Texas Tech football: Tahj Brooks, Defense power Red Raiders past Baylor

Texas Tech football: Tahj Brooks, Defense power Red Raiders past Baylor
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Oct 7, 2023; Waco, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders head coach Joey McGuire looks on against the Baylor Bears during the second half at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Tech football team thoroughly dominated Baylor on Saturday night to move to 3-3 overall on the season and 2-1 in Big 12 play. The 39-14 road win was critical for a number of reasons.

First, It gives the Red Raiders a legitimate shot at reaching bowl eligibility with only three wins needed over the second half of the season to ensure a postseason birth.  Getting to a third straight bowl game would be an important step forward for this program as the rebuilding efforts continue in Lubbock after the disastrous Kliff Kingsbury and Matt Wells eras.

Second, the Red Raiders finally got another road win under Joey McGuire’s guidance.  Entering the game on Saturday, Tech had been just 1-6 in true road games since the start of last season.  To become a legitimate Big 12 contender, that trend must change and the beat down of Baylor was as good of a way to start to reverse those struggles as one could have asked for.

Also, it was important for this program to get back to beating Baylor.  Having lost four of the last five and nine of the last twelve in the series was unacceptable for Tech.

Of course, this win also had to be special for McGuire, who got his start as a college assistant with the Bears.  Though he still holds Baylor head coach Dave Aranda in high regard, the competitor in him had to desperately desire to chance to get the better of his former boss and, more importantly, the university that picked Aranda over McGuire following the departure of former Baylor head coach Matt Rhule for the NFL in 202.

It was a true mismatch at McLane Stadium, a stadium that Tech had never emerged victorious from prior to Saturday night.  Behind two Behren Morton TD passes and a smothering defensive effort, Tech jumped out to a 17-3 halftime lead and was never truly challenged after that.

The Red Raiders were the better team in every phase and it wasn’t even close.  Whether or not that is an indication that Tech is finding its footing or whether that is more of a statement about how bad Baylor is this year can be debated.

Texas Tech fans won’t turn their noses up at this win though.  Taking down the Bears is always satisfying, regardless of whether it is in football, basketball, rodeo, meat judging, or team sheep shearing.

This is a series that’s likely to take on even more importance for the Red Raiders in the new landscape of the Big 12 and it will be important that Tech reestablishes the dominance it once enjoyed over Baylor when it won 15 games in a row in the series during the early 2000s.

So let’s break down this win with some rapid reactions to what we saw in Waco.  We’ll start with a tip of the hat to Tech’s best player who had a career night.

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Brooks now has topped the 100-yard mark in four games in a row and he’s without question the best player on the offense.  It was a bit surprising that Tech didn’t bring Cam’Ron Valdez into the game late to give Brooks a rest but maybe that isn’t necessary.

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While he likely can’t keep giving Tech over 25 carries per game for the rest of the year, he does seem to be getting better the more he carries the ball and that was the case on Saturday night as he simply wore down the Bears as the game progressed.

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Texas Tech’s Steve Linton wears a black cast during football practice, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023, at the Sports Performance Center.

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Steve Linton finally shows Texas Tech fans what he’s capable of

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After failing all season to live up to the offseason hype that surrounded his transfer from Syracuse, edge rusher Steve Linton had a breakout performance against Baylor.  It was refreshing for Texas Tech fans to finally meet the version of Linton that the coaches had raved about during the spring and summer.

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Baylor’s offensive line had no answer for Linton, who is still battling a nagging ankle injury that requires daily treatment.  He finished the game with two sacks, two forced fumbles, and numerous QB pressures.

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It was part of a night that saw the Red Raiders collect a season-high six sacks.  That was key when facing a Baylor team that is among the worst in the Big 12 when it comes to keeping its QB upright.

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Prior to Saturday, Linton had not registered a sack all season and fans had become frustrated with his lack of productivity.  Now, perhaps this big performance can take a load off of Linton’s shoulders and help him move forward with some positive momentum.

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Many insiders and experts have said that NFL scouts are enamored of Linton’s athleticism and measurables.  However, he had yet to show NFL productivity until going up against the Bears.

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Now, we have to keep in mind that the Baylor O-line is atrocious.  That had to help Linton get unstuck.  Still, it was a promising performance from a player that Tech needs more from over the second half of the season.

