Red Raiders end successful season with impressive win over Ole Miss


Wednesday night in Houston, the Texas Tech football team wrapped up the 2022 season in impressive fashion by taking down Ole Miss in the Texas Bowl, 42-25. That put a nice cap on an 8-5 debut season for head coach Joey McGuire who it was announced earlier in the day had received a six-year contract extension worth $26.6 million in total.

There’s no question that Tech surpassed all expectations this year and did so by a wide margin after being picked to finish 9th in the conference preseason poll.  There will be plenty of time to analyze the big picture of where this program is and where it may be headed but for now, here are some quick thoughts on what transpired 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.  But during the game, I couldn’t help but think that the way he was playing in the Texas Bowl made me think that 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 it all on the field in this game and simply willed his team to victory.  Throwing the ball, he was efficient completing 24-39 passes for 242 yards and a TD with one pick.

However, it was his ability to move the ball with his legs that proved to be the most impactful weapon that the Tech offense had at its disposal.  Shough led the team in carries with 25 and yards with 111 while twice finding the endzone on the ground.  What’s more, he ran angry and he ran tough not thinking twice about putting his body in harm’s way to pick up critical yards.

How different is the perception of Shough now versus in September when he went down with a broken collarbone for the second season in a row?  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 has led Tech to four straight wins to close the season and to move his record as a starting QB at Tech to 8-1, it is hard to deny that he is the player who gives this team the best shot at competing for a league title next year.  Behren Morton is still the future in Lubbock but that era will have to wait for one more season because this program 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 run game that led all Power 5 schools in yards per game.  After all, teams such as Baylor and Kansas State were able to rack up some huge totals on the ground 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.  No Rebel surpassed 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 gashing Tech for 143 yards last season.

Prior to the game, Evans did a bit of trash-talking toward Tech as he referenced last season’s gashing of the Red Raiders.  But on this night, it was the Red Raiders who got the last laugh as Evans was virtually a non-factor as the Ole Miss ground game was neutralized by a hungry and stout Texas Tech defense.

Young players step up

One encouraging sign for the Red Raiders as they head into the offseason was the fact that several young players stepped up in the Texas Bowl.  On offense, Jerand Bradley hauled in eight passes for 88 yards and a TD.  The redshirt freshman finished the season with 51 receptions for 744 yards and 6 scores and was the team leader in all three categories.  Certainly, he appears to be on the verge of stardom as we head toward 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 registered four tackles (two for loss) a sack, and a fumble recovery. It’s exciting to think about what he could become next year after a full offseason in the weight room.

Take 5

Without question, 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 hit 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 into several poor decisions on his way to three interceptions.  Dart also lost a fumble in a game where he was a huge reason why his team was unable to sustain much offense for a large portion of the evening.

The game often comes down to QB play and on Wednesday, that battle was heavily tilted in Tech’s favor.  Shough accounted for 353 total yards, three touchdowns, and only one turnover while Dart’s four turnovers essentially neutralized the 427 yards of total offense that he put up.

Home away from home

Houston isn’t necessarily thought of as 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 tilt this game in the good guys’ favor and every fan 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 again and that this fanbase is fully invested in and supportive of Joey McGuire and what he’s building in Lubbock.  Therefore, it was a perfect cap to put on a season that saw life breathed back into Texas Tech’s most important program.

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