When a problem persists through three different coaching staffs, that’s a reason for alarm.
Of course, McGuire hasn’t had enough time to completely eradicate Tech’s road issues given that he’s only halfway through his second season on the job. Still, road struggles are perhaps the biggest narrative surrounding Texas Tech football outside of the strange run of bad luck when it comes to the health of the starting quarterbacks.
"“They’re a very mature, intelligent team,” McGuire said. “They understand that we haven’t played well on the road and so I think they were very determined to come in and play the way they did tonight.”"
What makes this road win so unusual for the Red Raiders is that it was a blowout. Of the previous five road wins that Tech had secured, only two had come by more than one score. Those multi-score road triumphs were against an awful Kansas team (41-14 in 2021) and an awful West Virginia team (38-17 in 2019). Of course, Saturday’s blowout came against an awful Baylor team as well.
Still, those previous two blowout road wins didn’t feel as thorough and satisfying as Saturday’s humiliation of Baylor did. Of course, there is a bit more disdain for the Bears among Red Raiders fans than there is for KU or WVU.
However, it goes beyond that. There was an attitude displayed in this game that hasn’t necessarily been synonymous with Texas Tech football for decades.
When was the last time a Tech team lined up and simply mauled an opponent at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball? Usually, even when Tech has blown teams out, it has been via the passing game but last night, Tech crammed the ball right down Baylor’s gullet even though everyone in the stadium knew the ball was going to Tahj Brooks. Tech simply said, “Yeah, we know that you know what we are going to do but we don’t care because there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Similarly, on defense, the Red Raider front made Baylor’s offensive line look like a group of 300-pound blind ballet dancers. Tech racked up six sacks and eleven tackles for loss while also surrendering just 17 total rushing yards. Sure, the Baylor O-line might be the worst in the Big 12 but still, when was the last time any Red Raider defense managed that type of dominance against any Big 12 opponent?
Maye this recent uptick (which started with last week’s win over Houston) has been a two-game mirage and Kansas State will burst Tech’s balloon next week in Lubbock. Or maybe the last two games have shown us that this team has finally discovered its identity.
What’s more, is it possible that McGuire has transformed this program into one that is physically capable of bullying teams at the line? Wouldn’t that be a refreshing change of pace for Texas Tech football fans?
We won’t be able to fully put the wins over Houston and Baylor into context until the season concludes. Until then, we can only ride the week-to-week rollercoaster that is college football. This week, thankfully, gave Red Raider fans a huge boost in the form of a win over an in-state rival that has owned the series since the end of the Mike Leach era in Lubbock.
So let’s continue to soak up the good-time vibes by reflecting back on what we saw in Waco. Here are some extra observations on Tech’s most recent win.