Here is everything you need to know about the Texas Tech Red Raiders in our Texas Tech vs. Stephen F. Austin preview.
6 p.m. Central Time, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, AT&T Jones Stadium, Lubbock, Texas
Radio: Texas Tech Sports Network.
Records: Stephen F. Austin, 1-0; Texas Tech, 1-0.
Ranking: Stephen F. Austin: None; Texas Tech: None.
Last week: Stephen F. Austin def. Tarleton State, 20-10; Texas Tech def. Houston, 38-21.
Fun Fact: The last time SFA played Texas Tech was on Sept. 3, 2016, a game Texas Tech won, 69-17. Texas Tech has scored at least 58 points in its last three meetings with SFA. Those are the only three times the two programs have faced each other in football.
Stephen F. Austin
QB Trae Self: Self is in his third season as SFA’s starter, and the Lumberjacks are benefiting from that stability. Self led SFA to a win over Tarleton State in the Western Athletic Conference’s first league game since 2012. He threw for 235 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 47 yards as he earned WAC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
WR Xavier Gipson: Texas Tech will have to account for Gipson on Saturday. He caught three passes for 48 yards and a touchdown against Tarleton State. But he’s been a star at SFA since he earned Hero Sports Freshman All-America honors in 2019 after setting team-highs in receiving yardage (934), catches (52) and touchdown receptions (seven) that season. He’s quick, shifty and hard for any defense to deal with. SFA will want to establish him early.
CB Bruce Harmon. The redshirt sophomore will be one of the players relied upon to deal with Texas Tech’s solid group of receivers. Against Tarleton State last week Harmon had a great game, picking off one pass and breaking up two others. He was one of three Lumberjacks with an interception last week, and SFA will need more of those types of players to hang in there with Texas Tech.
RB Tajh Brooks: With SaRodorick Thompson now cleared for football activities, Brooks will get some help carrying the load, eventually. But against Houston, he didn’t need it. Brooks had a career-high 134 yards against Houston, scoring a 41-yard touchdown for the Red Raiders first score of the game. As a true freshman in 2020, Brooks had 255 rushing yards and four touchdowns on only 69 carries. Even when Thompson returns, Brooks’ big-play acumen will be an asset to this offense.
QB Tyler Shough: The Red Raiders are hoping the Oregon transfer can stabilize the quarterback position. If his first game is indication, the mission could be accomplished. He threw for 231 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for another 21 yards and a touchdown. He also authored one of Texas Tech’s best comebacks in recent memory, as the Red Raiders were down 21-7 at halftime and roared back for the victory. This is the kind of quarterback play the Red Raiders need to get over that .500 hump in the Big 12.
DB Reggie Pearson Jr: The Wisconsin transfer was named the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Week after his performance against Houston last week. He had a leaping, falling-backwards interception of Houston quarterback Clayton Tune. He also forced a fumble and had eight tackles. He sat out the 2020 season and is already making an impact.
Stephen F. Austin
SFA was on probation in 2020, so the Lumberjacks opted to play in the fall and forego the spring FCS season. SFA went 6-4 last season, and all four losses were to FBS teams. The Lumberjacks are incredibly young and getting more talented by the season under head coach Colby Carthel. With the move to the Western Athletic Conference, the Lumberjacks are looking to make their first playoff appearance of the Carthel era, and their first postseason appearance since 2014. It will be a hard road for SFA to make the postseason in 2021, as their conference includes defending FCS champion Sam Houston. But the Lumberjacks are a young up-and-coming team that could be FCS contenders in the next two or three years.
Texas Tech’s win over Houston last week was their fourth straight over the Cougars. Still, after the first half, it felt like the type of game the Red Raiders tend to lose. But the offense ended up with a great second half, and you also have to give a lot of credit to Texas Tech’s defense. The much-maligned unit had four interceptions. Those are the types of game-changing plays that have been missing for Texas Tech the past few years. Plus, the fact that Texas Tech held Houston to just 21 points lends some credence to the idea that the alterations the Red Raiders made to their team, both in scheme and in their roster, might help bolster their defense in 2021.
Prediction: Texas Tech 63, SFA 21
This will end up being a long night for SFA. Texas Tech is coming off a high after the Houston game and fans shouldn’t expect a letdown. SFA’s last Big 12 opponent was Baylor, a 56-17 loss in the 2019 season opener. The Red Raiders proved against Houston that their talent level from last season has improved. Saturday’s game represents an opportunity for Texas Tech to take control early and give its second- and third-string players some valuable playing time. SFA should score some points late in the game, but don’t expect this to be a close game. Historically, it hasn’t been.
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You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard