It was the same old Red Raiders we’ve come to know and rue, but on this occasion all of the miscues and baffling play calls didn’t result in a loss. Instead, thanks to a steely performance by Pat Mahomes, two huge plays by Kenny Williams, a career day from Deandre Washington, and a defense that arose when it had to, Texas Tech earned a 34-31 road victory over Iowa State.
But Lord knows it sure wasn’t pretty.
Let’s start with the offensive line, which had been the mainspring of whatever offensive production Tech authored this season. On this afternoon, however, a plethora of penalties was its claim to fame. Guard Baylen Brown, who also chipped in a few good blocks, it should be noted, was responsible for three of them. Reshod Fortenberry was called for a hold. And Le’Ravin Clark was beaten badly for a sack that produced a Mahomes fumble.
Then there was the receiving corps, which seems to have more oil on its hands than your average NASCAR mechanic at the Daytona 500. Tech’s only reliable receivers at this point are Devin Lauderdale and Ian Sadler. Jakeem Grant now drops more than he catches, and Bradley Marquez, once Mr. Reliable, now has hands of basalt. One wonders if injuries might be responsible for a once trusty receiver’s descent from near greatness.
On defense, we all know the drill. We’ve seen it often enough. Missed tackles were head-shakingly numerous. On multiple occasions Red Raiders missed sack and TFL opportunities, not to mention a comical case where three Red Raiders simultaneously hit a Cyclone ball-carrier who then proceeded to stroll for another 10 yards.
Then there was a bit of odd play-calling by Kliff Kingsbury. At the end of the opening quarter, DeAndre Washington had 100 rushing yards. He was on a 400-yard pace. Perhaps he would break Samaje Perine’s new FBS rushing record only a few hours after he established it? Heh. Not even. Washington carried the ball only five times in the second quarter, and two of those were in the final minute of the half when Tech was just trying to get to the locker-room.
The stats certainly look familiar, too. The Red Raiders lost the turnover battle 2-1, and committed nine penalties for 73 yards. In other words, this was a prototypical Tech performance.
But at the end of the day, the main thing that matters is that the Red Raiders got off the schneid and won a ballgame in a tough environment over a team that hit Tech with its best shot. In doing so, Tech avoided hard time in the Big 12 cellar.
The key to the game was the fake punt that went for 44 yards and set up a touchdown when Tech was trailing by 10 points and about to give up the pigskin to a fired up Cyclone team. The game looked like it was about to get away from the Red Raiders, but Williams’ run sustained the drive, which produced a Devin Lauderdale touchdown reception. Instead of forking over the rock, down 24-14, the Red Raiders pulled to within four, 24-20 (Ryan Bustin missed the extra point).
It was a terrific call by Kingsbury and special teams coach Darrin Chiaverini, and the punting unit executed it perfectly. This was the play that turned the game Tech’s way.
The winning points came compliments of that man Kenny Williams, when he took a swing pass from Mahomes, and profiting by a Marquez block, motored 44 yards for the winning points.
But there were still four minutes to play, and the Red Raider defense had played spottily enough to make one question whether or not they could keep the Cyclones from driving for tying if not winning points.
And things didn’t look good early in the drive. ISU’s first play was a 22-yard pass in which Tech safety Dorian Crawford knocked himself silly. With the attrition at the position, it looked like Kevin Curtis was going to have to don the pads.
Quarterback Sam Richardson scrambled for 12 more clicks on the next play. But that’s when the defense stiffened. They bottled up Aaron Wimberly for a three-yard carry, forced two straight incompletions, and then, on 4th-and-7, Michah Awe and Sam Eguavoen smacked Richardson two yards short of a first down as he scrambled to the right.
The defense was faced with a test of its character, and perhaps improbably, came to the fore and preserved a victory. There is certainly something in that.
So Tech earned a victory that must come as something of a relief, but there is still much work to be done if the Red Raiders are to challenge Baylor. Winning ugly is possible against the Cyclones; it is impossible against the Bears.
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