Every game has its twists and turns and Saturday night’s 38-21 win over Houston was no different for the Texas Tech football team. But what made this game unique is that the Red Raiders managed to finally overcome a significant halftime deficit to win.
This is just the second time in 14 games at Texas Tech and the sixth time in 41 career games that Matt Wells has seen one of his teams erase a halftime deficit to win a game. What’s more, it was the first time since 2017’s 27-24 victory over Texas in Austin that Tech managed to come back from a double-digit halftime deficit to triumph.
So let’s go back and look at four hidden moments that helped change the course of this game after the intermission. And we will start with the easiest play Tony Bradford Jr. may ever make.
Tony Bradford Jr.’s sack right before Jeffers’ pick-six
There are quite a few Texas Tech football fans who are concerned about the breakdowns that we saw from the Red Raider offensive line on Saturday evening…and rightfully so. But it was a blown assignment along the Houston offensive front that helped turn the tide of the game.
We all know that this game turned when Red Raider linebacker Riko Jeffers picked off Houston’s Clayton Tune and returned the ball 13 yards for a TD to knot the game at 21-21. However, Houston was backed up near its own goal line because of a sack that might wind up being one of the easiest of the year for the Red Raiders.
Facing a 1st and 10 from their own 14, the Cougars asked Tune to drop back to pass. But on the play, the center and the right guard double-teamed Red Raider defensive tackle, Jaylon Hutchings, leaving defensive lineman Tony Bradford Jr. completely unblocked. That couldn’t have been the plan for the Cougars.
Perhaps the interior of the Cougar o-line was a bit overly concerned with Hutchings after he recorded a sack of his own on the previous U of H possession. But for whatever reason, no one laid a finger on Bradford.
Therefore, he quickly knifed into the backfield causing Tune to hit the deck before being engulfed by the oncoming rusher. And what’s interesting is that also in the backfield on this play for the Red Raiders was linebacker Colin Schooler who had lined up as a rush defensive end and who had easily beaten the left tackle. So even if the Cougars would have blocked Bradford, Schooler likely would have gotten to Tune before he could deliver the ball.
This play pushed the Cougars back to their own six. And it forced them to go back to the air in an obvious passing situation on second down.
Thus, Tech had the luxury of dropping eight players into coverage and rushing only three. One of those eight that fell back was Jeffers, who Tune never saw as he tried to fit the ball into a tight window in the slot.
The rest of the story, we all remember vividly. Jeffers snagged the ball and headed towards the goal line to even the game.
But don’t overlook the importance of Bradford’s sack. And given that no one even attempted to block him on the play, he might never record an easier sack in his Red Raider career.