Texas Tech football: Red Raiders a no-show in Provo

Texas Tech football: Red Raiders a no-show in Provo
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Oct 21, 2023; Provo, Utah, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Jake Strong (17) runs with the ball against the Brigham Young Cougars in the second quarter at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Trying to win a night game at BYU is always difficult.  After all, following their 27-14 win over the Red Raiders on Saturday night, the Cougars are now 20-1 in their last 21 night games in Provo.  Trying to overcome that type of environment with a true freshman QB who is making his first career start?  That’s almost impossible as Texas Tech found out.

What was disappointing, though, is that the rest of the roster failed to pick up any of the slack for the struggling Jake Strong who was just 19-37 passing for 236 yards and a TD with 3 picks.  It was the worst showing of the season for Joey McGuire’s team, and given that Tech is now 3-5 overall, that’s saying something.

To say things are unraveling for Tech is an understatement.  Sure, 2023 has been a disaster since week one’s loss at Wyoming.

However, at least the early-season losses to the Cowboys, the Oregon Ducks, and the West Virginia Mountaineers were competitive affairs.  Each of those games came down to the final moments of the game before being decided leading many Red Raider fans to believe that this team was capable of turning things around should just a play or two break differently over the course of the game.

Now?  Tech has lost its last two games by an average of 15 and in the fourth quarter, neither was in doubt.

The Red Raiders head into their bye week before the Thursday night game in Lubbock against TCU on November 4th with their tails squarely between their legs.  Though no one wants to live through Saturday night’s no-show in Provo for very long, here are some rapid reactions from yet another Texas Tech loss.

Texas Tech QB Jake Strong is not ready for his moment

If you had a high bar for Jake Strong heading into this game, well…I want some of what you were drinking.  After seeing the true freshman toss three INTs in the second half of last week’s loss to Kansas State, few people in scarlet and black expected him to light the world on fire in a hostile stadium, even though the BYU defense has been very shaky against the pass this year.

What we saw from Strong was even worse than just about anyone could have expected, unfortunately.  Officially, he ended the game with three interceptions (giving him six in just 1.5 games this year) but he could have easily had three or four more had BYU hauled in an errant pass or corralled a tipped ball or two.

What’s more, Strong was rattled all night long.  He bobbled several snaps, he flubbed the handoff to Tahj Brooks on the failed fourth-down conversion attempt inside the BYU 10 on Tech’s first possession, and he was woefully off target on a number of throws to open receivers.

Like many freshmen do, Strong stared down his intended target over and over again.  That allowed BYU to jump route after route and the fact that he didn’t end the game with six interceptions is nothing short of miraculous…or perhaps a case of Mormon charity.

His best moment was the 72-yard TD pass to Xavier White in the second quarter to briefly cut the BYU lead to 14-7.  It was a beautiful throw to White who was streaking past his defender and who hauled the pass in and easily outran the defense to the endzone.

Unfortunately, there weren’t any other moments like that from the former 3-star recruit who made his college debut last week.  Of course, it is not fair to rip a true freshman for struggling but we’ve seen other true freshmen in tough situations look much better for the Red Raiders.

Alan Bowman was poised and efficient in his first-ever game when, in 2018, he had to take over for the injured McLane Carter in the first quarter of the season opener.  And that performance was against an Ole Miss team that was miles better than this year’s BYU squad.

Walk-on Baker Mayfield actually led Tech to a 41-23 win at SMU in his first-ever NCAA game to open the 2013 season.  Two games later, true freshman Davis Webb would lead Tech to 10 points in the 4th quarter to beat a top-25 TCU team in Lubbock in his first career Big 12 action.  It’s hard to imagine Stong pulling off either of those feats after what we’ve seen from him in his first two games.

He just didn’t impress, even when the bar was rather low to begin with.  That’s not all that shocking given that he was just a 3-star recruit and the No. 752 player in the nation in the class of 2023.  He was never a blue-chip recruit and he was never expected to be the future of the program and we saw why on Saturday night.

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