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WACO, TX u2013 OCTOBER 7: Head coach Joey McGuire (L) of the Texas Tech Red Raiders celebrates following the teamu2019s win over the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium on October 7, 2023 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

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Texas Tech dominates the ground game on both sides of the ball

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Last season, when Baylor trucked the Red Raiders in Lubbock, 45-17, the Bears out-rushed Tech 231-149.u00a0 That night, Arandau2019s team owned the line of scrimmage.

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It was a completely different story this year.u00a0 In fact, Tech has rarely dominated the ground game the way it did in Waco.u00a0 While the Red Raiders churned out 188 yards, Baylor was held to just 17.u00a0 Thatu2019s rightu202617.

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The Bearsu2019 exciting sophomore RB Richard Reese was one of the top freshmen in the nation in 2022 and against Tech last fall, he ran for 148 yards and 3 TDs on 36 carries.u00a0 But on Saturday, he had just four carries for four yards.

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Whatu2019s more, no Baylor running back had more than the 21 yards that Dominic Richardson amassed.u00a0 As a group, the BU backs had just 37 yards on the ground.

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This Texas Tech defense is proving to be very tough against the run.u00a0 Oregon had only 113 yards on Tech despite featuring two RBs that ran for over 800 yards last season, Houstonu2019s running backs had only 95, and now, Baylor managed only 17 as a team.

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Tonight, players such as u201cDoodau201d Banks, Charles Esters III, Myles Cole, and Jaylon Hutchings controlled the line of scrimmage and gave the Bears nowhere to run.u00a0 When the Red Raiders run the ball the way they did with Brooks and stop the run as effectively as the defense did, it is the ultimate form of complimentary football and it is beautiful to watch after years and years of being on the other side of that equation.

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Oct 7, 2023; Waco, Texas, USA; Baylor Bears running back Dawson Pendergrass (35) runs the ball as Texas Tech Red Raiders linebacker Miquel Dingle (35) defends during the second half at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

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4th down was fantastic for Texas Tech

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In a game featuring two of the most aggressive coaches in the country on 4th down, two coaches who wholeheartedly subscribe to the theory of analytics, Texas Tech was by far the better team on that down.

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Interestingly, McGuire felt the need to gamble on 4th down just twice.  One came on the first drive of the game when Tahj Brooks bowled his way through the line for 16 yards.  The other was a failed attempt that saw Cam’Ron Valdez stopped just inches short of the line to gain.

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Aranda, on the other hand, had to roll the dice six times.  Fortunately, the Tech defense was up to the task making five stops.

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Much of this disparity was due to the fact that Tech was able to jump out to a multiple-score lead.  That kept McGuire from feeling like he had to take chances to keep pace.

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Instead, that burden fell on Aranda, who had to know early on that his defense was in trouble.  Tech was clutch time and again when Baylor tried to keep drives alive (even holding the Bears to 4-15 on third down) and that proved to be a huge factor in this victory.

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WACO, TX u2013 OCTOBER 7: Behren Morton #2 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders celebrates following the teamu2019s win over the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium on October 7, 2023 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

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Behren Morton was wonderfully efficient for Texas Tech

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I love the new version of Behren Morton that weu2019ve seen in the last two weeks.u00a0 Not being asked to carry the offense by himself, heu2019s playing under control and showing a level of efficiency that indicates that heu2019s maturing as a QB.

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Only asked to throw the ball 26 times, he completed 19 passes for 180 yards and 3 TDs.u00a0 He did have one pick but it was one that we can live with given that it wasnu2019t a boneheaded decision but rather just an underthrown ball.

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While Morton has all the talent in the world, he is still green.u00a0 He isnu2019t to a place where the game plan needs to revolve around his right arm.u00a0 (That time will come next season.)u00a0 When he feels thatu2019s the case, he is prone to try to do too much as we saw earlier this year in Morgantown.

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However, when Tech is majoring in the ground game, Morton knows that he only has to pick his spots and thatu2019s what he did on Saturday.u00a0 Whatu2019s more, he was especially good on third down, which is when you want your QB to be at his best.

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In fact, his first two TD passes came on third down.u00a0 The first was a nice back-shoulder stop route thrown to Coy Eakin who made his first TD grab as a collegiate.u00a0 The second was a perfectly placed fade route to Baylor Cupp who used his 6-foot-6 frame to go over a smaller DB to make a beautiful grab.

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There will be times when Morton has to do more in a game that heu2019s been asked to in his two starts this year.u00a0 Still, for the rest of the season, he needs to be the secondary option for Tech because when the ground game is churning, he seems to be more in control and more reliable than he tends to be when he has to channel his inner Brett Favre and be a gunslinger.

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u00a0

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