Just like in their other Big 12 Conference road games this year, Texas Tech fell behind by double digits. Just like the other times, the Red Raiders didn’t go away.
This time, the hole was a little deeper, the opponent considerably tougher and Tech didn’t finish the job. But Tech players felt good about their resolve.
The team’s perfect start ended Saturday with a 38-30 loss at Oklahoma, though the Red Raiders rallied twice in the second half. They came from 21-7 down to lead 24-21 late in the third quarter and clawed back from a 35-24 deficit to 35-30. They had the ball, still with a chance to tie, in the last two minutes.
“I think that shows how much fight we have,” tight end Jace Amaro said. “We had an opportunity to get blown out when it was 21-7. We could have dogged it or folded. It came down to the last minute. We had a chance to tie it up. That shows how much we’ve worked this summer and how much the coaching staff has done this season to prepare us for that.”
Tech (7-1, 4-1 in the Big 12) dropped to No. 15 on Sunday in the BCS rankings and both major polls. The Big 12 has separated into a top half and a bottom half, five teams having zero or one league loss and the other five teams having three or more.
Tech hosts another of the top-tier teams at 6 p.m. Saturday when No. 18 Oklahoma State (6-1, 3-1) visits.
To finish strong, the Red Raiders need to tighten up a defense that gave up a season-high 526 yards and an offense that committed three turnovers.
Freshman quarterback Davis Webb tossed an interception on first down from the Oklahoma 40-yard line and had another that glanced off receiver Eric Ward’s hands on a third-down throw from the Tech 46. Amaro lost a fumble at the OU 24.
The mistakes offset big games by Ward, Amaro and Jakeem Grant and several trick plays that worked.
“You can’t come into this stadium against this team with those coaches and those athletes and do that,” Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “Especially turnovers (in OU territory) going in. We knew coming in we couldn’t have the turnovers. We just didn’t take care of business.”
After failing to convert one scoring chance after another in the first half, Tech fell behind 21-7 when Oklahoma took the second half kickoff and drove 86 yards to the first of two Damien Williams touchdown runs.
With a partisan OU crowd of nearly 85,000 getting revved up, Tech stayed in it with three touchdowns and a field goal on its first five possessions after halftime.
“That’s the senior leadership,” Kingsbury said. “They’ve done a great job buying in. They stepped up, made plays and got us back in the game. We just couldn’t hold up at the end. The turnover (early in the fourth quarter) hurt. But I was proud of that leadership from those older guys.”
Tech was undone partly because the defense that’s kept the Red Raiders in games this season yielded 526 yards, including 277 on the ground — both eight-game highs. Of the 277 rushing, 208 came in the second half as the Red Raiders struggled to contain the Sooners’ three-back rotation of Williams, Roy Finch and Brennan Clay.
And that wasn’t the only thing. OU quarterback Blake Bell had been criticized for missing open receivers, but he threw a deep ball on the money to Jalen Saunders for a 76-yard touchdown and hurt Tech in pivotal situations. Bell converted five third downs — all between third-and-6 and third-and-10 — with pass completions.
“You’d like to make them one-dimensional and make them throw it,” Kingsbury said. “If they’re running it like they are, it’s going to be tough. The quarterback’s a tough kid — he falls forward for 5 yards — and then their running backs are very, very talented.
“They did a great job of mixing up pass and run, and then we never got them off schedule. A bunch of third-and-longs, he made big-time throws.”
Webb threw for 385 yards and two touchdowns. Amaro said the noise at Gaylord Family-Memorial Stadium was good for a freshman quarterback to experience.
“That’s probably the best crowd you’re going to go against in the nation,” Amaro said. “They’re loud. It’s tough. We haven’t really (faced) that this season. He’s never been a part of that. I think he did a great job after the first couple of drives of settling in and throwing the ball really well.”
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BIG 12 CONFERENCE
Conference All Games
W L PF PA W L PF PA
Baylor 4 0 238 88 7 0 447 111
Texas 4 0 128 78 5 2 228 169
Oklahoma 4 1 128 109 7 1 248 150
Texas Tech 4 1 183 126 7 1 318 169
Okla. State 3 1 136 96 6 1 272 137
Kansas State 1 3 110 111 3 4 216 169
TCU 1 4 94 88 3 5 207 159
West Virginia 1 4 141 159 3 5 206 220
Kansas 0 4 66 174 2 5 124 221
Iowa State 0 4 99 202 1 6 178 278
Oklahoma 38, Texas Tech 30
Oklahoma State 58, Iowa State 27
Kansas State 35, West Virginia 12
Baylor 59, Kansas 14
Texas 30, TCU 7
Oklahoma State at Texas Tech, 6 p.m. (FOX)
Kansas at Texas, 2:30 p.m. (LHN)
Iowa State at Kansas State, 2:30 p.m. (FS1)
West Virginia at TCU, 2:30 p.m. (ESPNU)