Back-to-back road tilts against what appears to be the top two teams in the conference would be challenging for any team. Sprinkle in a new coach with a new scheme and trying to restore any bit of winning consistency, it was always going to be a challenge. The effort by Texas Tech was never in doubt, and for a while, the upset alert siren was sounding. But this was simply the case of the team with better players and more continuity amongst the coaching staff. The Red Raiders lose their second consecutive conference game to Mike Gundy’s Cowboys by a score of 41-31.
Quarterback Musical Chairs
This game started with an unexpected start. And that goes beyond having to waste a timeout on the first play of the game. Quarterback Behren Morton was thrust into the starting role as Donovan Smith was dealing with an injury. Smith still made an appearance in this game, but it was Morton’s day. The highest-rated recruit in the 247Sports era for Texas Tech put his arm talent on full display today. However, he appeared to suffer an ankle injury late in the first half that limited his mobility in the second half.
Red Raider Lose Despite Success Early
Morton took the team down the field on the opening drive for an early touchdown. The offense was running with a pace they hadn’t seen with Smith as the starting quarterback. It was exactly the type of start Texas Tech needed to pull off this upset. In fact, they even successfully recovered a perfectly executed onside kick. However, it was negated by a heady play by an Oklahoma State player receiving the kick by signaling for a quick fair catch. Even on their drives that didn’t result in points, the offense looked completely different.
The offensive line was doing a great job holding up early against this seasoned Cowboys defensive line. Coming into this game, this was truly the case of the Cowboys’ greatest defense strength going against the Red Raiders’ greatest weakness. Even before the announcement of Morton starting, there were major concerns protect the Texas Tech quarterback. The Cowboys would finish the game with four sacks, but those sacks didn’t occur until the second half. Oklahoma State countered with its own quick strikes in the first half. But it was feast or famine for Oklahoma State early on. If they were not scoring, they were going three-and-out. Heading into halftime, Texas Tech held a 24-20 lead. It was the first time the Cowboys trailed all season.
Offense Lost Rhythm After Halftime
Plenty of Texas Tech fans will blame the offense stalling on the health of Morton. It was evident he could not move around the same way he did in the first half. But this team kept fighting with the seventh-ranked team in the country. The Texas Tech defense bowed up and kept Spencer Sanders limited. Texas Tech kept this game tied at 31 until late in the third quarter. The thought of reading the headline “Red Raiders lose to Oklahoma State” was far from entering the minds of the Red Raider nation. But as the game rolled on, it was clear that Oklahoma State was unphased by the moment. They never were rattled at any point in this game.
Morton finished the game 39-of-62 for 379 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a third touchdown on the ground. Sanders didn’t have the greatest day passing. He finished the game 22-of-45 for 297 and one touchdown. However, it was the use of his legs that proved to be the difference. Sanders had 17 carries for 56 yards and two touchdowns. When the Cowboys needed a play on a critical point in the game, Sanders was always there to make the play they needed.
Opportunity To Re-group Next Week
The Red Raiders finished off the toughest stretch of their season. For five consecutive weeks, their opponent (at the time of the matchup) was ranked in the top 25. However, how this team performed under Matt Wells, coming out of that stretch 2-3 should make Texas Tech fans feel very good about the trajectory of this program. Each time those three losses ended with the commentators saying “The Red Raiders lose..”, it came after Texas Tech just fell short in the fourth quarter. In the three losses, Texas Tech has trailed by a combined 16 points going into the fourth quarter. One of these games is going to fall Texas Tech’s way if they keep getting in those positions.
Texas Tech enters its bye week with the opportunity to get healthy. The next time we see this Red Raider team on the field, quarterback Tyler Shough might be back coming off of a shoulder injury. But with Morton opening some eyes today, the quarterback position could be back to square one like it was coming into this season. A renewed team has an opportunity to get at least three more wins as they look to get to bowl eligibility in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2012-2013.