The Red Raiders entered the 2018 season with hesitant hope. The idea was that Kliff Kingsbury had the best defense of his Texas Tech tenure coming back, and while there were questions at quarterback, Kingsbury always knew how to put points on the board. The extra month of practice after becoming bowl eligible following the stunning win over Texas last season would also pay dividends. Kingsbury would justify Kirby Hocutt and the Tech administration keeping him around for the 2018 season.
And just like that, after one afternoon, the “hesitant hope” is gone for the Red Raiders. It has to be. I’m not one to overreact to a single loss, but there was very little that came out of Saturday’s 47-27 loss to Ole Miss at NRG Stadium in Houston on Saturday that should make Texas Tech fans fell good about 2018.
Following the injury to McLane Carter, true freshman quarterback Alan Bowman was solid considering the tough spot he was put in. Bowman finished 29/49 for 273 yards and a touchdown pass. He certainly had his struggles at times, along with occasional confusion, but I was encouraged by what I saw out of Bowman. Kingsbury agreed, saying after the game, “I was proud of how he protected the football, that’s what we asked him to do. Protect the ball. Led some nice drives, a couple we’d like to have back, but I thought overall he handled himself well.”
Having RB Da’Leon Ward back in the fold was a positive as well, as he ran for 90 yards on 17 carries with two touchdowns.
But other than that, there was not much to be encouraged by. Sure, the officiating didn’t help TTU much. There was a clear holding penalty against T.J. Vasher on a 4th down that was missed, resulted in a turnover on downs and was followed by a quick Ole Miss touchdown.
But regardless, the Texas Tech defense, which was expected to be the stronger side of the ball, ironically, for this team, was anything but strong. The Red Raiders allowed 546 total yards of offense to the Rebels, including allowing Ole Miss to rush for 7.5 yards per carry. Tech gave up touchdown plays of 58, 39, 65 and 34 yards.
The reason I felt good about Texas Tech winning this game was because I thought Texas Tech’s secondary, possibly the strongest unit on the team, could handle the Ole Miss wide receivers. I was wrong. DaMarkus Lodge, A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and Braylon Sanders all had at least four catches and big plays against a Tech secondary that was looked overmatched all afternoon long.
Kingsbury added about the Ole Miss wide receivers, “They’re physical, athletic, big time guys… obviously they’re well coached and put in a position to be successful.”
When it comes to being well coached, Texas Tech can’t say that right now, and that might be more concerning than the talent on the field. There were costly penalties. Six total for 81 yards. Desmon Smith and Vaughnte Dorsey were both ejected for targeting. Oh, and the special teams wasn’t all that good either, giving up a 94-yard kickoff return to Jaylon Jones.
At the least, the Red Raiders need to make a bowl game for Kingsbury to keep his job beyond this season. That accomplishment got a lot tougher following Saturday’s loss. Already, articles have been written about Kingsbury’s buyout.
And frankly, after the display in Houston, it’s hard to blame them for starting that discussion.
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