On Wednesday night in Houston, the Texas Tech football team ended the 2022 season in impressive fashion by defeating Ole Miss in the Texas Bowl 42-25. That put a nice cap on an 8-5 rookie season for coach Joey McGuire, who was announced earlier in the day had received a six-year contract extension totaling US$ 26.6 million.
There is no doubt that Tech has exceeded all expectations this year and has done so by a wide margin after being selected to finish 9th in the preseason conference poll. There will be plenty of time to look at the big picture of where this show is and where it could go, but for now, here are some quick thoughts on what happened in Houston on Wednesday night.
Shough lays it all on the line
Perhaps the biggest development of the night came on the postgame podium, when Red Raider quarterback Tyler Shough announced that he will indeed return to Lubbock for the 2023 season. he was playing in the Texas Bowl made me think he might be playing his last game as a Red Raider because he played like a man who was trying to go out with a bang.
Shough literally left everything on the field in this game and simply wished his team a victory. Throwing the ball, he was efficient completing 24-39 passes for 242 yards and a TD with a pick.
However, it was his ability to move the ball with his legs that proved to be the most impactful weapon the Tech offense had at its disposal. Shough led the team in rushing with 25 and yards with 111, while twice finding the end zone on the ground. What’s more, he ran angry and ran hard, not thinking twice about putting his body in danger for critical yardage.
How different is Sough’s perception now from September, when he broke his collarbone for the second straight season? There was a time, just a few months ago, when many Red Raider fans were ready to write off the former Oregon transfer as Alan Bowman 2.0, another injury-prone QB who couldn’t withstand the rigors of major college football.
Now, after Shough led Tech to four straight wins to close out the season and move his record as a starting QB at Tech to 8-1, it’s hard to deny that he’s the player who gives this team the best chance to compete. for a league title next year. Behren Morton is still the future in Lubbock, but that era will have to wait for another season because this show has found its unquestioned leader in Shough. And on Wednesday night, he set the tone by playing like an absolute warrior.
Defense passes another test
When this game was announced a few weeks ago, everyone immediately began to worry about the Red Raider defense’s ability to handle an Ole Miss rushing game that led all Power 5 schools in yards per game. After all, teams like Baylor and Kansas State were able to rack up big field totals against Tech earlier this year.
However, the Red Raider defense was up to the task on Wednesday, as coordinator Tim DeRuyter saw his group hold Ole Miss to 197 yards on the ground, well below their season average of 261.3. At the Rebel he passed the 100-yard mark, and most satisfying for Tech fans was the fact that former TCU running back and Houston native Zach Evans had just 37 yards after cutting Tech 143 yards in the final. season.
Before the game, Evans gave Tech a little slurs when referring to the Red Raiders’ cut last season. But on this night, it was the Red Raiders who had the last laugh as Evans was largely an irrelevant factor as the Ole Miss ground game was neutralized by a strong and hungry Texas Tech defense.
Young players step up
An encouraging sign for the Red Raiders going into the offseason was the fact that several young players stood out in the Texas Bowl. On offense, Jerand Bradley has caught eight passes for 88 yards and a touchdown. The redshirt rookie finished the season with 51 receptions for 744 yards and 6 scores and was the team leader in all three categories. Certainly, he looks to be on the cusp of stardom as we head into 2023.
Defensively, true freshman Isaac Smith made his presence known. The lanky defensive end from Wagoner, Oklahoma saw his playing time increase after star DE Tyree Wilson was lost for the season with a foot injury, and on Wednesday night, he recorded four tackles (two for loss) a sack and a fumble recovery. It’s exciting to think of what he could become next year after a full offseason in the weight room.
Undoubtedly, the key to this victory was Texas Tech’s ability to force five Ole Miss turnovers. All season, DeRuyter’s defense had a weekly goal of three takeaways per game, but only once did they manage to reach that mark (against West Virginia).
Against the Rebels though, Tech’s defense was active and disruptive, especially along the defensive line, forcing Ole Miss QB Jaxson Dart to several bad decisions on his way to three interceptions. Dart also lost a fumble in a game that was a big reason his team was unable to sustain much offense for much of the night.
The game usually boils down to QB play, and on Wednesday, that battle was heavily skewed in Tech’s favor. Shough accounted for 353 total yards, three touchdowns and just one turnover, while Dart’s four turnovers essentially neutralized the 427 yards of total offense he put up.
home away from home
Houston is not necessarily considered a Texas Tech stronghold, given the number of Aggies and Longhorns in the area. However, for one night, it was West Texas Southeast.
This was a virtual home game for the Red Raiders and that advantage came through loud and clear on television. There’s no doubt that the pro-Tech environment helped slant this game in favor of the good guys and any fans who showed up to NRG Stadium wearing Scarlet and Black should be proud of the difference they made in this game.
It’s a sign that tech football is back to being fun and that this fan base is fully invested in and supportive of Joey McGuire and what he’s building in Lubbock. So it was a perfect cap for a season that saw life come back to Texas Tech’s top program.