Oct 9, 2021; Lubbock, Texas, USA;  Texas Tech Red Raiders wide receiver Erik Ezukanma (13) rushes in the second half against the Texas Christian Horned Frogs at Jones AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech looks to extend Kansas’ Big 12 skid

This season, Matt Wells quickly reached the win total, four, he posted in each of his first two seasons coaching Texas Tech.

Lopsided defeats, however, against Texas and TCU have left Wells facing criticism while standing 12-16 in his third season, with a 6-15 mark in Big 12 play. His Red Raiders (4-2, 1-2 Big 12) face Kansas (1-4, 0-2) on Saturday in Lawrence, Kan.

“The result of a game is not going to define me over a 25-year career or nine years as a head coach,” said Wells, who previously guided Utah State. “There’s nobody I’m going to let outwork me.

“What you try not to let it do is demoralize you when we lose. Are we disappointed? Heck, yeah. You kidding me?”

Texas Tech needs two victories to qualify for its first bowl bid since 2017.

Running back SaRodorick Thompson is coming off a 118-yard rushing performance last week in the Red Raiders’ 52-31 loss to TCU. Erik Ezukanma leads Big 12 receivers with an 85.8-yard average as the favorite target for Henry Colombi, who has posted two 300-yard passing performances since taking over at quarterback after Tyler Shough broke his collarbone.

Red Raiders linebacker Colin Schooler, the FBS active leader in career tackles and tackles for loss, ranks second among Big 12 tacklers (51).

Texas Tech has struggled against the run in Big 12 play, allowing 394 yards against TCU after previously surrendering 336 to Texas.

When questioned about his defensive approach, Wells said, “Scheme does not look good when you’re getting run through.”

Kansas continues to struggle under Lance Leipold, though the first-year coach knows he cannot take out his frustrations on others while attempting to end the school’s 14-game Big 12 losing streak.

“You go back to your values and what you’re going to be, and not start panicking,” Leipold said. “You can’t coach angry.”

The Jayhawks scored just seven points in each of their first two conference games while allowing 45 to Baylor and 59 to Iowa State. The offense has leaned heavily on the arm and legs of Jason Bean (1,143 total yards). The defense surrenders 7.4 yards per play.

On the plus side, Kansas has been assessed just 22 fouls, the fourth-lowest total among FBS teams.

“That has probably been one of the positives,” Leipold said.

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2021; Lubbock, Texas, USA;  Texas Christian Horned Frogs defensive corner back Tre Vius Hodges-Thomlison (1) and defensive corner back C.J. Ceaser (9) react after scoring a touchdown against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the first half at Jones AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

TCU rushes for nearly 400 yards in rout of Texas Tech

Texas Tech spent the week wondering how it would slow down TCU’s two-pronged offensive threat of quarterback Max Duggan and running back Zach Evans.

Turns out Duggan was less a threat than expected but Evans and backup Kendre Miller were much more than the Red Raiders bargained for in Saturday’s 52-31 Horned Frogs’ victory in Lubbock.

That duo combined for 328 rushing yards to fuel a 394-yard day on the ground.

Miller took over as primary ball carrier late in the first half after Evans suffered an apparent foot injury on a touchdown run, and TCU (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) didn’t miss a beat. Miller slashed through the Red Raiders (4-2, 1-2) for 185 yards and three touchdowns — two in the second half. Evans ran for 143 yards and two scores in the first half.

The Horned Frogs needed that kind of production because Texas Tech rolled up 558 yards of total offense. SaRodorick Thompson ran for 118 yards and three touchdowns to lead the way. Henry Colombi threw for 344 yards but faced intense pressure from the TCU defense most of the night.

Trailing 35-10 at halftime, the Red Raiders showed life in the third quarter with a pair of quick-drive touchdowns. The problem was trying to defend TCU’s running game in between.

Texas Tech ate up 75 yards on consecutive possessions, each ending with a short rushing score, to bite into a deficit that grew to 38-10 when Griffin Kell boomed a 48-yard field goal on the Horned Frogs’ first series of the second half.

TCU responded between Texas Tech touchdowns when Miller wiggled through a hole on an off-tackle run and dashed down the sideline for a 75-yard TD. He also broke free for a 45-yard touchdown with 4:51 left in the game to finally ice the victory.

The Horned Frogs were in firm command at halftime after dominating the game’s early stages. TCU produced touchdowns on each of its four first-half drives (not counting a final kneel-down) and churned out 306 yards in the process.

With Evans as the catalyst, the Horned Frogs put together three touchdown drives of 75 yards and another that covered 79 yards.

