Red Raiders defeat Baylor with last minute field goal

They don’t ask “How pretty?”. They just ask “How many?”. For the Texas Tech football team, the answer to that question is now five, as in wins, as the Red Raiders stunned No. 16 Kansas on its home field thanks to a game-winning field goal from Gino Garcia with three seconds remaining.

The win pushed the program to 23-2 all-time against Kansas and, more importantly, 5-5 on the season.  That means the Red Raiders could earn bowl eligibility next week at home by beating Central Florida (though the Knight’s 45-3 victory over No. 15 Oklahoma State on Saturday proves that won’t be easy) or by upsetting Texas in Austin on Black Friday.

It was the first road win over a ranked team for Texas Tech since beating No. 16 Oklahoma State in Stillwater in 2018.  It was also just the third road win of Joey McGuire’s tenure as head coach.

Beating a red-hot Kansas team, the best KU team since perhaps 2007, on its own field with a QB in Behren Morton who was obviously limited in his ability to throw the ball due to the nagging sprained shoulder that has plagued him since the West Virginia game is unquestionably Tech’s best win of the season.

In fact, it is the first win this season over an FBS team with a winning record.  Could it also be a sign that McGuire is once again getting the most out of his team in November?

After going undefeated in the season’s final month in 2022, the second-year head coach has now won his first two games of November in 2023 after beating TCU on November 2nd.  That’s a trend that Texas Tech football fans still might need to adjust to after years of seeing this program fade down the stretch on a nearly annual basis.

It was a gutsy, physical, and much-needed victory for the Red Raiders as they try to salvage what’s left of a season that has been a bit of a letdown.  On Saturday, what we got from Tech was anything but disappointing though as the good guys played spoiler to a team that entered the day with aspirations of a Big 12 Championship Game appearance.  Here are some reactions to what took place in Lawrence.

The QB luck finally broke the way of Texas Tech

No one wants to hope for an injury to an opponent.  That’s why the apparent leg injury that forced KU quarterback Jason Bean out of the game in the second quarter was nothing to celebrate.

With that said, Texas Tech fans had to finally feel like the football gods did their team a favor on Saturday by helping Morton navigate the game despite being banged up himself while the opponent had to turn to their third-string QB for a change.

Had Bean stayed healthy for the entire game, I don’t know that the Tech defense would have been able to hold the high-powered KU offense to just 13 points.  Sure, Bean had been able to generate almost no positive momentum before he was twisted up by the Red Raider defense at the end of a running play.  However, he likely would have eventually found his rhythm and put some points on the board.

Maybe it didn’t come down to luck, though.  Instead, perhaps it was just stupidity on KU’s part.  Knowing that they had no other option behind Bean than walk-on freshman Cole Ballard, why ask Bean to keep the ball on a designed QB draw?  Yes, he is dynamic as a runner but the risk of injury is too great as KU learned the hard way.

As for Morton, he was noticeably limited.  The vast majority of his 25 passing attempts were swing passes to wide receivers and when he did try to push the ball downfield, there was a lack of zip on the ball as most of those passes came up short.

Still, Morton somehow survived the game despite enduring three sacks and taking a handful of other shots while in the pocket or rushing on scrambles.  Meanwhile, Bean could not overcome whatever ailment he sustained and that proved to be the turning point in the game.  Finally, it was the Red Raiders that had the luck at the game’s most important position.  It was about time.

Tahj Brooks was a one-man show for Texas Tech

It’s too bad Spike Dykes couldn’t have seen this game in person because he would have loved seeing the Red Raiders grind out a 16-13 win by running the ball 33 times with a featured back and relying on the defense and kicking game to squeak by.  That was the formula Tech often used during the 1980s and 90s and this game certainly felt like a throwback to the old Southwest Conference days.

However, Brooks can’t continue to be a one-man show for the Red Raiders.  Someone else is going to have to help him carry the ball.

It was obvious in the second half that he was wearing down.  Of course, Kansas started to load the box and made life harder on him as well but as the game progressed, Brooks lost some of the explosiveness and elusiveness that we’ve come to take for granted from him.

Tech simply doesn’t have another running back that the coaching staff trusts.  Cam’Ron Valdez had only four carries for 14 yards and no other RB played.

Only the coaches will know why players like Nehemiah Martinez or Xavier White don’t get a few carries if Valdez isn’t able to be trusted with consistent workloads but Tech would be wise to find a way to give Brooks some respite during games.  For the year, the senior now has 225 carries, an average of 25 per game.

That’s only eight fewer than Deandre Washington’s career high in 2016 and more touches than Taurean Henderson had in three of his four seasons as a Red Raider.  He’s on pace for a 300-carry season which puts him in line with players like Byron Handspard and Bam Morris, two RBs who played at Tech long before the “Air Raid” era of the program.

