Texas Tech football: What went wrong for the Red Raiders in 2023

Texas Tech v Texas
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There's no doubt that the results didn't match the hype for the Texas Tech football team in 2023. Sure, a strong conclusion to the year that saw Joey McGuire lead his team to a 4-1 finish and a bowl victory helped mask some of the disappointment but it can't be denied that the Red Raiders failed to live up to preseason expectations.

In the preseason Big 12 poll, Tech checked in at No. 4 behind only Texas, Kansas State, and Oklahoma. What's more, numerous people around the college football landscape had the Red Raiders as their pick to crash the Big 12 Championship Game party for the first time while some even predicted Tech could replicate what TCU did in 2022 and reach the College Football Playoff.

Of course, McGuire didn't do much to douse those flames. In the spring he declared that the 2023 team would beat his 2022 squad by 14 points if they played. Then, he double-down on the bravado at the Red Raider Club kickoff luncheon in August saying that the nation was going to find out what his team was all about and that the Red Raiders were ready to take control of the Big 12.

All of that big talk backfired in week one when the Red Raiders fell in double OT to Wyoming. What's more, a 1-3 start turned what was supposed to be a breakthrough season into a massive disappointment.

Tech would go on to finish just 7th in the league standings leading to a disappointing postseason bid to the Independence Bowl. It was a whimper of a season considering all of the summer hype and one now has to wonder if McGuire and Co. will take a different approach to the current offseason as far as what they say publicly.

Recently, we looked at what went right for the Red Raiders in 2023 including the maturation of QB Behren Morton and OC Zack Kittley. So today, let's examine the other side of the coin and take a look at what went wrong this past fall because there are several reasons why the hype train derailed in such spectacular fashion.

Texas Tech couldn't avoid another string of QB injuries

There has been one huge issue that this program just can't overcome in recent seasons; injuries at the quarterback position. It has been since 2016 and Pat Mahomes that a Red Raiders QB has started every game of a season and since Nic Shimonek in 2017 that one managed to start at least 10 games in one season. What's more, in each of the last three seasons, three different players have had to start a game at QB for Tech.

This year, the offseason hype was largely built around the notion that QB1 Tyler Shough was bound to have a season's worth of good health after sustaining a broken collarbone in both 2021 and 2022. After the former Oregon transfer played strong football at the end of 2022 to lead the program to a 4-0 finish, the belief was that if he could stay healthy for a full season, Tech would be a contender in the Big 12.

Unfortunately, injury-prone players tend to get injured and Shough's run of bad luck continued with yet another freak injury. This time it was a broken leg suffered in the fourth game that took Shough out for the season and ended his Red Raider career. That means that not once in three years in Lubbock did Shough make it more than four games into a season without sustaining a major injury.

That day in Morgantown was a disaster in multiple ways, though, when it came to QB health as backup QB Behren Morton would also sustain a sprained shoulder early in that game, an injury that he was able to play through for most of the season but one that also limited him physically in every start he made.

Morton would make eight starts in all, missing only the BYU game when true freshman Jake Strong would be pressed into action. However, he was far from being able to execute the offense to its full extent.

There is no denying that every team in the nation will deal with a major injury or two during the course of a season. But to have to play three different QBs for multiple years in a row is a cruel hand dealt by the football gods.

Had Tech not lost Shough or had Morton been at full strength after stepping into the starting job, how many more wins would Tech have picked up this year? It is hard to say for sure but the losses to West Virginia, Kansas State, and BYU could all be racked up to the struggles of the QB position where injuries were the story of each game for the Red Raiders.

If Tech is able to pull out those three wins because of better QB play, how different does 2023 look? A 9-3 regular season sure would have validated the offseason hype and put Tech in contention for a Big 12 title game appearance. But because Tech has done something to anger the football gods, that wasn't to be the case as the Red Raiders again had to find a way to navigate a string of misfortune at the game's most important position.