While the offense flourished, the TCU defense also chimed in to keep Texas Tech in check. The Red Raiders produced only 151 yards in the first 30 minutes and struggled to stay on the field, going 2-for-6 on third downs.

The Horned Frogs also got a touchdown from the defense when Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson snared a Colombi pass that banged off the hands of Texas Tech receiver Myles Price and dashed 29 yards to the end zone to make it 28-7 early in the second quarter.

–Field Level Media

Oct 2, 2021; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Henry Colombi (3) throws a pass during the second quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech picking up steam entering TCU matchup

Texas Tech has played two very different roles against opponents with varying frames of mind in the first two games of the Big 12 Conference schedule: underdog at Texas, wounded animal at West Virginia.

Another new test awaits the Red Raiders on Saturday when TCU visits Lubbock.

Although Texas Tech (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) is a slender underdog, the Red Raiders are the team with a head of steam in a showdown dubbed “The Battle for the Saddle.”

A 23-20 victory at West Virginia last week helped Texas Tech chase away the aftertaste of a 70-35 loss at Texas the week before. TCU is in a different kind of mood after its comeback bid against the Longhorns fizzled in a 32-27 setback last week.

The Horned Frogs (2-2, 0-1) are on a two-game skid, as they fell to rival SMU 42-34 on Sept. 25. TCU is trying to avoid its first three-game losing streak since October 2018.

“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves,” TCU junior quarterback Max Duggan said. “Going in two weeks straight with a loss is going to suck, but nobody is going to feel bad for us. Texas Tech isn’t going to feel sorry for us.”

Nor are the Red Raiders likely to underestimate TCU.

In a strange series that saw the home team lose five games in a row until last season, TCU has won five of the past seven meetings, including the past three in Lubbock. Last year in Fort Worth, Duggan ran wild in a 34-18 triumph with 154 rushing yards and three touchdowns — featuring an 81-yard backbreaker in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

That was part of a 270-yard rushing performance by the Horned Frogs, whose offensive coordinator that day was Sonny Cumbie. He left in the offseason to take the same spot at Texas Tech, his alma mater.

“That will be, I’m sure, a storyline in the media all week,” third-year Red Raiders coach Matt Wells said of the connection. “It really doesn’t need to be. This game is about the players. Certainly, he was part of that (TCU) offense for seven years, so they’re not going to completely change. I think you see some things that are similar in ours to theirs.”

Henry Colombi will start at quarterback for Texas Tech with Tyler Shough out several more weeks with a broken collarbone. While filling in the past two weeks, Colombi threw for a combined 590 yards with three touchdown passes and one interception.

–Field Level Media

Oct 2, 2021; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Henry Colombi (3) throws a pass during the second quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech earns road win at West Virginia

Texas Tech clipped West Virginia 23-20 in Morgantown, West Virginia on Saturday, piecing together two fourth-quarter field goal drives to stave off a furious West Virginia second-half rally.

Jonathan Garibay connected on a 32-yard kick with 18 seconds left in the game to give the Red Raiders a gritty Big 12 Conference road victory. Garibay pumped a 29-yarder through the uprights early in the fourth quarter to end a stretch of 17 unanswered points by the Mountaineers, who trailed 17-0 at halftime.

West Virginia (2-3, 0-2 Big 12) knotted the score 20-20 on Casey Legg’s 28-yard kick with 4:34 to go in the game, the result of a 13-play drive that consumed 7:12 of the fourth-quarter clock.

Texas Tech (4-1, 1-1) started the ensuing drive at its own 16-yard-line, but a timely long bomb from Henry Colombi to Kaylon Geiger gained 42 yards and running back SaRodorick Thompson gashed the Mountaineer defense for 13- and 16-yard runs to get his team in range.

The third quarter belonged to WVU, which produced a pair of touchdowns and a field goal after struggling to move the ball in the first half. Mountaineers quarterback Jarett Doege found his groove after a rough first half to engineer the three scoring drives. Meanwhile, the Texas Tech offense was stuck in neutral with back-to-back three-and-outs.

That was an about-face from the first half when the Red Raiders played as well as they have all season on both sides of the ball. Thompson capped two drives in the first period with 1-yard touchdown runs and Texas Tech clicked on offense in the initial 30 minutes with 207 yards and 15 first downs.

The defense was also key for the Red Raiders: Colin Schooler’s strip-sack of Doege and Devin Drew’s recovery set up a short field for the second Thompson TD plunge.

