Texas Tech vows to stay even-keeled, welcomes Stephen F. Austin

Field Level Media

September 09, 2021 at 12:33 am.

Euphoria is a tricky concept, especially for a program that hasn’t broken .500 since 2015. So it’s understandable that Texas Tech’s enthusiasm was somewhat tempered after a come-from-behind victory vs. Houston to start the 2021 season.

As the Red Raiders enter their Saturday home game against Stephen F. Austin, what likely has them on alert is the underdog mentality their FCS opponents figure to bring with them to Lubbock, Texas.

The in-state Lumberjacks notched a 20-10 victory over Tarleton State to open the season. Not a lot of bells and whistles — but there wasn’t much fanfare accompanying Houston Baptist a year ago when the Huskies rolled into Jones AT&T Stadium and threw a major scare into Texas Tech before losing 35-33.

So the Red Raiders won’t be doing any underestimating ahead of their first home game of the season.

“Stephen F. has our full, undivided attention,” third-year Texas Tech coach Matt Wells said. “We aren’t going to overlook them.”

As key as that will be, getting off to a different start than the Red Raiders did in the 38-21 triumph against Houston also will important.

Texas Tech’s defense, which eventually became the star of the night, surrendered a pair of first-quarter touchdowns, then a long drive right before halftime. That added up to a 21-7 deficit at the break — but it did not stir up much panic.

“The first half, everything was self-inflicted; it was busted assignments,” Texas Tech defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. “I give Houston credit. They executed well, and we didn’t there in the first half.

“Really the only thing different between the first half and the second half was I got a little bit more aggressive, bringing five and six or more — started to try and force the issue a little bit, just to try and give ourselves some confidence and get into a rhythm.”

Mission accomplished in the second half.

After the Cougars’ first-half-ending march, they never found a similar comfort zone again. Eight second-half possessions yielded only 43 yards and three ended with interceptions. Houston was 1-for-7 on third down over the final 30 minutes.

Still, it required some success on offense to climb back from the two-touchdown deficit, and Texas Tech managed to click when it needed to.

New quarterback Tyler Shough settled in, and the offense followed, generating 246 yards after halftime, buoyed by touchdown drives of 60 and 71 yards. Tahj Brooks’ second lightning-bolt touchdown run of the game, a 44-yarder, certainly helped. He rushed for 134 yards in the win, Shough threw for 231 and Erik Ezukanma pulled in seven passes for 179 yards.

“I was really proud with how we responded,” Red Raiders’ offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie said. “We didn’t have a ton of time of possession in the first half (8:50). Our goal is the make the most of our possessions when we do have the ball and to worry about executing our plays.

“There was a good demeanor about our offense at halftime. They were calm. They weren’t complacent by what was going on but had a good look and an intensity that they were ready to get this going in the right direction.”