LUBBOCK, Texas — You’d be hard-pressed to find many compliments about Texas Tech’s defense through the first four games of the season. But Saturday when the team needed it most, the Red Raider defense delivered a huge play.
Jacob Morgenstern forced a fumble and Zech McPhearson returned it 56 yards for a touchdown to break a 27-27 fourth quarter tie. The Red Raiders stopped West Virginia again on the next two drives, and won the game 34-27.
The win was Texas Tech’s first of the conference season. The Red Raiders are now 2-3 overall and 1-3 in Big 12 play.
Coming into the game, Henry Colombi was the headliner. The Utah State transfer made the first start of his collegiate career, and he kept the team in the game long enough for the defense to make the game-winning play.
He completed 22-28 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown. Most importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over.
Colombi mostly threw safe, short passes that guaranteed moderate yardage and kept drives alive. He ran when he had to, and delivered major throws under pressure.
Colombi’s first drive was smooth. After peppering the Mountaineer defense with short passes to open the drive, Colombi uncorked a deep ball to Myles Price for 44 yards. After three straight SaRodorick Thompson runs came up short, Colombi kept the ball on fourth down and punched it in for the game’s first points.
Running the ball is something new that Colombi brings to the offense. While Alan Bowman was hesitant to run, Colombi did it often, carrying the ball 11 times for 40 yards. His escapability was particularly valuable on third downs, allowing him to take off to move the chains rather than forcing a throw.
It wasn’t just Colombi having success on the ground. Thompson had subpar performances his last two outings, but he broke out Saturday. In the first quarter, the sophomore burst through the middle and ran 48 yards into the end zone untouched. He had 68 yards when he left the game with an injury in the third quarter.
Texas Tech was short-handed at wide receiver, as KeSean Carter, T.J. Vasher and Dalton Rigdon were all unavailable. In their place, the true freshman Price stepped up.
Price caught Colombi’s 44-yard heave on the first drive of the game and made five other grabs in the first half. He also caught a key third down pass to help Texas Tech bleed the clock late in the game.
But it was another freshman wideout, Trey Cleveland, who scored Texas Tech’s third touchdown of the game. Earlier in the drive, Matt Wells’ decision to go for a 4th-and-10 kept the series alive.
West Virginia would score three more points before halftime, making the score 20-13 Texas Tech at the break.
The second half got off to an atrocious start for the Red Raiders. Ja’Lynn Polk fumbled the first play from scrimmage and West Virginia recovered, leading to a Mountaineer touchdown.
Texas Tech came back strong with a touchdown drive of its own, and seemed to force a West Virginia punt after that. But on fourth down Neal Brown drew up a fake punt to perfection. Wide receiver Winston Wright motioned across the formation and took a direct snap, before motoring across the edge for the requisite yardage.
On the next play, West Virginia quarterback Jarret Doege rifled one up the seam to Wright for 38 yards, setting up Leddie Brown’s second touchdown of the day.
The Mountaineers wouldn’t score again, as Morgenstern and McPhearson combined for the game winning touchdown.
Texas Tech got the ball back with a 34-27 lead and 5:07 remaining, and did not give it back until less than a minute remained.
Keith Patterson brought pressure several times, forcing rushed throws and incompletions. Twenty-seven points is the fewest Texas Tech has allowed in 2020.
Doege is from Lubbock, and his older brother Seth played quarterback for Texas Tech. He committed to Bowling Green out of college and transferred to WVU after his sophomore season.
In his first game in Lubbock since high school, Doege could not get his team a win.
Next, Texas Tech will stay home and host Oklahoma Halloween night at 7:00.