COLLEGE STATION — For the first time since the first half of September, starting slowly on a Saturday wasn’t a problem for Texas Tech.
At issue in the Red Raiders’ worst loss of the season was everything that happened afterward.
Tech scored first for the first time since its second game of the season, a win against New Mexico on Sept. 11, but it couldn’t score nearly as often as Texas A&M in a 45-27 loss to the Aggies in front of 84,479 fans at Kyle Field.
“I thought we came out a little bit stronger, with a lot more confidence, played pretty good, caused a turnover or two,” Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. “It looked like we had the game under control, but it just flipped on us real quick.”
Tech forced a three-and-out and a turnover on downs on the Aggies’ first two offensive series, then took a 7-0 lead
midway through the first quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by Eric Stephens. On the second play of the ensuing possession, Cody Davis stripped Texas A&M receiver Brandal Jackson in Aggie territory.
The Red Raiders (4-4, 2-4 in Big 12 Conference) were on the verge of going up 14-0 shortly thereafter, but Trent Hunter forced a Stephens fumble into the end zone, where A&M’s Garrick Williams recovered.
The Aggies (5-3, 2-2) scored on that possession and their next two, never relinquishing their lead after that point.
“Play of the game, there’s no question about it,” A&M coach Mike Sherman said of Stephens’ fumble. “One play can make the difference in a ballgame like that. If they go up 14-nothing, we might have to play the game differently.”
Down 17-7 after the first two touchdown passes by Ryan Tannehill, who threw for a school-record 449 yards in his first start at quarterback for the Aggies, Tech tried to fight back in the second quarter. Taylor Potts connected with Lyle Leong for a 15-yard TD that put the Red Raiders within three with 5:33 left in the first half, and they got the ball back about four minutes later.
But Tech went three-and-out while taking only 37 seconds off the clock, then helped fuel a 60-yard touchdown drive by the Aggies with a pair of personal fouls. Davis was flagged for a big hit on A&M receiver Jeff Fuller, who couldn’t hold on to a deep ball on second-and-9 from the Tech 33-yard line, and Franklin Mitchem was penalized for a hit on Ryan Swope, who missed a tipped pass in the end zone on third down.
On the next play, Fuller caught his second TD pass to give the Aggies a 24-14 lead with nine seconds left in the half.
“That kills your momentum and puts a damper on everything,” Davis said.
Tech’s troubles continued in the second half. The Red Raiders got the ball first and stormed into Aggie territory on a 54-yard catch and run by Detron Lewis — a College Station native who finished with eight receptions for a season-high 111 yards — and Lewis nearly scored on the next play before fumbling the ball into the end zone.
“I hate for that to happen to him,” Tuberville said. “He made a great run to get us down there in the third quarter and then he made a very good catch, just got the ball outside of his body a little bit.”
A&M recovered again and dominated the rest of the third quarter, taking a 38-14 lead into the fourth. That’s when Leong caught two touchdown passes from Steven Sheffield, who completed 11 of 14 for 129 yards with an interception in his most extensive action of the season.
But the late offensive burst wasn’t nearly enough for the Raiders to avoid dropping to 2-4 in conference play for the first time since 2000, Mike Leach’s first year as head coach.
“Both sides, we scratched and clawed,” Tuberville said. “We just made way too many mistakes on both sides to give ourselves a chance.”
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