Red Raiders defeat Sooners 51-48 in OT


In what was the final game in the four-decade-plus life of the iconic Double-T scoreboard at Jones Stadium, the Texas Tech football team and Oklahoma almost wore out the old girl’s wiring on Saturday night.  Fortunately, in a retro Big 12 shootout, the home team would prevail 51-48 in overtime to finish the regular season 7-5.  Here are some quick thoughts on what transpired on a wild night in the 806.

All season, head coach Joey McGuire has preached to his team that they had to establish what he calls “The Brand”.  In other words, he’s tried to instill within his team an identity that aligns with his core beliefs.  This game was certainly one for “The Brand”.

After falling behind 17-0 to open the game, there was an opportunity for McGuire’s team to waive the white flag as so many previous versions of the Red Raiders have when facing the Sooners. But in just a year on the job, McGuire has built a culture of competitiveness and a refusal to quit among his players.

This game was a testament to this coaching staff and the players who rallied after playing their worst first quarter of the season.  It’s also a great sign for the future of this program.

How about Trey Wolff?  The kid is just a stone-cold killer.  Nailing the 43-yard field goal at the end of regulation to send the game to OT and then calmly drilling the 35-yard game-winner, he more than atoned for missing his first extra point attempt of the year following the first Red Raider touchdown of the night.

The old adage is that you never trust a college kicker but Wolff is as close to nails as it gets in the NCAA.  He’s now made 11-straight field goals and has OT winners over Texas and OU while also drilling the 46-yard FG on the last play of regulation to send the Houston game to overtime where his team would prevail. In the end, Saturday’s game came down to the kickers, and Oklahoma’s Zach Schmit found the moment to be too big in the extra period.

But Wolff was clutch just as he’s been all season.  He’s one college kicker that it seems you can indeed rely on.

Finally, after years of seeing the Red Raiders falter in November, the 2022 team found a way to finish strong by winning its final three games.  That’s the first time Tech has had a winning record in the season’s final month since 2015 and the first time Tech has won three games in November since 2010.

Texas Tech was picked to finish 9th in the preseason Big 12 poll.  By beating OU, the Red Raiders end the year in 4th place in the league.  When was the last time Tech football exceeded expectations by such a wide margin?

In what was likely his final home game as a Red Raider, running back SaRodorick Thompson left everything he had on the field.  Running for 86 yards and two scores on 22 carries, he almost refused to come off the field even after twice being slowed by various injuries.

At times, he was so beat up that it looked like he wasn’t going to be able to get from the field and back to the sidelines but he kept coming back for more.  Though he would eventually exit the game for good and turn things over to Tahj Brooks, Thompson was the heart and soul of his team on Saturday night.

He will finish his career third in program history career rushing touchdowns, something that is impressive given that he’s played in the spread offense era.  And remember, coming out of high school, he was just a 2-star recruit.  What a player he made himself into during his time in Lubbock.

Tech finishes the year over .500 in Big 12 play.  That’s the first time a Red Raider team has managed to do that since 2009 and back then, teams played only eight Big 12 games per year, not nine.

For the Red Raiders, that’s a huge monkey to get off their back.  What’s more, the team did it in a year that saw the schedule present four ranked opponents in conference play, three of which were games that took place away from Jones Stadium.

Make no mistake, this game was all about Tech offensive coordinator Zach Kittley matching wits with Oklahoma’s head coach Brent Venables, a supposed defensive guru.  Game…set…match Kittley.

After Tech settled down and started to execute, Venables had no answer for Kittley.  Tech would score on eight of its 12 possessions after the first quarter and, of course, on its only OT possession.

Now, OU’s defense is not up to typical Sooner standards this year.  Still, Tech’s 51 points are the second-most any team hung on OU this season outside of the 55 that TCU scored against Venables’ defense in Fort Worth.   And there were no fluke plays, defensive scores, or short fields.  Every point the Red Raiders got, they earned.

Kittley has taken his share of criticism this year for his offense’s struggles at times.  But this team has found a way to milk just enough out of a roster that had to start three different QBs and the worst offensive line in the modern era of the program.  I for one am excited to see what Kittley might be able to do in year two, especially assuming that he has more talent to work with, and hopefully some luck with the health of his QBs.

One week after Tech was able to grind out a 14-10 win in frigid Ames, Iowa, the Red Raiders turned around and won a classic Big 12 shootout against the team that entered the game with the conference’s second-ranked offense.

Not many teams in recent Red Raider past would be capable of putting together the back-to-back weeks that we just saw this year’s team complete.  While neither the Red Raider offense nor the Red Raider defense was elite this season, both were capable and that’s more than what could be said about previous teams that we’ve seen come through Lubbock.

As far as I’m concerned, OU and Texas can get the hell out of the Big 12 as soon as possible.  Good riddance.  Though they both appear destined for at least one more year in the conference, next year’s 14-team Big 12 will not see the Red Raiders play every team in the league.

Rumors are circling that OU may not be on the 2023 Red Raider schedule at all which means that this might have been the last time Tech and the Sooners square off for years, if not decades.  If so, what a memory to have in our back pockets.

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