Texas Tech finished off the first half with a nearly flawless 2-minute drive that culminated with the first of Garibay’s three field goals — a 33-yard boot when the field-goal unit had to sprint onto the field to beat the clock.

The Red Raiders outgained the Mountaineers 207 yards to 109 in the first half and were not called for a penalty. Columbi finished with 255 passing yards in his first start this season. He stepped in for injured starter Tyler Shough, one of six Texas Tech starters who did not make the trip. Doege finished with 318 yards of 25-of-33 passing.

–Field Level Media

Sep 18, 2021; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders defensive linebacker Riko Jeffers (6) signals in the first half in the game against the Florida International Panthers at Jones AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech aims for better defensive effort vs. West Virginia

Stung by tough losses to open Big 12 play, Texas Tech and West Virginia will bring entirely different strengths into their clash this Saturday in Morgantown, W.Va.

After losing at in-state rival Texas, the Red Raiders (3-1, 0-1) will be looking for any kind of semblance of a good defense against West Virginia.

In Austin last Saturday, Texas Tech fell behind by four touchdowns in the first half and could not stop the Longhorns and quarterback Casey Thompson in a 70-35 shellacking.

While Henry Colombi passed for 324 yards and three touchdowns for the visitors, the Longhorns steamrolled Texas Tech to the tune of 639 yards of total offense — 336 rushing and 303 passing.

However, Red Raiders coach Matt Wells stressed success for his whole team, not just one side of the ball, as the club hopes to win its third straight over West Virginia.

“My message to the offense was, ‘We didn’t score enough points,’ ” Wells said Sunday. “That’s the way it will always be around this place. We win as a team, we lose as a team. We lost. We should’ve scored 71.

“But there were times (on defense) we didn’t (play with tremendous effort).”

The Mountaineers (2-2, 0-1) nearly pulled off a major upset of then-No. 4 Oklahoma Saturday night in Norman, but the Sooners squeaked by on Gabe Brkic’s tiebreaking 30-yard field goal as time expired.

While the Mountaineers’ defense frustrated Heisman hopeful Spencer Rattler most of the night — he was booed repeatedly by the home crowd — the offense struggled at times.

It produced just 247 yards, including a paltry 68 on 29 carries. Jarret Doege was efficient in completing 20 of 29 passes but for just 160 yards with an interception.

Mountaineers coach Neal Brown said he would continue to use Doege and Garrett Greene (19 yards passing, 15 yards rushing) in a rotation.

“I think for where we’re at and what we need to do, it’s going to be a mixture of both,” Brown said Sunday. “It’s kind of the way I felt like it was going to be maybe going into the spring and Garrett didn’t materialize like we thought he was going to. But he’s been playing better.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 18, 2021; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders quarter back Tyler Shough (12) hands off to running back Xavier White (14) against the Florida International Panthers during the first half at Jones AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech QB Tyler Shough (collarbone) out 6 weeks

Texas Tech starting quarterback Tyler Shough is out six weeks with a broken collarbone.

Shough was injured in the 70-35 loss to Texas on Saturday and coach Matt Wells said the Red Raiders hope to get the quarterback back on the field in November.

Shough, who transferred from Oregon, is in his first season in Lubbock. He completed 69.6 percent of his passes for 872 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions in four starts this season for Texas Tech (3-1, 0-1 Big 12.)

A junior, Shough was Oregon’s starter in 2020 and led the Ducks to the Pac-12 title and a Fiesta Bowl berth.

Before the injury on Saturday, Shough was 9-of-11 passing for 68 yards with an interception. He was replaced in the second quarter by Henry Colombi, who completed 17-of-23 pass attempts for 324 yards with three TD passes and an interception.

Colombi started four games in 2020 for Texas Tech after transferring from Utah State. He is expected to start Saturday when the Red Raiders visit West Virginia (2-2).

–Field Level Media

Sep 18, 2021; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Tyler Shough (12) throws a pass against the Florida International Panthers in the first half at Jones AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Shough leads Texas Tech in blowout win over Florida International

Might be safe to deduce that the Texas Tech offense is starting to find a comfort zone at just the right time.

In the final game before the Red Raiders embark on the Big 12 Conference season, quarterback Tyler Shough delivered the best game of his debut season with 399 passing yards and four touchdown passes to spark a lopsided 54-21 victory against Florida International in Lubbock.

Texas Tech piled up a season-best 582 total yards, with Shough dissecting the Panthers in the second and third quarters when his team scored 37 points to turn a close game into a blowout.

The Red Raiders (3-0) shook loose from a tight game after the first quarter with four touchdowns in the second period and racked up 264 yards along the way.