At some point, Tech’s horse is going to wear out and it appeared that he came close to that on Saturday.  Still, he gave the team 133 yards and its only TD on a day when everyone in the state of Kansas knew where the ball was going.

The Texas Tech defense should take a bow

In many ways, this game was reminiscent of last season’s 14-10 November win at Iowa State.  In both games, the offense sputtered for most of the game forcing the defense to come up clutch time and again, and in both games, that’s exactly what happened.

For the game on Saturday, Tech gave up only 344 total yards.  What’s more, 60 of those came on Devin Neal’s TD scamper in the fourth quarter meaning that on the other 68 plays of the game, the defense surrendered just 284 yards.  That’s an average of just 4.1 yards per play.

Some may negate what the Red Raider defense did because of KU’s QB situation.  However, there have been plenty of other instances in this program’s recent history when a backup or even third-string QB has done plenty of damage against or led his team to a win over Tech.

What was most impressive was that the Red Raiders came up big in the red zone.  Three times, KU managed to get into the red zone but those trips resulted in only six total points.  That meant that the Jayhawks left 15 potential points off the board.

Jaylon Hutchings played one of his best games as a Red Raider.  The 300-pound defensive tackle racked up eight tackles (six solo) and a half of a sack.  He was a huge reason why the dangerous KU ground game was essentially held in check outside of Neal’s long TD.

C.J. Baskerville was also fantastic with 11 tackles to lead the team.  Ten of those were of the solo variety as he made a ton of plays from his new safety position.

Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Ben Roberts also continues to be a tackling machine.  With nine more stops on Saturday, he’s up to 72 on the season and since being inserted into the starting lineup in week two, he’s had only one game with fewer than six tackles (and that was against Tarleton State when he didn’t play the full game due to it being a blowout).

This year, Tech is asking quite a lot of its defense given the offense’s limitations, and for the most part, Tim DeRuyter’s unit is answering the bell.  On Saturday, that side of the ball had to carry the load and it did its part in a big way. This was certainly a throwback game that had to make old-school Red Raider fans happy.

Jerand Bradley finally comes up big for Texas Tech in 2023

All season, wide receiver Jerand Bradley has only been noticeable because he’s been unremarkable.  Some of that has had to do with the QB turmoil but some of that is simply due to the fact that he’s not been as good this year as he was a season ago.

Against KU, though, he made his presence known in huge moments.  With 91 yards on just four catches, he averaged 28 yards per catch.  That’s making the most of your opportunities with the ball.

Of course, his 33-yard snag on Tech’s final drive was the game’s defining play.  Coming back to catch an underthrown pass from Morton, he battled (and might have gotten away with a push-off) to make the type of impact play that this team has needed him to make all season.

The catch set up Tech at the KU 12 allowing Garcia to have a chip-shot field goal for the win.  When this season is over, might that be the defining play of the year?  It is entirely possible given how critical this game was.

Bradley also made a circus one-handed catch earlier in the game to set his team up at the KU 28.  However, that drive would end with a missed FG.

This was the first time this season that Bradley has topped 90 yards in a game and the first time since the KSU game that he’s had over three catches.  What’s more, it had been since the Oregon game that he’s had over 50 yards in one contest.

It is hard to argue that Bradley, a former 4-star recruit, has lived up to the preseason hype that saw him named an All-Big 12 honoree before the season.  However, in Lawrence, he came up huge when his team needed a play and he finally proved to be a difference-maker for the Red Raiders.

Texas Tech fans have to have great faith in Gino Garcia

Few players have had a greater renaissance during the course of a season than Gino Garcia has had this year.  In fact, Texas Tech fans are now shocked when their kicker doesn’t convert an opportunity.

On the day, he was 3 out of 4 to account for all of Tech’s scoring outside of Brooks’ first-quarter touchdown.  Of course, his one miss was acceptable given that it was a 48-yarder into a stiff breeze.

So far this year, Garcia’s stats look decent but they don’t tell the story of his season.  Overall, he’s 13-18, which is just 72.2%.  That’s a far cry from what we’ve seen from recent Tech kickers like Jonathan Garibay or Trey Wolff.

However, since starting the year 3-7 in the first two games, he’s gone 10-11.  In fact, his miss on Saturday was his first since the Oregon game.

Garcia has become a steady and reliable kicker after resetting in the middle of the season when he received advice from former Texas Tech and NFL kicker Lin Elliott.  Now, Garcia is almost automatic so long as the attempt he’s asked to make is reasonable.

He drilled the game-winner on Saturday as he continued to rewrite the story of his 2023.  It’s been one of the most dramatic in-season turnarounds we’ve seen from a Red Raider in quite a while.

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