The Knights (5-6, 2-6 in Big 12) took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter but lost that lead in spite of a balanced effort on offense.
The Red Raiders (6-5, 5-3) got another huge game out of running back Tahj Brooks and rallied to win their third straight game.
Here are three thoughts on the game.
Waving Goodbye to Tahj (Probably)
Tahj Brooks started his college career in 2020. As a freshman that entered school during the COVID-19 pandemic, he has a COVID waiver to use after this season.
After clearing more than 1,000 yards, he may opt to head to the NFL after the season. And it would be hard to blame him as Tech has bought into giving the senior a full workload this season and he’s impressed.
He barely gained 100 yards rushing in the Red Raiders’ first two games of the season against Wyoming and Oregon. It was enough to question whether the Red Raiders were committed to getting Brooks the ball.
Turns out that was unnecessary concern. Saturday was Brooks’ eighth 100-yard rushing game in his last nine games, and the one game he failed to get at least 100 yards in was the 98-yard effort against Kansas State.
Brooks ended up with 182 yards on 24 carries for an average of 7.6 yards, and in the waning minutes of the game it was Brooks the Red Raiders trusted to salt away a one-point lead.
What was striking was the efficiency. Brooks had rushed at least 30 times in four of his previous five games. Tech didn’t have to give Brooks that many carries. But he made the most of it.
Saturday was Brooks’ last home game of the season and it was senior night. If he returns, Tech will be better off offensively in 2024. If he leaves, he could do so as one of a handful of Tech running backs with 3,000 or more career yards. He would be just the seventh to do it.
He has 2,868 yards entering the Texas game next weekend. So he needs one more big game to do it before the bowl game. Given his season, he’s been good for it.
Special Teams Matters
Special teams can giveth and it can taketh away. UCF got it both ways on Saturday.
The giveth came in the first half with an absolutely creative fake field goal that saw the Knights take Texas Tech completely by surprise and set up a first-and-goal situation.
Just watch this. The center snaps the ball to the kicker while the kicker is running to the sideline. Unreal.
That kicker, Colton Boomer, had some wheels.
But, Boomer was also at the root of the taketh. He missed a field goal from 32 yards, one that would have, in retrospect, given the Knights the win.
But he also missed an extra point after Javon Baker’s 71-yard receiving touchdown in the fourth quarter. That extra point would have tied the game. But Texas Tech appeared to block it and misdirect it to the left.
For Boomer, it ended his streak of 85 straight made extra points.
UCF didn’t lose this game because of this. The Knights lost it primarily because they squandered a 14-point lead and couldn’t stop Brooks.
But, man, Boomer could have made a difference.
With the win, Texas Tech will head to a bowl game for the second straight year under coach Joey McGuire. It’s not quite the heights the Red Raiders were hoping for. But, bowl games come with 15 extra practices to help them start getting ready for 2024.
Texas Tech will get Texas next week, so there’s no issue with getting up for that game. But, at least the Red Raiders know they don’t need that win for a bowl game.
UCF, on the other hand, is stuck at five wins going into next weekend’s finale with Houston. So a bowl game is still in play for UCF. The Cougars are coming off a loss to Oklahoma State and have four of their last five games.
These two teams are used to playing each other from their American Athletic Conference days, so they know each other well and it should be a good game. With the Knights at home, they should have an edge.iframe src=”https://app.e2ma.net/app2/audience/signup/1986400/1964875/” width=”510″ height=”500″ frameborder=”0″>
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.