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Red Raiders Dominate Mississippi State to Become Liberty Bowl Champs

Photo CC: Joe Rondone/ The Commercial Appeal

Last night, the Red Raiders were able to completely blow out the Bulldogs 34-7 to secure the win and become Liberty Bowl Champions giving them their first bowl win since 2013!

First Quarter:

The first drive would set the tone for the offense and the entire game. Tech wanted to get the ground game going early and they did just that.

On this touchdown drive, they had runs composed of 33 yards, 10 yards, and finally, a 19-yard touchdown run by Running Back Tahj Brooks to give Texas Tech the early 7-0 lead capping off a seven-play, 75-yard drive that took 2:20 off the clock.

On Mississippi State’s first offensive series they went three-and-out and had to punt the ball back to Texas Tech who was feeling all the momentum early on.

Texas Tech continued the ground and pound attack, just getting whatever, they wanted in the run game. The Bulldogs simply had no answer for Texas Tech and let them march up-and-down the field.

The Red Raiders had surpassed their season average for rushing yards a game in the first quarter alone, so this was the story of the game and how they just ran the ball down their throats.

Once Tech got into the red zone the drive did stall and they were forced to settle for a Jonathan Garibay 31-yard field goal which he knocked through extending their lead 10-0.

Second Quarter:

Opening up the second quarter, Miss St. was finally able to get the offense rolling and was threatening the score.

Bulldogs QB Will Rogers found his man Wide Receiver Rara Thomas for the 17-yard touchdown reception to close the lead 10-7. This would be their only score of the game.

For most of the quarter, both teams traded punts and possessions back and forth. Miss St would turn the ball over on downs as would Tech.

The Red Raiders would catch a lucky break after punt returner Austin Williams fumbled and Texas Tech got the ball within the 20-yard line with 31 seconds left before half.

They would sputter and have to settle for another Garibay field goal who knocked it through from 26-yards this time giving Texas Tech the 13-7 halftime lead.

Third Quarter:

Coming out of halftime, both teams would trade punts with each other until Miss St punted the ball inside the 10-yard line at the five.

Texas Tech QB Donovan Smith showed off his skill set in the passing game when he hit Tight End Travis Koontz on the first play of the drive for 39-yards downfield. He then came back and hit WR Jerand Bradley in stride who took it all the way down for 52-yard to the one-yard line.

From there Smith finished it off himself with a touchdown run extending the lead to 20-7 halfway through the third quarter. This would cap off a four-play 95-yard drive in 1:00.

Texas Tech’s defense was a huge piece in last night’s game and was able to force a turnover on downs and get the ball back once again after DE Tyree Wilson sacked Rogers two plays in a row.

Tech would take advantage of this and drive down for their third score of the game after Smith took the snap scramble outside of the pocket and found his man WR J.J. Sparkman in the back corner of the endzone to put Tech up 27-7 heading into the fourth quarter.

Fourth Quarter:

The fourth and final quarter would be much of the same for Miss. St. who could not get their “air raid” offense going and just kept imploding after Rogers threw a pass and was intercepted by Safety Eric Monroe.

Tech would capitalize once again off of the turnover and this time Running Back SaRodorick Thompson would finish the business and put the nail in the coffin after he punched it in from one yard out to give them the huge lead 34-7.

The Texas Tech defense finished the game with four sacks and three turnovers with the third one coming on a fumble that was recovered by CB Demarcus Fields to secure the win for Texas Tech.

Tech held Miss. St. to the lowest score this entire season and only 54 rushing yards were allowed, so Defensive Coordinator Keith Patterson shut down Mike Leach’s famous “Air Raid” offense which only got 290 yards through the air.

LB Colin Schooler led the way for the Red Raiders and finished the night with 9 total tackles, 8 solo, one sack, and two tackles for loss. Schooler finished his illustrious career with 315 solo tackles which ranked in the Top-5 in FBS history.

In total, he finished with 482 tackles which are also 5th on the FBS All-Time Tackle Leaders.

DE Tyree Wilson finished the night with two sacks, four tackles, one pass defended, and two tackles for loss, and one QB hurry.

Donovan Smith showed why there was a QB change late in the season as he finished the night 15/28 for 252 yards and a touchdown, he also ran five times for 30 yards and a touchdown, and most importantly no turnovers!

Look for Smith to go out in the spring and earn the starting job heading into next season under new offensive coordinator Zach Kittley.

Brooks and Thompson led the way on the ground in which they each had a touchdown and finished with 107 and 80 yards respectively. Tech gained 260 yards total on the ground.

Myles Price was the leading receiver who had three catches for 72 yards.

Smith and Wilson earned themselves Offensive and Defensive Players of the Game, while Smith was the Liberty Bowl MVP.

Texas Tech finished the season 7-6 on the year and Liberty Bowl Champions. You could say Tech finally turned a page by beating former Head Coach Mike Leach and outlasting the pirate to kickstart a new era of Tech football.

Interim Head Coach Sonny Cumbie will be heading to Louisiana Tech to take the head coaching position there, and DC Keith Patterson will be heading to Abilene Christian to become their head coach.

Next season will begin anew with Joey McGuire taking over and this is the perfect position to be in as a football program. Tech just had a huge win which could serve as a program-changing win going forward.

There are a lot of decisions to be made on who will leave and who will return but Tech has a bunch of young guys who had to grow up and step in a lot this season and should be exciting to watch for years to come.

If you’re a Red Raider fan there isn’t a moment, then right now when your feelings of excitement should kick in and where this program is going to go from here.

Ending 2021 with a bowl victory and a happy ending here’s to a new beginning, a new era, and new generations of Red Raiders in 2022 going into next season. Wreck ‘Em!!

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