The seven-year contract Kliff Kingsbury signed on the eve of the season opener is designed to keep him at Texas Tech through at least 2020.
On Saturday night, it looked as if he was coaching his 2013 team again.
The issues that kept Tech from doing better than 8-5 last season reared their ugly heads again, a big reason why FCS foe Central Arkansas made the nearly 61,000 fans at Jones Stadium squirm in a 42-35 Red Raiders victory.
The team that piled up the second-most penalty yards in the FBS last year lit it up in that category again with a handful of Tech’s 15 penalties for 114 yards really fouling things up. The team that posted the third-worst turnover margin in the nation last season started this season with a minus-two in that department. No takeaways from the defense and two interceptions from Davis Webb.
And the team that was nervous every time opponents punted last season muffed a punt. New return man Cameron Batson, twice praised recently by Kingsbury for looking “natural” as he settles under and catches punts, flubbed one of his first chances around his 10-yard line. Luckily, Batson scrambled back on it. Throw in a missed short field goal and, well, Tech’s obviously had worse nights on special teams but this one was ho-hum.
But it was that kind of a night, with Central Arkansas making it a one-touchdown game three times in the last 22 minutes.
Teams you pay to come to your place aren’t supposed to keep it that close.
But that’s what you get if you do a lot of stuff to beat yourself.
For a team that will play with little margin for error, the Red Raiders committed a lot of them, too many, in their first game since the Holiday Bowl.
Tech dodged the upset in large part because Webb and his roommate Bradley Marquez clicked for 70- and 27-yard touchdown passes in the fourth quarter and for 13 yards on third-and-12 late in the fourth, saving the Red Raiders from a punting situation after the Bears’ last touchdown.
UCA stayed within striking distance the whole way because the Bears were able to move the ball. What jumps out at you is not 406 yards total offense, but scoring drives of 18, 12, 14 and 15 plays.
It was 91 degrees at kickoff and didn’t cool off that quick.
Tech lost noseguard Rika Levi early with an apparent knee injury, which didn’t help. And UCA’s sustained success meant defensive linemen Branden Jackson, Jackson Richards and Demetrius Alston played a ton of the 94 defensive snaps.
The opener’s probably not so tight if the Red Raiders manage the first half – one that ended with Tech up 21-16 – better. Webb’s two interceptions – one that ping-ponged around the end zone before a defensive lineman picked it off, the other returned to the Tech 1-yard line – are maybe a two-touchdown swing.
That and intentional grounding in the end zone tarnished a 452-yard passing performance by Webb, who had sworn off ill-advised throws after last season.
All the way through, the Red Raiders hamstrung themselves with penalties.
Four holding penalties, three personal fouls and two unsportsmanlike conduct calls, quite a few of them costly, made a hot August night way more interesting than the patrons bargained for.
The Red Raiders got away with it all this time, hosting a lower-division team that went 7-5 last year.
Keep it up and soon they won’t be so lucky.