The Panthers (1-2) blended inside power runs by D’vonte Price and deep throws by Max Bortenschlager to piece together an 88-yard drive and went up 7-0 when Price bulled in from 3 yards out.

Meanwhile, Texas Tech’s offense scuffled. The Red Raiders’ first two possessions ended in punts, and when they forced FIU into a three-and-out, returner Adrian Frye muffed the ball to give it right back to the Panthers.

The game changed on the next snap, though, when Texas Tech defensive back Marquis Waters picked off a Bortenschlager pass, found daylight on the sideline and dashed 72 yards for a touchdown return.

FIU drove into field-goal range on the ensuing possession, but Chase Gabriel’s kick was wide left and the Panthers never recovered, thanks in large part to Texas Tech’s offense coming to life.

With a reprieve and the score still tied 7-7, the Red Raider offense kicked into gear with four consecutive touchdown drives in the second period covering 80, 75, 68 and 61 yards. Shough completed 12-of-13 passes in that span for 217 yards and touchdowns to Travis Koontz twice and Trey Cleveland. Tahj Brooks rushed for the other score.

Texas Tech continue to move the ball after halftime, sandwiching a field goal and touchdown around FIU’s third TD. Backup quarterback Henry Colombi took over and engineered the final scoring drive, which he finished with a 19-yard scamper.

— Field Level Media

Sep 4, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders defensive back Eric Monroe (11) celebrates with linebacker Brandon Bouyer-Randle (2) after making an interception against the Houston Cougars during the third quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech not taking FIU for granted

Wins are meant to be celebrated, but there are times when the means to that end can subdue the joy.

That was the mood hovering over Texas Tech this week as it prepared for its final nonconference test against visiting Florida International on Saturday night in Lubbock.

A closer-than-expected 28-22 victory against Stephen F. Austin last week left a bad aftertaste that the Red Raiders (2-0) can’t afford to dwell on against the Panthers (1-1).

“They have our attention,” Texas Tech coach Matt Wells said. “They’re a good team. They beat Miami two years ago. They’re very athletic and very well-coached.

“Our attention is probably heightened with the disappointment in the way we played on offense and special teams last week.”

What Wells and the Red Raiders can lean on moving forward is a defense that has been effective against the run, surrendering just 54.5 yards per game.

What helped Texas Tech’s first two opponents stay close were successful gambles on fourth down. Houston was 5-for-5 in those spots and SFA was 5-for-8.

“Play better on third-and-long,” Wells said. “We were outstanding on third down (last week), but part of the issue was allowing third-and-longs to become fourth-and-shorts in a go situation for SFA.”

Added linebacker Collin Schooler, “If we win third down more, or limit the damage on third down — instead of third-and-8 giving up 7 (yards) where they say, ‘Oh, we can go for it; it’s fourth-and-1’ — put them in a fourth-and-5 situation, then maybe the punt-return team is on the field instead of us again.”

How Texas Tech stacks up against the best rushing attack it has faced so far could emerge as a major factor.

FIU’s powerfully built D’vonte Price has bulled his way to four consecutive games of 100 rushing yards or more after generating 111 yards on 23 carries last week in a 23-17 overtime loss to Texas State.

“He’s a big back (and) runs hard,” Wells said. “He runs behind his pads, and he’s got a big O-line in front of him. The two tackles are big and very athletic. I think the interior three guys are nasty. They look strong on tape.”

Quarterback Max Bortenschlager has produced games of 266 and 259 passing yards to give FIU balance.

Moving the ball against Texas State wasn’t an issue for the Panthers, as they churned out 400 yards. But three lost fumbles blunted any chance for offensive continuity.

“Turning the ball over that often, getting the ball in the red zone and turning it over, not scoring, getting explosive plays and having them called back because of penalties — those things are disastrous, and it doesn’t matter who the opponent is,” FIU coach Butch Davis said.

–Field Level Media

Sep 4, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Tyler Shough (12) attempts a pass during the fourth quarter against the Houston Cougars at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech vows to stay even-keeled, welcomes Stephen F. Austin

Euphoria is a tricky concept, especially for a program that hasn’t broken .500 since 2015. So it’s understandable that Texas Tech’s enthusiasm was somewhat tempered after a come-from-behind victory vs. Houston to start the 2021 season.

As the Red Raiders enter their Saturday home game against Stephen F. Austin, what likely has them on alert is the underdog mentality their FCS opponents figure to bring with them to Lubbock, Texas.

