The Texas Tech Red Raiders went ‘Back to the Future’ when they hosted the Houston Cougars at Jones AT&T Stadium on Saturday.
The ‘Back’ is the fact that the two teams were once Southwest Conference rivals, dating back to the 1970s when the Cougars joined the league.
The ‘Future’ is that the Red Raiders and the Cougars will likely see each other most seasons when the Cougars join the Big 12 in 2023. Saturday’s game was the wrap-up of a previously-agreed to home-and-home series, which Texas Tech won last year in Houston.
The last time the two teams met in Lubbock it was a barn-burner, as the Red Raiders defeated the Cougars, 63-49. Both coaching staffs have changed over. Dana Holgorsen replaced Major Applewhite after that season. Texas Tech is on its second coach since that game’s leader, Kliff Kingsbury, as the Red Raiders hired Joey McGuire to replace Matt Wells last season.
The game turned into an old-fashioned slugfest, and certainly not the Air Raid showdown of 2018. Houston defensive back Gervarrius Owens picked off Texas Tech quarterback Donovan Smith with less than a minute and returned the ball to the Texas Tech 21-yard line to give the Cougars a chance to kick a go-ahead field goal.
Houston did, but the Red Raiders returned the favor and sent the game to overtime.
Texas Tech won the game in two overtimes on a quarterback keeper by Donovan Smith.
Here are three thoughts on the game.
DONOVAN SMITH’S CRAZY GAME
Donovan Smith had chances last year to show the Red Raiders he was worth being the full-time starter. He got a chance to compete directly with Tyler Shough during this offseason, but Shough was named the starter.
After Shough’s injury, Smith had another chance on Saturday to impress the coaching staff and make a case for being the full-time starter, even after Shough returns.
How did he do?
Numbers-wise, Smith put up nearly 400 yards in total offense, even though his passing numbers fell off in the second half. He also threw two touchdown passes
He did a great job of protecting the football in the first half. In the second half he threw three interceptions and nearly lost a fumble.
He helped Texas Tech move the chains, made key completions when it mattered and led a comeback that helped force overtime. He also scored the game-winning touchdown.
He also took several sacks, showed that his downfield accuracy needs improving and made a questionable decision on a scramble that led to an easy-to-call grounding penalty.
He didn’t separate himself on Saturday. But he DID give the coaching staff something to think about when Shough comes back.
HOUSTON IS CLOSE TO BEING BIG 12-READY
Put aside Houston’s awful miscues in the first quarter, which included two personal fouls and a fumble. Those are mistakes you can’t make at any level of football.
But the way Houston started Saturday’s game showed glimpses of a team ready to take on the Big 12 in 2023.
Houston forced several turnovers in the game. They returned one of those turnovers for a touchdown. The Cougar offense racked up yards and, in spite of not being able to play quite the type of game it wanted, they hung in there. Clayton Tune’s deep pass to start the third quarter to Nathaniel Dell was a tone-setter.