FORT WORTH — Texas Tech has boasted all year about having more receivers than it knows what to do with.
Alex Torres and Austin Zouzalik backed it up Saturday.
A week after injuries cut down three of Tech’s leading receivers, Torres and Zouzalik ably picked up the slack in a 56-53 triple-overtime conquest of TCU.
As old as the two are — and as few catches as they made through six games — some might have thought they had graduated. Not hardly. The Red Raiders couldn’t have rallied to win without Torres’ two touchdowns in crunch time and Zouzalik’s five catches that all seemed to lead to something.
“Everybody was worried about some of our injuries,” quarterback Seth Doege said. “You forget about Austin Zouzalik. You forget about Alex Torres. Those guys are reliable guys that can get the job done. They might not be the fastest guys, they might not be the biggest guys. But when you count on them, they’re going to get it done. That’s their personalities. Guys like that make our team great.”
Torres caught five passes for 53 yards, one that put Tech ahead 29-26 with 6:40 left in regulation and another that was the game winner in the third overtime. The 25-year-old senior’s season highs were two catches and 46 yards before Saturday.
Zouzalik finished with five receptions for 55 yards, all on drives in which Tech scored touchdowns. He resurfaced after injuries last week to Javon Bell, Bradley Marquez and — most relevant to Zouzalik’s situation — Jace Amaro.
Up to then, the additions of other talented receivers had bumped the fifth-year senior from Coronado from the rotation.
“It was pretty tough to swallow there for a couple of weeks. I’m not going to lie,” said Zouzalik, who had two 30-catch seasons but only three receptions in six games this year. “I was pretty mad at coach (Neal) Brown and coach (Sonny) Cumbie, but that’s not going to get me anywhere.
“I talked to our strength coaches. I talked to pastor Bobby (Dagnel, the team chaplain). They told me that’s doing myself a disservice to get down like that. I needed to pick the team up, being a fifth-year senior.”
Zouzalik played so little in the first six games that when he played a lot against TCU, he was slowed by cramps.
“Halftime was interesting,” he said. “I came in here, and I just laid on the table with an IV the entire time.”
Torres was having another ho-hum game until late. The Red Raiders trailed 26-21 before Torres caught an 8-yard touchdown pass in the back corner of the end zone with 6:40 left in regulation. His game winner was an 8-yard flip over the middle from Doege.
Torres’ veteran smarts came into play on both. On his first touchdown, the Frogs had good coverage initially, forcing Tech receivers to scramble for an open spot. Doege had Eric Ward in the front of the end zone and running back Eric Stephens in front of Torres in the back corner.
“I saw Doege see me,” Torres said, “and he knew to put it in a spot that only I had a chance for. It was either I was going to catch it and get one foot in or it was going to go out of bounds. He put it in a great spot. We practice that scramble drill, and it really paid off right there.”
On the game winner, Torres faked staying on the line of the scrimmage to run block, then released and got just far enough beyond linebacker Kenny Cain for Doege to loft it over.
“The way Torres sold run, and he (Cain) bit just enough to where I could fit it in here,” Doege said.
The start of a special day for Torres came midway through the fourth quarter when he made a diving one-handed catch along the sideline. He initially was ruled out of bounds, but the call was overturned on review. Replays showed Torres grabbed the pass with his left hand with a headlong dive, secured it with his right and his left elbow landed in bounds.
That set up his first touchdown three plays later.
“If I had run a better route,” Torres said of the one-hand catch, “I probably could have gotten it with two.”