GOING FOR BROKE: 5 observations from Texas Tech’s 42-25 win over Ole Miss in the Texas Bowl

Dec 28, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Mississippi Rebels quarterback Jaxson Dart (2) gets hit by Texas Tech Red Raiders defensive lineman Jaylon Hutchings (95) while he releases the ball in the first half in the 2022 Texas Bowl at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

GOING FOR BROKE: 5 observations from Texas Tech’s 42-25 win over Ole Miss in the Texas Bowl

In a wild affair, the Texas Tech Red Raiders capitalized on Ole Miss’ mistakes and miscues to defeat the Rebels 42-25 in the TaxAct Texas Bowl on Wednesday night. The Tech defense held the Rebels to 1-for-6 on fourth downs and forced key takeaways that led to Red Raider points. Led by quarterback Tyler Shough, Tech capitalized on great field position and good play-calling to build a big halftime lead that held up as Ole Miss was not able to get on track offensively until Tech had the game in hand.

What is targeting?: One of the most frustrating things for players and coaches is inconsistency in officiating. On Texas Tech’s first possession, quarterback Tyler Shough slid after scrambling for a first down. At the end of his run he slid, giving himself up as a defenseless player. After beginning his slide, Shough was hit by an Ole Miss defender who was flagged for unnecessary roughness. The problem is that the hit should have drawn a targeting call. Shough was hit in the head and neck area, the defender launched into the hit, and the contact was forcible. While college football has a mechanism to create reviews on these plays, no review took place. Why have replay in place if they are not going to review such an egregious missed call?

The same situation arose in the second quarter; Shough scrambled and slid and was hit; this time, the play was reviewed for targeting, and one of the Rebels’ defensive leaders was ejected.

Whether you agree with the call or not, the inconsistency in how this rule is enforced is difficult for players and frustrating for coaches. The point of the rule and the review is to get the call right, and when the review process is not transparent, it creates problems.

Pulling out all the stops: From the very beginning of this game, it was obvious that both teams were determined to let it all hang out.

Ole Miss attempted conversions on fourth down repeatedly, trying once from their own 29. Unfortunately for Lane Kiffin and the Rebels, most of these attempts were unsuccessful, and the Red Raiders drew first blood thanks to a short field.

Later Kiffin converted on a fourth down from his own 11-yard line; if there was any doubt that he has no fear, he removed them tonight. The problem for Kiffin is that this fearless approach cost his team points and possibly the game.

Not to be outdone, Texas Tech went for it on fourth-and-goal following a Rebels’ early gamble. The Red Raiders executed a trick play on fourth-and-goal from the Ole Miss 2-yard line to score the opening points of the contest.

This willingness to let it all hang out is one of the best elements of bowl games. In an era where some would argue that these games don’t matter, this wild and free brand of football is exciting and entertaining. It truly can be the game of football at its best.

Fast and furious: This game is an exhibition of the up-tempo offensive style. Both teams prefer to play as fast as they possibly can, snapping the football to begin the next play exceptionally quickly after the previous play ends.

This type of offense functions much like body blows in a boxing match. Punches landed in the first few rounds may not seem to be doing much damage, but in the later rounds, the damage from those shots is multiplied as the punches just keep coming. Similarly, these fast-paced offenses nickel and dime defenses in the first quarter, but as the game wears on, the 4 and 5-yard gains become big plays as the defenses wear out. The same safety that makes sure tackles in the first quarter is a step slow in the fourth quarter after defending 75 or 80 plays.

The defenders’ job is tougher in bowl games because the offenses have had an extra month to add wrinkles and extra layers to their tendencies. They have self-scouted, they know what the numbers say they will do, so they do the opposite. Literally using what the defense expects and has seen on film against them.

The key to stopping these schemes is getting stops on first down and getting the offense off schedule. It is hard to go up-tempo on second-and-13, these offenses want to get into rhythm, and the easiest way to stop them is not to let them get started. Easier said than done.

The unsung heroes: When you think of Texas Tech football, you probably think of wide-open offense, scoring in bunches, throwing the ball all around the field, but tonight the other side of the coin showed up in a big way. The Red Raiders’ defense stood tall.

Tech held Ole Miss to only a 20% conversion rate on third down, stopped the Rebels repeatedly on fourth down, and created four takeaways. The Red Raiders’ offense was set up with short fields multiple times due to the effort and exceptional play of the Tech defense.

Also, the potent Rebel rushing attack was held to only 64 yards in the first half allowing the Red Raiders to build a 26-7 halftime lead. Ole Miss quarterback Jaxson Dart spent much of the night under pressure and could not get on track until they were well behind. If you looked at Dart in the fourth quarter, it was easy to see that the Tech defense had battered him throughout the game.

The Red Raiders’ defense also contributed turnovers that led directly to points. Marquis Watters’ interception set up a touchdown by Shough, and just before the half defensive tackle Jaylon Hutchings separated Dart from the football leading to a touchdown pass from Shough to Jerard Bradley and a 28-7 halftime lead.  

Hutchings also came up with a big stop on a fourth down that turned the Rebels away as they began to build momentum in the second half.

The Tech offense may make headlines, but it was the defense that won this bowl game.

The right man for the job: Texas Tech began the game in a spread formation to honor the recently departed Mike Leach,  the architect of many of the greatest moments in Red Raider football history. Since Leach’s controversial departure years ago, Texas Tech has been looking for the right person to fill the position that Leach once held and bring success on the football field back to Lubbock. Well, Tech may have finally found their men.

Joey McGuire has just finished his first year at the helm in Lubbock, and the Texas High School coaching legend has brought a sense of toughness to the Tech program that has not been seen since the days of Spike Dykes and a confidence that is reminiscent of Leach. The Red Raiders ended the regular season on a three-game winning streak and seem to be a team with an edge that was not present in years past. Tonight in a bowl game against a team from the mighty SEC, Texas Tech was the more physical and imposing team. This edge has come from and been created by McGuire and his staff.

Texas Tech announced a six-year extension to Keep their coach in Lubbock for the long term. McGuire is the third man to fill Leach’s shoes, and he might be the answer Tech fans have been waiting for.

With the right man in place, Texas Tech may be ready to take off.

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