On Thursday night in Lubbock, the Red Raiders were staring down the real possibility of the 2023 season ending on Black Friday in Austin. They hosted rival TCU in the Battle for the Saddle, who also has been wildly inconsistent this season. The game was tightly contested to the very end. But thanks to some timely defense, Texas Tech holds on to a potential bowl season birth. Joey McGuire’s team earned a much-needed 35-28 victory over the Horned Frogs.
Offense Finally Delivered Second Half Counter Punches
Since the start of Big 12 play, the Texas Tech defense had been downright dominant in the second halves of games. Unfortunately for Red Raider fans, it hasn’t translated to victories. This is because the offense had been unable to keep executing at a high level in the second halves of these games. So, coming into this game, offensive coordinator Zach Kittley knew they needed to break these second-half swoons if Texas Tech was going to win. Getting quarterback Behren Morton was a big boost after being out two games with a shoulder injury. Morton did not disappoint as he was 28-for-36 passing for 282 and two touchdowns. He also added one touchdown on the ground. But Morton did not carry this offense by himself.
This might come as a shock to some. But running back Tahj Brooks is very good at football. Brooks started this game on fire, posting 99 yards rushing before halftime. However, early on in the third quarter, the offense appeared to be sputtering again. The first three drives of the second half only netted 43 yards of offense. It also included a turnover on downs at the TCU 34, which the Horned Frogs converted into a touchdown five plays later. Ultimately, Brooks got going again late in the third and played a critical role in securing a win. He finished the game with 146 yards rushing on 31 carries and one touchdown.
Turnovers Proved To Be Difference
TCU quarterback Josh Hoover’s career is only three starts old. Unfortunately, turnovers are plaguing the redshirt freshman. He came into the game having thrown four interceptions in those three starts. Thursday night was no different. Texas Tech defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter was looking to see his defense pick off the opposing quarterback for the first time in over 150 pass attempts. Turns out, the turnover margin proved to be one of the most critical statistics of the game.
Hoover is going to be seeing Dadrion Taylor-Demerson in his nightmares this week. Demerson had one interception called back due to a roughing the passer penalty in the first half. But, Demerson found himself around the ball all night. He had two potential interceptions fall off his hands and ultimately picked off Hoover two times. The biggest of them was the game-sealing interception with 55 seconds remaining in the game. While the Red Raiders’ defense still gave up 440 yards of offense, and 21 second-half points, they were causing Hoover’s missed passes to be extremely inaccurate which turned into massive interceptions.
Texas Tech Holds On To Possible Bowl Birth
If the Red Raiders had any hope of going bowling, they had to win this game. It was far from a perfect game for the home team. Penalties have been a problem all season. Texas Tech committed eight penalties for 72 yards. The defense surrendered multiple third-down conversions of over 10 yards. But the Red Raiders found a way to win a closely contested game. That has not been anything they have been able to do this season. Now, Texas Tech holds onto a very doable path to six wins. With a few extra days of rest, they will get ready to travel up to Kansas to take on the Jayhawks.