Texas Tech’s pass-first offense was hard to find in a 34-17 loss to No. 20 Oklahoma State Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium.
In fact, until the Red Raiders were forced to start passing late in the game, they had accrued more yards on the ground than they had through the air. After three quarters, Tech had run 34 times for 148 yards and passed 28 times for 115.
Tech coach Tommy Tuberville pointed to Oklahoma State’s effective pass-rush for taking away Taylor Potts’ ability to find open receivers. The Red Raiders’ options down the field were also hindered, Tuberville said, by having to throw into the wind during the first half.
“We had to slow down the pass rush, and Taylor was getting knocked around early,” Tuberville said. “(The defensive line was) getting pushed up the middle. And they were going to give us the run a little bit the way they were lined up.
“They were playing tight on the receivers. We couldn’t get them open. Taylor was having to hold the ball longer than he needed to.
The running game is your best defense against stopping the pass rush if you’re having a tough time.”
Overall, Tuberville was pleased with the results of the ground attack. Eric Stephens rushed for a career-high 99 yards on 15 carries, and the Red Raiders totaled 175 yards on the ground.
Potts finished 28-of-43 passing for 226 yards.
The Red Raiders haven’t rushed for more yards than they’ve passed since former head coach Mike Leach took over in 2000.
“They basically dared us to run and we had to do that,” offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. “We had to get away from it late when we were trailing, but they basically played four and five in the box and we ran the ball. I thought we ran the ball pretty well.”
Stephens said the Red Raiders transitioned well to the running game, but some key mistakes halted what might have been scoring drives.
After a Bront Bird interception at Tech’s 10-yard line early in the third quarter, the Red Raiders moved the ball to the OSU 44. Trailing 24-14, Baron Batch ran a third-down play up the middle, where Cowboys safety Johnny Thomas knocked the ball loose. It was recovered by Jamie Blatnick, and Oklahoma State took over.
The fumble ended Tech’s chances of moving within one score of the lead. Two plays later OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden found Justin Blackmon for a 62-yard touchdown catch down the right sideline.
Stephens also had a fumble late in the fourth quarter during Tech’s final possession.
“Everyone knows we’re a pass-first offense,” Stephens said. “So when they turn to us on the ground, we’ve got to capitalize and don’t let the team down with turnovers and mistakes.”
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