Sep 30, 2023; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders tight end Mason Tharp (80) rushes against Houston Cougars defensive safety Antonio Brooks (20) in the first half at Jones AT&T Stadium and Cody Campbell Field. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

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Texas Tech buckles down in second half to top Houston

Texas Tech leaned on its running game and second-half defense to cruise to a 49-28 victory over Houston in Lubbock, Texas, on Saturday.

The Red Raiders (2-3, 1-1 Big 12) roared back from a 21-14 deficit by scoring five of the last six touchdowns of the game, with their first three trips to the end zone during that stretch allowing them to take a 35-28 lead into halftime.

Once Texas Tech got the lead, it rode the double-barrel backfield combination of Tahj Brooks and Cam’Ron Valdez to wear the Cougars down in the second half.

Both running backs amassed 106 yards on the ground to headline a 239-yard team effort. Brooks eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the third consecutive game, while Valdez lit a fuse early in the third quarter with a 54-yard ramble and averaged 21.2 yards per carry.

Meanwhile, the Red Raiders’ defense was a completely different unit after halftime.

Houston (2-3, 0-2) moved the ball at will for the majority of the opening 30 minutes, scoring on four of its first five offensive possessions — each on drives of 75 yards. Cougars quarterback Donavan Smith, a transfer from Texas Tech, was on fire in the first half with 264 passing yards and four touchdown passes.

Smith’s hot hand helped Houston generate 365 yards of total offense in the first half, but the Red Raiders clamped down after that. The Cougars ran 34 plays after halftime but managed only 124 yards and went three-and-out twice in a row when the game was still in doubt.

Texas Tech stuck close in the first half thanks to two huge special-teams plays, as Drae McCray returned a kickoff 100 yards to make it 7-7 after Houston’s first touchdown and Loic Fouonji blocked a punt, collected the ball on a bounce and carried it 7 yards to the end zone for a go-ahead touchdown.

Moments earlier, Fouonji snared a 25-yard touchdown pass from Behren Morton to even the score at 21-21.

Morton started in place of Tyler Shough, who suffered a broken leg last week in a road loss at West Virginia. Morton was efficient throwing the ball, completing 14 of 22 passes for 161 yards and two TDs.

Smith finished with 335 yards through the air but was knocked out of his comfort zone in the second half, failing to throw for another score.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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