It was the worst of times, it was the best time for Texas Tech football in Houston on Saturday night. After following the Houston Cougars 14-0 in the first quarter and 21-7 in training, the Red Raiders came to life in the second half to win the 2021 season opener 38-21.
Calling it a satisfying victory would be an understatement and not just because Houston coach Dana Holgorsen said earlier in the week that her team was going to “destroy Tech”. But it was also an important statement against a university that according to all reports will soon join the Red Raiders in the Big 12.
Although several changes took place in the transformation of technology, in the first place there was a change in defensive strategy. After deciding to spend virtually the entire first half playing eight men on the cover and rushing just three players to the Houston QB Clayton Tune, defensive coordinator Keith Patterson changed it and caused pressure waves in the second half and the results were dramatic. .
Unable to handle the Red Raider bombing, Houston would be without a score for the final 30 minutes of the contest, while Tune would throw three critical picks in the second half, which were part of a four-night INT for the Cougar QB, prone to billing.
In fact, it was Tune’s second pick of the night that changed the course of the game. After Tech had reached 21-14 in a Tyler Shough TD run in the red zone, Riko Jeffers would intercept Tune and return the ball 13 yards for a TD to score the game. It was part of a 31-0 run that Tech would continue throughout the final two quarters.
And throughout the second half, it was Patterson’s defense that stole the show. Houston would get only three first downs (and one reached the final take on the game in junk time) and a third conversion. And after dominating the game in the first half, the Cougars would languish under the Red Raider race, racking up just 53 yards in total after the break.
Tech managed to get to Tune three times, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. It was weird that Tune had a moment to scan the field and find his receivers, as Tech prevented him from getting his feet running, which resulted in errant throws, poor readings and a lot of interceptions.
This allowed the Red Raider attack to finally find its own foot in the fourth quarter and leave the game out of play with two clutch thrusts in the final five minutes. And at the head were great receiver Erik Ezukanma and runner Tahj Brooks.
Ezukanma finished with seven attacks for 179 yards, while Brooks led the ball 15 times to get the best run of 134 yards and two touchdowns over 40 yards. Meanwhile, Shough would have a solid debut with Red Raider, as the Oregon transfer went 17-24 for 234 yards with a TD and no picks.
What’s impressive about this win is the strength that Matt Wells ’team demonstrated in winning it. This is the kind of game that Red Raider’s recent past teams would have let slip during the first half.
But on Saturday night, Tech played calmly and with endurance and they are encouraging signs of a football team that is supposed to be based on their age and experience. Perhaps it is also an indication that this will finally be the year that Texas Tech football returns to the land of the relevant after several years of wandering aimlessly through the land of the lost.