“There’s been some special moments in my career, and this is one of them,” said Texas Tech head coach Joey McGuire. “To be able to finish this off with the guys, it was so special because when you’re a new coach coming in it takes buy in, they gave that to us from day one.
There was a lot of talk this week heading into the Texas Bowl about the run game and defense of Ole Miss.
The Rebels were third in the nation in rushing heading into the game, and it seemed to be something they would be able to exploit against a Texas Tech team that had defended well against the pass but struggled at times against the run. And Ole Miss’ defense that went up against tough SEC teams seemed to be set up to be able to have an answer for the Texas Tech offense.
But the Red Raiders flipped the script on that narrative on Wednesday night, as it was Texas Tech that were the aggressors both in the run game and on defense as they ground and pound to a 42-25 win over Ole Miss in the Texas Bowl at NRG Stadium to end Joey McGuires’ first season with the team on a very high note.
“There’s been some special moments in my career, and this is one of them,” said Texas Tech head coach Joey McGuire. “To be able to finish this off with the guys, it was so special because when you’re a new coach coming in somewhere and doing things different it takes buy in and acceptance and they gave that to us from day one. They play every game so hard and it shows that they belive in what were doing and they love each other. Tonight showed that.”
Tech’s defense made its presence felt from the start, forcing a turnover on downs on Ole Miss’ first possession. The Red Raiders then moved the ball down the field but gave the ball away on an interception by Tyler Shough in the endzone.
But after another turnover on downs by the Rebels, Shough made up for his mistake, running in a 2-yard score to give Texas Tech the lead. Ole Miss came back to tie things up, going 75-yards on five plays and scoring on a Zach Evans 8-yard run, but Tech regained the lead on its next possession when Trey Wolff nailed a 42-yard field goal late in the first quarter.
Tech’s defense continued to excel, forcing an interception on the next drive and after the Tech offense turned the ball over on downs, the Red Raiders did it again, with Marquis Waters returning it back inside the 10-yard line to set up the Red Raider offense. Shough took advantage, running in a 2-yard score, before Trey Wolf added another field goal later in the half after yet another turnover on downs by Ole Miss gave Tech the ball back.
And the Red Raider defense wasn’t done either, as they forced a fumble inside Ole Miss territory and recovered, setting the Tech offense up with a short field, Shough led the team on a 5-play 37-yard drive that ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Shough to Jerand Bradley as Tech took a 26-7 lead into half time after dominating the first half.
In total, Texas Tech forced three turnovers in the half, two coming from interception and one coming from a fumble while they also forced three turnovers on downs.
“We knew coming into this game that they had a good offense and some great backs,” said Marquis Waters, a senior safety. “We knew how explosive they were and we had to be at our best today. We tried to force them to throw the ball and it worked. We stopped the run and it just forced them out of their comfort zone.”
Ole Miss came out with momentum to start the second half, Tech was forced to punt and then the Rebels put together a 10-play 80 yard drive that culminated in a Jason Dart 11-yard pass to Jordan Watkins. Things seemed to be heading even more in the Rebels way after they forced a missed field goal, but a punt gave the ball back to Tech. Tech promptly fumbled and gave the ball back to Ole Miss but the Red Raider defense came up huge once again, forcing a turnover on downs as the Red Raiders went into the fourth quarter leading by 13.
The Tech offense finally broke through early in the fourth, as SaRodorick Thompson made things a three possession game by running in a 4-yard touchdown to cap off an 11-play 71 yard drive and the Tech defense forced their eighth turnover of the game on the next possession, as Ole Miss fumbled inside the Texas Tech 10-yard line to give the Red Raiders the ball back. But Ole Miss continued to try to get into things, scoring on a 9-yard Dart run, forcing a fumble through the endzone for a touchback as a Tech player was coming close to the endzone. The Ole Miss offense came right back down the field, scoring on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Dart to Malik Heath making things a 10-point game.
But Tech again had the answer, as Loic Fouonji scored on the ensuing onside kick attempt, returning it 44-yards to seal the game.
“We just took advantage of our opportunities and the defense put us in a lot of really great spots with how they played,” Shough said. “We just were able to capitalize on that when the defense helped us and our run game really stepped up. The o-line played so well and had a great game and we just played through them.”
Shough, who was named the games MVP after passing for 242 yards and a touchdown while running for 117 yards and two touchdowns, announced he was returning for his final year of eligibility after the game. The Red Raiders end the year with an 8-5 record, their best record since 2013. With the talent Texas Tech is returning the future only looks brighter as well.
“Having this momentum going into the offseason is so big,” McGuire said. “You play a long season to get to here and this was the guys reward. Our guys had such a great time this week and to cap this off with a win was so great. It builds that positive momentum heading into spring. You build your young players and reward your seniors this way.”
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