Texas Tech football fans got some bad news on Monday as head coach Joey McGuire revealed during his weekly press conference that starting inside linebacker Jacob Rodriguez will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a foot sprain. The injury occurred early Saturday’s 35-33 loss at Wyoming to open the season.
“That was a big loss for us the other night,” McGuire said during his weekly media availability. “It’s his foot. It’s like a mid-foot sprain. We’re gonna get him in a boot, try to some weight off of him for a few weeks, and re-examine it.”
Texas Tech struggled after Rodriguez went down
The Wichita Falls native, who is starting for the first time in his college career, was injured on a play that saw him both force and recover a fumble in the first quarter. In the ensuing action after recovering the fumble, a Wyoming player landed on him which led to the sprained foot that forced him out of action for the remainder of the night.
Until that play, Wyoming had run 15 plays and picked up a grand total of 33 yards with only one first down gained. What’s more, Rodriguez had already registered two solo tackles.
From that moment on, the Cowoby offense would pick up 287 yards and score 35 points. With Rodriguez on the field, Wyoming averaged 2.2 yards per play. After he was injured, the Cowboys averaged 4.5 yards per play.
In Rodriguez’s place, Tyrique Matthews played the majority of the snaps. Unfortunately, the senior struggled on Saturday night.
Despite being second on the team with six tackles, he was repeatedly out of position and slow to make reads leading to the majority of his tackles coming downfield as he was pursuing the ball carrier from behind rather than meeting him at the line of scrimmage.
A perfect synopsis of Matthews’ night was the final play of the game, Wyoming’s two-point conversion in the second overtime. As the Cowboys handed the ball off for a simple off-tackle run, Matthews over-pursued the play for no discernable reason and ran right into the left tackle who easily moved him out of position creating a gaping hole for the running back to waltz through.
Matthews might still see some playing time while Rodriguez is out but McGuire revealed Monday that the defense is going to make some adjustments to the depth chart starting this week. Interestingly, it will be a redshirt freshman who will get the first opportunity to fill Rodriguez’s shoes.
How Texas Tech will replace Rodriguez
McGuire said that the plan moving forward will be to put Jessiah Pierre in Rodriguez’s spot at the “boundary” linebacker while Ben Roberts will get the start at the “field” linebacker spot that Pierre played on Saturday when he led the team with 14 tackles.
Roberts appeared in only two games last year as a true freshman, both coming as part of the kickoff coverage team. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Haslet, Texas native was a lightly-recruited 3-star safety in the class of 2022 with offers from the likes of Army, Air Force, Wyoming, Navy, Tulsa, and Utah State.
Now, he will get his first career start this week against an Oregon offense that hung 81 points on Portland State in week one. That’s the definition of a baptism by fire.
Hopefully, Roberts and the rest of the Texas Tech defense will be up to the task because the talent the Ducks will bring to Lubbock dwarfs that of the pedestrian Wyoming offense, and the Cowboys managed to have success against Tech after Rodriguez’s departure. Certainly, this is not great news for McGuire and his coaching staff as they look to replace one of the most important players on their defense ahead of what could be the season’s toughest test.