With Saturday’s overtime 51-48 win over Oklahoma, Texas Tech capped off a successful first season under Joey McGuire. While a bowl game still awaits, and likely a better one than Texas Tech has had in quite some time, the 12-game sample size is in and you’d have to say it’s been a massive success. Coming into the season the bookies had Texas Tech’s season at five and a half wins. The Big 12 media poll had them at ninth out of ten, and behind eighth by some margin. To add onto that Texas Tech had to face five ranked teams in a row, in the first six games.
How’d this team respond? A fourth-place finish, sweeping Texas and Oklahoma for the first time ever, a 6-1 record at home, and their best Big 12 record since 2009. It’s been a long decade-plus for Texas Tech fans, as they sat through losing season after losing season, with few bright spots. In the last few years, the equation for making a bowl game seemed simple, beat three bad teams in the non-conference, then go 3-6 in Big 12 play. For Joey Mcguire that wasn’t good enough, they beat a ranked Houston team, lost on the road to a ranked NC State team, then bounced back with a 5-4 record in Big 12 play, not just to make any bowl game, but a good bowl game.
Promises Made, Promises Kept
From the start Joey McGuire was ambitious, he had a big vision for Texas Tech, and in year one he made crucial first steps. As soon as he was hired he promised to recruit Texas high schools vigorously, and he succeeded. He pulled a recruiting class from 78 to around 40, in a very short period of time. This year it gets better as he currently has Texas Tech positioned at 22 according to 247 Sports. While many coaches have anonymously said “you can’t recruit to Lubbock” he’s proved that to be a lie. Now, this is nothing new, Tim Tadlock proved that in baseball, and Chris Beard, as much as Tech fans despise him, did the same in basketball. Perhaps when former coaches make anonymous remarks about Lubbock, from now on they should just admit they couldn’t recruit to Lubbock. One thing about McGuire is that you can tell he loves being there, he doesn’t struggle to find things he likes about it, or compare it to Iraq, as previous coaches have.
On the field, McGuire preached an aggressive attitude, to the dismay of some announcers, and at times he both died by it and won off it. Going for it on fourth down was a common theme for this team, against NC State and TCU it bit them, but against Texas and Oklahoma, it saved them. Where is this team without going for it on fourth down eight times against Texas? The energy and belief he showed in this team was palpable, and the players responded time and time again. The fanbase did as well, a starved fanbase got to storm the field three times, something that never happened in my four years there. Is it weird to storm the field against a 6-6 Oklahoma team? Maybe, but am I going to blame students who stayed, or came back early from Thanksgiving, and sat through a 24-6 deficit in cold weather for storming the field after Tech’s best Big 12 finish in 13 years? Heck no.
The aggression wasn’t limited to going for it on fourth downs either. At a High School coaches clinic, McGuire declared they’d beat OU and tear down the South endzone, which proved true. In the locker room after beating Texas, he said if the team kept working and pushing that eventually, everyone would find out that “everything runs through Lubbock.” Typical overblown talk to the team that went public? Sure, potential punchline? Sure (google Herdman Croatia), but it’s tough to argue with that when you go 6-1 at home. Not to mention as a whole this season, they went 3-4 as an underdog and 4-1 as favorites.
Start of Something
While there will be no banners raised for a 7-5 year and a fourth-place finish, it was a sign of things to come. You can tell the culture has changed, in the past players would say their goal was to make it to a Bowl, this year they talked about a Big 12 Championship. It isn’t as far-fetched as many would think, after all, if they had beaten Kansas State they’d be heading to Arlington this week. There are no moral victories in football, but the fact Texas Tech was one game away from playing in its first Big 12 title game is notable. This roster is likely the least talented Texas Tech will have under McGuire, now that’s not a knock on these players as they proved time and time again they could cut it in Big 12 play. But the recruiting tides have turned, and soon the 2022 class will find the field. Next year the offense will likely be handed over to Behren Morton, the offensive line grew as the season went on, and much of the defense can return. Add in a big step up in recruiting, and Texas Tech could be a staple in the top half of the Big 12 standings for years to come.
There’ll be battles to fight this offseason, can you get Hutchings and Bradford to stay? What will this QB room look like? Shough will likely go pro or transfer, but can they convince Donovan Smith to be the backup, and play a similar role to Taysom Hill? All those questions, and then some, will need to be answered. Also looking at the staff, Zach Kittley has been widely criticized but did drop 51 on Oklahoma. I’d say there was a learning curve with him this season, and he should have more players that fit his system next season. On the defensive end, Tim DeRuyter is expected to be highly coveted, considering his stint as head coach at Fresno State, a similar position may be tough to fathom, but he’d certainly require a raise to keep as defensive coordinator next season.
It’ll be a long and exciting offseason in Lubbock, with a trip to Orlando or San Antonio mixed in. However the future is undeniably bright, a team that started three different quarterbacks went 7-5, and 5-4 in Big 12 play. The potential future of Texas Tech, Behren Morton seems primed to take over, and a highly touted recruiting class will come in. A proven defensive coordinator and a high-potential offensive coordinator will get back to work. While many expected “high school coach” Joey McGuire to struggle and miss a bowl, he took Tech to its best conference record in 13 years. There’ll always be questions, but through our first 12-game sample size, for the first time in a long time, the future looks bright for Texas Tech football.