Texas Tech took an early lead behind quarterback Tyler Shough and went on to defeat Mississippi 42-25 in the Texas Bowl on Wednesday night.
Shough had missed the majority of the previous two seasons due to a lingering collarbone injury, but the 6-foot-5, 230-pound senior played with reckless abandon. Following his first two slides, he took big hits from Ole Miss defenders, one of which resulted in the ejection of leading tackler Troy Brown.
The former Oregon transfer rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns in the first two quarters and passed for another to go with 242 yards in the air — while the defence recorded three takeaways.
Shough bounced back after an early interception and willed his team to a 19-lead at halftime that Texas Tech never relinquished after watching teammates make plays while rehabbing a broken collarbone twice.
Dadrion Taylor-Demerson, who is also returning for his COVID-bonus year, assisted him. In the first half, the defensive back had an interception, stopped a fake punt with a shoestring tackle, and recovered a fumble. Texas Tech converted those chances into ten points.
With 9:08 left in the third quarter, Jaxson Dart found Jordan Watkins for an 11-yard touchdown pass, cutting the lead to 26-13 after beating a blitz and taking a hit in the process. Right after the score, Jonathan Cruz’s extra point was wide.
The Red Raiders extended their lead to 32-13 with 13:20 left in the game when SaRodorick Thompson scored a 1-yard touchdown, his 40th career score, untouched.
Mississippi cut the deficit to 10 points after Malik Heath caught a 19-yard touchdown pass, but the Rebels were unable to convert the two-point conversion.
Texas Tech responded strongly on the onside kick, as Loic Fouonji caught the ball and returned it 44 yards for a 42-25 lead with 3:05 left in the fourth.
That capped off a successful day for Texas Tech, which began with the announcement of a new six-year contract extension and a $1 million raise for coach Joey McGuire.
The Red Raiders were able to withstand the Rebels’ late-game surge thanks to a strong first half.
On fourth-and-7, defensive back Malik Dunlap broke up a pass from Dart to wide receiver Jonathan Mingo, forcing a turnover on downs and giving the Red Raider offence a chance to break a scoreless tie.
After a personal foul penalty, Shough needed only six plays to get Texas Tech to the Rebels’ 11, but he fumbled on the next play. Shough underthrew the pass while looking for a receiver in the corner, and it was intercepted by Trey Washington.
The Red Raiders’ defence forced another turnover on downs before Shough made amends for his earlier error. With 6:43 left in the first quarter, Texas Tech’s signal caller ran for a 2-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the Rebels’ 2 to cap off a 7-play, 27-yard drive toward a 7-0 lead.
Soon after, Trey Wolff kicked a 42-yard field goal at the 3:23 mark of the first quarter, which held as the quarter ended.
In the second quarter, Texas Tech squandered a golden opportunity, facing second-and-goal from the Rebels’ 1, before turning the ball over on downs after a Behren Morton incompletion and Xavier White being unable to find an open running lane on a fourth-down screen to the left.
Texas Tech’s night in the red zone continued, but the Red Raiders defence aided the offence in crucial situations.
Marquis Waters, a tackling machine in the backfield all season, came up with a key interception on the fifth play of Ole Miss’s subsequent drive.
The Texas Tech offence took control, scoring 16 points to take a 26-7 lead at the half.
The Rebels turned the tide with turnovers in the final two quarters and provided some late-game drama before the Red Raiders secured their second consecutive bowl victory.