Colombi leads Red Raiders to 23-20 win in West Virginia

Red Raider Nation

Texas Tech wide receiver Loic Fouonji (19) reaches for a pass as West Virginia cornerback Nicktroy Fortune (11) defends during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Morgantown, W.Va., Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Kathleen Batten)

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia — So far, so good for Henry Colombi in 2021. 

Texas Tech’s quarterback led a game-winning drive in his first start in relief for the injured Tyler Shough Saturday as the Red Raiders (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) beat West Virginia (2-3, 0-2 Big 12) 23-20 on the road. 

Texas Tech took a 17-0 lead into halftime but West Virginia stormed back to tie the game at 20 with 4:34 remaining. Colombi launched a 42-yard deep ball to Kaylon Geiger to get into West Virginia territory and Jonathan Garibay kicked a game-winning, 32-yard field goal with 18 seconds remaining. 

Colombi picked up from where he left off in Austin, completing 11 of his first 13 passes on Texas Tech’s first three drives. Two of those drives went for touchdowns courtesy of running back SaRodorick Thompson. The other culminated in an interception when wide receiver Kaylon Geiger attempted a deep pass on a trick play. Colombi finished the game with 266 yards on 23-34 passing.

Colombi took over in the second quarter of last weekend’s game against Texas after the starter Shough went out with a broken collarbone. He attacked the Longhorns down the field, using three 40+ yard touchdowns to rack up 324 passing yards.

Saturday, he used a different approach. Colombi threw mostly short and intermediate passes, picking up first downs and extending drives. Sonny Cumbie also opened up the playbook, getting creative to move the sticks. On one play, he dialed up a wide receiver sweep to McLane Mannix on third-and-six. Mannix picked up the first down.

Texas Tech came into the game shorthanded. In addition to Shough, leading rusher Tahj Brooks, leading receiver Erik Ezukanma, All-Big 12 center Dawson Deaton, and starting defensive backs Damarcus Fields and Marquis Waters were all sidelined with injuries.

In Ezukanma’s absence, Colombi worked the ball to an abundance of other receivers. Nine different players caught passes in the first quarter alone. Geiger caught a team-high seven passes for 82 yards. He made a great play to track the ball down the field on Colombi’s heave on the final drive. 

While the Red Raider offense moved the ball methodically in the team’s excellent first half, the defense shut down West Virginia’s offensive attack. 

Mountaineer coach Neal Brown has gone to a two-quarterback system in recent weeks. The veteran, Lubbock-native Jarret Doege, is the better passer and freshman Garrett Greene orchestrates a more run-heavy attack.

Doege started the game and led two uninspiring drives, the second of which ended in a turnover when Colin Schooler flew in and knocked the ball out of his hands for a fumble. 

After that, Brown turned to Greene. He guided the Mountaineers down the field but gave the ball back to the Red Raiders as Riko Jeffers forced an inaccurate pass on fourth down.

Doege took back over after that and led the second-half surge. 

The Lubbock-Cooper alum completed 25 of 33 passes for an efficient 318 yards. All four of West Virginia’s second half drives went for scores, but the Mountaineers just missed scoring a touchdown on their last one when running back Leddie Brown could not haul in a Doege pass in the end zone. A touchdown and extra point would have put the Mountaineers ahead by four points. Instead, they were forced to settle for a game-tying field goal.

Against the run, Texas Tech’s defense proved that last week’s pounding in Austin was a blip on the radar. The unit held Brown, one of WVU’s biggest stars, to a modest 57 yards on 17 carries.

Overall, it was an impressive performance for a banged-up Red Raider team to pick up the second true road win in the Matt Wells era. Wells said before the game that he knows the team can win with Colombi, and the quarterback proved him right in his first test of the season.

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