TTU finally pulls out close game, Schooler emerges, and more from Monday press conference

Red Raider Nation

Texas Tech coach Matt Wells walks onto the field during the second half of an NCAA college football game against West Virginia, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)

LUBBOCK, Texas — After a three frustrating losses to start its 2020 Big 12 slate, Texas Tech finally got on the board Saturday with a 34-27 win over West Virginia.

It took a change at quarterback to get the victory, as Utah State transfer Henry Colombi completed 22 of 28 passes and scored two touchdowns in his first collegiate start.

The Red Raider defense also stepped up, forcing a fumble and returning it for a touchdown for the game’s deciding score. After that, the defense held strong twice more to put the Mountaineers away.

“I’m seeing a lot of mental toughness with our team right now. Some of the mental fortitude I think came through a little bit.”

– Matt Wells

Monday morning, Matt Wells, linebacker Riko Jeffers and center Dawson Deaton met with the media to recap the win and discuss the upcoming game against Oklahoma. Here are some notes from the press conference.

Mental toughness helps TTU close out game

The Red Raiders were unable to hold late leads against Kansas State and Texas earlier in the season, letting two winnable games slip through their fingers. Saturday, they reversed that trend.

Zech McPhearson’s scoop-and-score gave the Red Raiders a seven-point lead with 8:44 remaining. After that, the defense forced a punt and the offense bled 4:25 off the clock on an eight-play drive.

West Virginia’s desperation attempt at a game-tying drive failed, and the Red Raiders finally closed out a Big 12 opponent late.

“I’m seeing a lot of mental toughness with our team right now,” Wells said. “Some of the mental fortitude I think came through a little bit.”

Wells said the close game did a lot for the team’s confidence. It led to a cheerful locker room after the game.

“In the post-game locker room you could see it all on everybody’s face,” Deaton said. “It was huge for us.”

All-around performance

Neither Texas Tech’s defense nor its offense were spectacular Saturday, but both played well enough to win.

Colombi averaged just 6.04 yards per passing attempt, but he moved the chains with his feet and his arm. Texas Tech’s defense allowed 347 passing yards, but West Virginia didn’t score in the fourth quarter.

“That’s the big thing about Saturday,” Deaton said. “I think it was a great TEAM win. I think the offense and defense complemented each other well… We were working together and not separately. I think that was a huge reason why we were able to win.”

Colombi’s sustained drives kept the defense rested, while the defense got enough stops to let the offense keep a balanced attack. Punter Austin McNamara also helped out in the field position battle by hitting two booming punts, including a school-record 87-yarder.

Collin Schooler emerges

Texas Tech’s Colin Schooler (17) during an NCAA college football game against West Virginia, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)

Arizona transfer Collin Schooler was perhaps the most notable of all of Matt Wells’ transfer portal additions last offseason.

Schooler came to Texas Tech as the active FBS leader in tackles for loss, and on Saturday he flashed his talent.

“Schooler played his best game since he’s been here,” Wells said.

Schooler, Jeffers and Krishon Merriweather all had nine tackles, tying for the team lead. Schooler and Jacob Morgenstern combined to force the fumble that McPhearson returned for the game-winning touchdown.

“He’s just gotten comfortable,” Jeffers said of Schooler. “He started to learn the scheme even more and he’s just doing what he’s naturally able to do.”

Schooler, along with Jeffers, Merriweather and Morgenstern have solidified the linebacker spot as one of the strength’s of Texas Tech’s team.

Looking ahead: Spencer Rattler

Spencer Rattler isn’t like the last few Oklahoma quarterbacks — who have all at least been finalists for the Heisman Trophy after transferring to OU from another school — but he is talented.

The freshman has thrown for three touchdowns and more than 300 yards per game in five games this season.

“Arm talent. It’s sick,” Wells said of Rattler. “The guy flips his wrist and the ball flies. He’s very accurate. He can throw it on the run. He moves well in the pocket.”

Rattler is susceptible to turnovers. Kansas State picked him off three times in its upset of Oklahoma, and the Red Raiders will have to do something similar to pull off an upset of their own Saturday.

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