Midway through the third quarter Saturday night, Jones AT&T Stadium was rockin’. A display of Texas Tech football the way it’s supposed to be. The way people have longed for it to be for more than a decade.
In a span of four plays, the Tech defense stonewalled Oregon quarterback Bo Nix deep in the Red Raiders’ end of the field for a turnover on downs, then stuck it into the end zone on the other end. Texas Tech surged in front 27-18. Red Raiders fans shoehorned into this year’s reduced-capacity Jones were hollering themselves hoarse.
When Tyler Shough hit Jerand Bradley for a 34-yard touchdown, Tech’s fancy new million-dollar lighting system kicked in with the choreographed patterns everyone’s been waiting to see.
More important, Texas Tech’s chance to snare a slice of the Saturday spotlight was there for the taking. Outside of Texas winning at Alabama — are the Longhorns back this time? — and the weekly fascination with Deion Sanders, Texas Tech popping Oregon’s shiny-helmeted noggin was going to be the college football story of the day.
The Red Raiders, bless their hearts, fouled it up royally.
Oregon, with uber donor Phil Knight in tow, got out of Lubbock with a 38-30 victory, outscoring the home team 20-3 in the fourth quarter. Can’t fault the Red Raiders’ effort.
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They were their own worst enemy, though. Given a two-score lead to protect, a Red Raiders defense playing shorthanded, already hit by early season injuries, allowed 17- and 10-play scoring drives. Maybe they were shortchanged a Malik Dunlap interception at a key time, though Joey McGuire acknowledged afterward the officials probably got the call right.
Tyler Shough, Tech’s best weapon with 101 yards rushing and 282 yards and three touchdowns passing, offset the good with four turnovers, not all on him.
McGuire, too aggressive for his own good perhaps, went for two early in the game, went for fourth-and-2 in his own end late in the game and had both backfire. Being tied or one point behind early in the second quarter doesn’t matter. It mattered, though, when a Camden Lewis field goal gave Oregon a 31-30 lead with 1:10 left in the game. The Red Raiders would’ve had overtime as a fallback had they kicked that PAT.
Tech’s failed two-point conversion came with the Red Raiders trailing 15-13.
“Analytics,” McGuire said. “We don’t have to. I think it’s a philosophy thing. You’re going to hear old-school guys go, ‘Don’t chase the points’ and all this stuff. And then you’re going to hear analytics people — which we are — there’s going to be a point in that game that says, go for two. … We knew we were going for two all the way down on that drive.”
To the extent McGuire alienated people in a largely successful debut season, it was over his analytics-based decisions to risk fourth-down attempts in minus territory. He showed again against the Ducks he’s committed. Right after that 17-play drive Oregon used to get within 27-25, McGuire risked fourth-and-2 from the Tech 33, and Shough had no chance on a designed run.
Though the defense stiffened, the Ducks kicked the go-ahead field goal.
McGuire could have been a hero by beating Oregon. But his failed gambles won’t endear him to the faithful.
Shough could’ve been a star of the game, too, his 101 yards on 23 bruising carries reminiscent of his 25 for 111 in the Texas Bowl last season. The line didn’t help him by subjecting him to shots in the pocket, the source of two of his turnovers.
Another came with Tech trying to add to a 20-18 lead in the third quarter. Khyree Jackson intercepted Shough in Ducks territory. Though Bradley was the nearest receiver, Shough said he was throwing for Jordan Brown crossing from the other direction.
“(Bradley) was on a shake route to the corner,” Shough said. “He kind of got held up coming out of his break. The corner just saw the ball thrown and sat on it. Jordan Brown slowed up, thinking it wasn’t to him.
“It was just kind of a bang-bang, bad-timing play. I should have put (Bradley) on a go route. That was my fault, but it wasn’t like I was throwing it to him.”
McGuire found it amazing the Red Raiders were in it to the end after losing 4-0 in the turnovers column. He asked his team whether Oregon had more to do with the outcome or Texas Tech.
“We should have won the game,” McGuire said. “It goes back to all of us. Whenever I asked (Tech players), ‘Us or them,’ I made sure they understand that ‘us’ definitely starts with me and looking at how I can be better and prepare these guys better.”
They deserved a better outcome on this night when there was a lot invested for nothing to show in the win column.