Texas Tech looked to be heading for another less-than-impressive performance against Rice on Saturday night. That was until halftime. Taylor Potts fired five TD passes in the second half and led the Raider offense to a 55-10 victory over the Owls.
Tech started the game off sluggishly, putting up only 14 points on a lowly Owl’s defense that gave up 44 points to UAB a week before. Adjustments—or rather calmness—was restored, and the Tech players went about their jobs and found success.
On offense, Tech struggled to capitalize on the opportunities that they had early in the game. On the first drive, Potts led the Raiders down the field, but failed on a 4th-and-Goal QB sneak from the two-yard line. The receivers also had a few dropped passes in the first half.
In the second half it was a completely different story. Tech scored on six of their seven possessions; the last possession was one play, a hand-off, to run out the clock.
The Red Raider offense seemed to finally find its stride when Potts started to take command of the pocket. Instead of moving around and making uncommitted passes, as he did against North Dakota, Potts stood in the pocket and took a few hits for making the hard throw.
Potts finished the game 36 of 57 with 456 yards and seven TD passes.
The receivers also looked very strong when Potts got it going, as stepping up was Tramain Swindall and Lyle Leong.
These two combined for 15 catches for 140 yards and five TDs. Swindall, who sat last week for bad practices in Fall, made his first career start for the Air Raid offense.
Inside WR Detron Lewis looked to be set for another big game, but left in the second quarter with an apparent hamstring injury.
For the second week in a row, however, the run game failed to impress. It’s starting to seem that Potts would rather throw then rely on what was supposed to be a great backfield.
This may or may not be a problem later in the season, but the box score should have more then 14 attempts with Baron Batch and Harrison Jeffers in the backfield. The Raiders gained 52 rushing yards and 82 receiving yards and a TD.
The numbers are certainly better than they were against the Fighting Sioux, but the run game is going to be needed against Texas. It would be nice to have more confidence going into next week’s nationally-televised game.
It is hard to find any fault in the defense that took the field on Saturday. It was virtually a lock down, except for one drive in the fourth quarter when Rice was able to get a TD.
Defensive linemen Daniel Howard, Brandon Sharpe, and Colby Whitlock did an excellent job applying pressure to all three Rice QBs that played. Tech finished with six sacks, one each from the trio.
The only bad thing that happened for the defense on Saturday was potentially losing their best player. Defensive end Rajon Henley left the game early in the first half after an apparent injury to his ankle and did not return.
The Tech defense limited Rice to 60 rushing yards on 35 attempts and only allowed 197 passing yards. Tech also forced two turnovers, one fumble, and an interception by outside linebacker Marlon Williams.
The stars of the defense has to be the secondary, which had over five pass break-ups and kept Rice’s leading receiver, Toren Dixon, to just nine yards for the game. Safeties Franklin Mitchem and Cody Davis played a flawless game and showed the tenacity they’ll need when facing Big XII wide receivers.
This game should put a lot of doubts to rest for next week’s showdown with Texas in Austin. The offense showed what it is capable of doing when assignments aren’t missed and silly mistakes are removed.
The defense continues to impress with pressure from the line and speed from the secondary.
Tech should have won the game in the fashion they did, but it is yet to be seen if this offense can put together a full 60 minutes of consistent football. We sure as hell know the defense can, and who would have thought that?