Texas Tech football has gotten off to a rough start in 2023 to say the least. After an offseason of plenty of hype and high expectations, the Red Raiders are sitting at 0-2. A double-overtime loss to Wyoming was followed up this past Saturday by a close loss to No. 13 Oregon. Tech now prepares to face Tarleton State, an FCS opponent and arguably their easiest matchup of the season.
Most FBS/FCS matchups end up in complete blowouts. However, the Red Raiders have nearly fallen into the trap of losing to an FCS school a few times in the last decade. Sitting at 0-2 and looking for their first win to just get on track, there is no room for error.
Last year’s FCS opponent was Murray State. Despite once again losing Tyler Shough to an injury early in that game, the offense rolled. Tech took care of business 63-10 giving Joey McGuire his first win as head coach. The two years prior, though, nearly saw the Red Raiders suffer a home loss to an FCS foe.
Tech faced Stephen F. Austin in their home opener in 2021. After a quick touchdown from Erik Ezukanma, Tech surrendered 13 straight points to trail the Lumberjacks at halftime. Tahj Brooks ran for two touchdowns in the third quarter to put Tech up by eight, but the team could not pull away from an opponent they should have been beating with ease.
SFA scored to narrow the gap and down 28-22 had a chance to drive down the field for the win. After getting inside the 20, the Lumberjacks failed to connect on a pass on 4th down and the Red Raiders defense held on for the win. However, no one was feeling good after a win like that against an FCS school.
The year before the Red Raiders looked like they were on the verge of blowing out Houston Baptist, taking a 21-3 lead in the second quarter. However, Bailey Zappe responded with two touchdown passes to climb back in. With just over three minutes left, the Huskies scored to cut the lead to two at 35-33. After a failed two-point conversion for the tie, Tech ran out the clock to hold for a close win.
That brings us to this Saturday against the Tarleton State Texans. The Texans are 2-0 thanks to wins against McNeese and North Alabama. In both games, their offense has scored 52 points. While they are an FCS school, they do have some firepower. Their starting quarterback Victor Gabalis has thrown for seven touchdowns in the first two games with a rating of 186.21. Meanwhile, their rushing attack of Derrel Kelley III and Kayvon Britten has combined for five touchdowns.
For a Tech defense dealing with injuries and struggling in the pass rush department, the Texans could pose a challenge if the team is not careful. Through two games, the defense has sacked the quarterback only three times. For a confidence boost, shutting down the Texans’ offense could be just what this unit needs.
Ideally, FBS coaches who play FCS schools want to play reserves if the game is decided early. Last year that scenario played out for Tech as they were able to give players like Behren Morton their first action in college.
It is safe to say McGuire and company are feeling the pressure this week to right the ship, get their first win, and look good doing it against an FCS school. With West Virginia on the schedule next week to open Big 12 play, the Red Raiders need to take advantage of this week.