The Texas Tech Red Raiders took care of business in Shreveport Saturday night with a dominant win over the Cal Golden Bears in the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl. The game was this team's season in microcosm. After a fumble on the opening kickoff that led to a touchdown, Tech responded by pitching a shutout after the first quarter. Much like their season, the Red Raiders salvaged a poor start to the year to make it a successful one with a bowl victory. Like last year's Texas Bowl win, fans are hyped as the offseason begins.
The hype train fell off the tracks early this season after a loss to Wyoming, eliminating any thoughts in fans' minds of competing for the Big 12 title. Joey McGuire's bravado included climbing a crane at the construction site of the south endzone suddenly appeared to be all hype for nothing.
While injuries were largely to blame for an underwhelming season, questions about McGuire's ability to lead were questioned early in the year. Now will all the optimism translate to more success by the time 2024 kicks off? While a good amount of fans will be cautiously optimistic, several will help themselves to the Kool Aid.
McGuire has proven he can rally the troops at Texas Tech
One of the biggest reasons Matt Wells and Kliff Kingsbury were let go was their inability to finish seasons strong. Joey McGuire has proven he is capable of doing that. In his first two seasons, McGuire is 6-2 in November and 2-0 in bowl games. Wins under the previous two coaches were hard to come by at the end of the season.
In addition McGuire has had a winning conference record in his first two seasons. He needed to have his team rally to end the season after a 1-3 start then sitting at 3-5 after a demoralizing loss to BYU. Unlike the past two coaches, McGuire could not rely on an easy non-conference schedule to stack up wins before the Big 12 slate.
In his first season the Red Raiders were sitting at 4-4. While there was still plenty of hope for a bowl game appearance, some grew concerned after a loss to ranked TCU. The game was only a ten-point loss, but it forced Behren Morton to leave with an injury after he had established himself as the possible starter for the rest of the year. Tyler Shough made the most of his second chance to be the leading man and helped Tech win four straight games to end the year with a win in the Texas Bowl.
This year proved to be more of the same. The BYU loss, with Jake Strong filling in for a once again injured Morton, was arguably the low point of the season. With an injured Morton and Tahj Brooks carrying the offense, the team won three out of four to become bowl eligible again.
It is also rare McGuire loses to an inferior team in November. The two November losses were to No. 7 TCU in 2022 who would go on to play Georgia in the National Championship and to No. 7 Texas who made the College Football Playoff this year. Both of those teams had far superior talent so losses to them were justifiable. While one could argue the early-season West Virginia game was an ugly loss, that was also a game where McGuire lost Shough for the season and Morton started getting hurt.
If fans should buy into anything after two years it is that McGuire is proving he can finish games and seasons. Many of the players moving on or transferring from this year's team were recruited under the previous staff. Now two full years in, McGuire will start to have a team loaded with even more talent that he and his staff pick.