The in-state Lumberjacks notched a 20-10 victory over Tarleton State to open the season. Not a lot of bells and whistles — but there wasn’t much fanfare accompanying Houston Baptist a year ago when the Huskies rolled into Jones AT&T Stadium and threw a major scare into Texas Tech before losing 35-33.

So the Red Raiders won’t be doing any underestimating ahead of their first home game of the season.

“Stephen F. has our full, undivided attention,” third-year Texas Tech coach Matt Wells said. “We aren’t going to overlook them.”

As key as that will be, getting off to a different start than the Red Raiders did in the 38-21 triumph against Houston also will important.

Texas Tech’s defense, which eventually became the star of the night, surrendered a pair of first-quarter touchdowns, then a long drive right before halftime. That added up to a 21-7 deficit at the break — but it did not stir up much panic.

“The first half, everything was self-inflicted; it was busted assignments,” Texas Tech defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. “I give Houston credit. They executed well, and we didn’t there in the first half.

“Really the only thing different between the first half and the second half was I got a little bit more aggressive, bringing five and six or more — started to try and force the issue a little bit, just to try and give ourselves some confidence and get into a rhythm.”

Mission accomplished in the second half.

After the Cougars’ first-half-ending march, they never found a similar comfort zone again. Eight second-half possessions yielded only 43 yards and three ended with interceptions. Houston was 1-for-7 on third down over the final 30 minutes.

Still, it required some success on offense to climb back from the two-touchdown deficit, and Texas Tech managed to click when it needed to.

New quarterback Tyler Shough settled in, and the offense followed, generating 246 yards after halftime, buoyed by touchdown drives of 60 and 71 yards. Tahj Brooks’ second lightning-bolt touchdown run of the game, a 44-yarder, certainly helped. He rushed for 134 yards in the win, Shough threw for 231 and Erik Ezukanma pulled in seven passes for 179 yards.

“I was really proud with how we responded,” Red Raiders’ offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie said. “We didn’t have a ton of time of possession in the first half (8:50). Our goal is the make the most of our possessions when we do have the ball and to worry about executing our plays.

“There was a good demeanor about our offense at halftime. They were calm. They weren’t complacent by what was going on but had a good look and an intensity that they were ready to get this going in the right direction.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 4, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Tyler Shough (12) reacts after rushing for a touchdown during the third quarter against the Houston Cougars at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech leans on defense in comeback win over Houston

Texas Tech overcame a rocky start, relying on a second half rally to upend host Houston Cougars 38-21 on Saturday in the Good Sam Kickoff at NRG Stadium.

Texas Tech had to battle back from a poor start. The Red Raiders allowed a long touchdown drive, couldn’t recover an onside kick then fumbled a few feet from the goal line — all in the initial, 16 1/2 minutes.

However, the rocky beginning was a distant memory by the end of the night, though, as a stout third-quarter performance by the Red Raiders’ defense turned the game around, with two interceptions helping limit Houston to 31 yards in those 15 minutes.

Both picks came after Texas Tech (1-0) compiled a 60-yard scoring drive that quarterback Tyler Slough capped with a 9-yard run to close a two-touchdown halftime gap to 21-14.

Moments later, Red Raider linebacker Rico Jeffers slipped in front of a Cougar receiver, grabbing Houston quarterback Clayton Tune’s pass and darting 13 yards to the end zone.

Texas Tech seized its first lead right before the third quarter concluded to cash in on the second interception of the second half, this one when Eric Monroe snared a deflected pass. Jonathan Garibay connected on a 34-yard field goal for a 24-21 cushion.

Texas Tech’s defense continued to stand tall, limiting Houston to two short drives to begin the fourth period. The second ended when linebacker Colin Schooler knifed through the right side and dropped Mulbah Car for a 4-yard loss on third-and-1.

The Red Raiders put together a game-sealing drive that ended when Xavier White grabbed a short pass from Shough and scored from the 3-yard-line.

Tahj Brooks added the exclamation point with a 44-yard run in the closing minute, capping his 134-yard, two-touchdown effort.

Houston dominated the first quarter. The Cougars drove 75 yards on 16 plays after the opening kickoff and took the early lead on Tune’s quarterback sneak. A perfect bounce on the ensuing onside kick allowed Houston to recover and that led to Nathaniel Dell’s 23-yard touchdown grab.

When the Red Raiders finally got their hands on the ball, they drove inside the 5-yard line but White lost a fumble.

That was the last time the Cougars had control as it turned out because the Texas Tech defense took over in the final 30 minutes.
–Field Level Media