Texas Tech Smothers Mississippi State in the Liberty Bowl

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In a Liberty Bowl that had the makings of an offensive shootout, it was one defense that reigned supreme in Memphis. Texas Tech beat Mississippi State by a score of 34-7. This Liberty Bowl victory gave Texas Tech its first bowl victory since the 2013 Holiday Bowl.

An Unexpected Start

Mississippi State has been outstanding against stopping the run all season. But in the first quarter, Texas Tech came out and ran the ball right down the middle of the Bulldogs defense. Texas tech would finish the quarter with 145 yards rushing and a 10-0 lead. Texas Tech used this rushing attack to control the ball and keep Mike Leach’s air raid on the sideline. The Red Raider rushing attack would prove to be unrelenting.
By the end of the game, Texas Tech would finish with a total of 44 rushing attempts for 260 rushing yards. The irony of watching Mike Leach‘s former team, which he made nationally relevant for the Air Raid, pound the ball on the ground all game wasn’t lost on anyone. Tahj Brooks and SaRodorick Thompson would each tote the ball at least 14 times. Both Brooks and Thompson would rush for at least 80 yards and post a rushing touchdown.

Settled In An Offensive Struggle

Both teams seem to settle into the game during the second quarter. Mississippi state did open the quarter with its first points of the game. But then neither team could find any sort of offensive rhythm for the rest of the half. Mississippi State would finish the first half with only 127 yards of offense.
Texas Tech’s rushing attack also slowed back down as the Red Raiders struggled to move the ball. But thanks to a late muffed punt by Mississippi State with only 31 seconds left gave the Red Raiders the ball on the Bulldog 14 yard line. And yet, Texas Tech stalled again and had to settle for a field goal to go into the half up 13-7.

Texas Tech Beat Mississippi State At Its Own Game

Texas Tech’s defense played its best game of the 2021 season. The pass defense of the Red Raiders was torched for much of the season. But against a team that was never hiding the fact it wanted to throw the ball, it held Bulldog quarterback Will Rogers in check all game. Rodgers’ was held to a season-low in passing yards (290) and only one touchdown. The Texas Tech defense also forced Mississippi State into three turnovers. The Red Raider defense who also struggled to get pressure on quarterbacks all year, sacked Rodgers four times in the game.

In Sonny Cumbie‘s last game on the Texas Tech staff, Cumbie arrived at the game in style and kept his emotions pumping just as that pump jack does all game. Thanks to a stellar rushing attack, Cumbie didn’t have to ask quarterback Donovan Smith to win the game. Smith finished the game 15-28 passing for 252 and one touchdown. Much like all his performances all season, Smith had a few flashes of brilliance. Those included a nice scramble down in the red zone before pulling up and throwing for his lone touchdown pass of the game. He also had a nice deep ball dropped into the arms of Jerand Bradley for 52 yards. But he also had moments where he held onto the ball too long and had a few other missed opportunities.

Texas Tech Beat Mississippi State And Ushered In A New Era

When the clock finally read 00:00 and Texas Tech beat Mississippi State, it signaled the official end of the Matt Wells era and the start of the Joey McGuire era. Wells’ offensive and defensive coordinators from this season are now moving on to new head coaching jobs of their own. McGuire will be making his debut as a head coach in the collegiate ranks in 2022. The Texas Tech program has been energized ever since the hiring of McGuire. He has already shown significant progress on the recruiting trail. For Texas Tech to secure its first bowl victory in eight seasons, optimism will be running high throughout the offseason for Red Raider nation.