Texas Tech football: Assessing 2023 season a matter of perspective

Texas Tech's head coach Joey McGuire smiles before the Big 12 football game against UCF, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, at Jones AT&T Stadium.
Texas Tech's head coach Joey McGuire smiles before the Big 12 football game against UCF, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, at Jones AT&T Stadium. /

Now that the 2023 Texas Tech football regular season has come to an end following Friday’s horrific showing in Austin, it is natural for fans to try to assess what transpired over the past three months.  However, the conclusion one comes to about the success (or lack thereof) of Joey McGuire’s second campaign is going to be a matter of individual perspective.

Of course, such is the nature of a 6-6 showing.  On one hand, it is nice to see the Red Raiders headed to a third bowl game in three years but on the other, playing in a lower-tier bowl is far from what most in scarlet and black were dreaming of back in early September.

So how do we put 2023 in perspective?  Let’s begin to try to do so by looking at the exacerbating circumstances that defined this season.

Major injuries at key positions have to be considered when assessing the Texas Tech football season

The reality is that every football team on the planet is going to deal with impactful injuries.  That’s why a team’s depth is such a critical component of its overall success.

Therefore, some may feel that Tech has no room to feel sorry for itself when looking back at the injuries that helped shape 2023.  Still, no one can assess what McGuire and Co. did this year without taking into consideration the players who missed significant time.

Of course, it all begins with the QB position.  Week one starting QB Tyler Shough played in only four games before going down for the year with a broken leg.  Then, in the same game that Sough was lost, Behren Morton suffered a sprained shoulder that hampered him the rest of the year and caused him to miss half of the Kansas State game and all of the BYU game.

Few teams in America are going to be able to reach their full potential when having such luck at the game’s most important position.  Unfortunately, though, the key injuries didn’t end there for McGuire.

Tech also had to go from the first quarter of the season opener to the ninth game of the season without starting middle linebacker Jacob Rodriguez.  That injury was critical because Rodriguez was supposed to be the quarterback of the defense in his first year as a starter.

Also, starters such as offensive lineman Cole Spencer, safety Tyler Owens, outside linebacker Steve Linton, inside receiver Myles Price, outside receiver Coy Eakin, tight end Mason Tharp, and defensive tackle Jaylon Hutchings all missed games this season with all but Hutchings missing at least two.

For a team with a margin for error as thin as Texas Tech had in 2023, losing that many starters for multiple games can be crippling.  However, Tech still managed to fight its way to six wins.

Thus, some credit has to be given to the coaching staff for plugging the holes (often with underclassmen) and coaxing this team back to bowl eligibility.  Of course, that bar is much lower than the one we all hoped Tech would clear when the season began.

There’s no denying that Texas Tech fans had higher hopes than 6-6

The old sports cliche says that a tie is like kissing your sister.  That’s also what a 6-6 college football season feels like in most instances.

Now, back in 2021, when interim head coach Sonny Cumbie led Tech to a 6-6 mark after taking over for the fired Matt Wells mid-season, that record felt great considering that Tech hadn’t been to a bowl game since 2015.  This year, though, that mark is less acceptable.

Remember that Tech entered this season coming off of an 8-5 campaign and returning 18 starters. Thus, the Red Raiders were a trendy pick to make it to the Big 12 Championship Game and maybe even the College Football Playoff.

Those dreams were shattered before the calendar hit mid-October, though.  That made all of the offseason hype as well as the bravado that came from within the program itself feel rather cringe-worthy.  As a result, many fans rightfully feel disappointed with just a 6-6 record and another trip to a bowl game that won’t matter to anyone but the two participating schools and those who wager on the game.

Then there are those who remember that Tech was 3-5 overall and 2-3 in Big 12 play following the loss at BYU and feel blessed just to be playing a 13th game.  That’s because Tech came out of its open week needing to go 3-1 in November just to reach the postseason, something that felt unlikely given how the team played in the first two months of the season.

Of course, Tech did turn it on down the stretch to get to six wins.  That’s why many fans are choosing to be optimistic about this team and its future, especially given all of the injuries and the young players who showed promise when pressed into action this year.

Perspective has had to change for Texas Tech fans

The thing about perspectives is that they are by definition, always changing.  Every slight movement or change will alter one’s point of view and this year, Tech fans have had to shift how they feel about both the program as a whole and how they view what transpired in 2023.

In the end, no one is going to be satisfied with a six-win season.  That’s a step backward from the 2023 regular season and it is far from where a program as well-funded and supported as Texas Tech is should aspire to be.

However, there was a point in time when it looked like this year was about to go off the rails like the 2014 season did (that year finished 4-8 after Tech went 8-5 the previous season).  To the credit of McGuire and his players, that didn’t happen and the program can still spin this season as being one that is part of the upward trajectory that is taking place in Lubbock.

Whether or not you want to buy what Tech will try to sell during this offseason will be up to you.  That’s what perspectives are all about, especially when you have the ambiguity of 6-6 to chew on.