LUBBOCK, Texas — Make that three excruciating Big 12 losses for Texas Tech. A late McLane Mannix fumble put an end to the Red Raiders’ valiant comeback attempt, as the team lost 33-31 to TCU Saturday.
With the loss, Texas Tech falls to 4-6 on the season and 2-5 in Big 12 play.
The Red Raiders battled back from an early 24-3 deficit, taking a lead in the third quarter. But down two points with 2:23 remaining, Mannix lost a fumble, allowing TCU to seal its victory.
The Horned Frogs’ victorious effort started with quarterback Max Duggan. The freshman escaped heavy pressure on the first drive of the game and scrambled for 26 yards on a third and long. Three players later, Duggan took off again for a 20-yard touchdown.
Missed opportunities were a theme for the Red Raiders defense. Duggan’s elusiveness made him hard to sack, and a pass that Adrian Frye let slip through his hands was caught by TCU’s Taye Barber for 43 yards. That big play set up Duggan’s first touchdown pass of the day and gave TCU a 17-0 lead.
“It’s just one of those things that happens to every team,” Jett Duffey said of the slow start. “But at the same time, we can’t let it happen to us.”
One contributing factor in Texas Tech’s shoddy defensive play was the loss of Jordyn Brooks. The potential All-American linebacker left the game early with an injury and did not return. Brooks does a little bit of everything for the Red Raiders; losing him was a critical blow.
Duggan made plenty of plays with his legs throughout the game, but quickly showed that he can do damage with his arm as well. He had no issue slinging it deep against Texas Tech’s secondary, and after some close misses he hit speedster Jalen Reagor for a 55-yard touchdown.
While Duggan stole the show early, Jett Duffey displayed some magic of his own. He faced pressure all day, but was able to slip tackles to scramble for a first downs and buy time for his receivers. Down 24-3, Duffey escaped pressure, rolled right and hurled a pass that could’ve been caught by Dalton Rigdon or R.J. Turner. Rigdon grabbed it for a 26-yard touchdown. After two TCU punts he went deep again to R.J. Turner for a 70-yard score. A missed extra point and a TCU field goal made the score 27-16 Horned Frogs at halftime.
Duffey did miss some throws and threw an early interception, but his resiliency kept Texas Tech in the game.
“The guy kept believing,” Matt Wells said of Duffey. “He kept fighting. He got hit more than he’s got hit in a long time. He had a good look in his eye, and the pride and the passion that he’s trying to play with, I think our other guys see it.”
Texas Tech debuted a more aggressive passing attack against West Virginia, and kept it for the TCU game. The Red Raider receivers were able to get separation against TCU’s defensive backs on deep routes, and Duffey found them. He finished the day with four touchdowns and 333 yards.
Duffey put together a nice second half despite not having the receiver that was emerging as his favorite target. Early in the third quarter, Rigdon took a vicious hit from TCU cornerback Jeff Gladney and left the game after a long injury delay. Gladney was ejected for targeting and the penalty set up Turner’s second touchdown reception of the day.
Texas Tech’s offense wasn’t done. Facing a third and seven, Duffey escaped a collapsing pocket, made a move and miraculously picked up the first down. On the next play, he hit a wide open Erik Ezukanma for a 33-yard score, giving Texas Tech a 28-27 lead, its first of the game.
The Red Raiders did not roll over after going down by 21 points early. Wells is proud of his team for that.
“I thought the grit that they showed is something that I want this program to always be about,” Wells said. “And I’m not going to apologize for losing in the fourth quarter, okay.”
The Red Raiders’ defense played a big role in its comeback, allowing just three points in a span of 25 minutes. But down the stretch, it started to crumble. The Horned Frogs marched down the field on back-to-back drives, but Texas Tech held them in the red zone each time, forcing field goals. After the first of those drives, the Red Raiders scored three of their own. TCU’s second field goal made the score 33-31 in favor of the Horned Frogs with 5:38 remaining.
Upon getting the ball back, Texas Tech’s offense went three and out, but the defense held TCU to a punt. Texas Tech got the ball back and Mannix fumbled. After a TCU first down, the game was over.
Texas Tech has not been able to finish close games all year, losing late to Baylor, Kansas and TCU. The Red Raiders have Kansas State next, which has established itself as a top team in the Big 12.