STILLWATER, Oklahoma — Things were looking up for Texas Tech midway through the third quarter of its Saturday clash with No. 23 Oklahoma State.
Alan Bowman had just hit Erik Ezukanma for a long touchdown, putting the Red Raiders ahead 24-21. Immediately after that, everything unraveled.
The Cowboys scored the game’s next 13 points without even taking an offensive snap. They would go on to beat Texas Tech 50-44, knocking the Red Raiders down to 3-6 on the season and 2-6 in Big 12 play.
After the Ezukanma score, Matt Wells opted to go with an onside kick, and it backfired horribly. The ball skipped right into Oklahoma State safety Jason Taylor’s hands, who took it 48 yards for a touchdown.
“It was a look that we had seen on tape that we thought we could take advantage of,” Wells said. “We come out and we score, we take the lead. That’s the best time to try to do it, we just couldn’t execute.”
After Texas Tech got the ball back, OSU’s Tre Sterling jumped a Bowman pass and took the interception back 65 yards for a touchdown. In four minutes, Oklahoma State’s special teams and defense had completely flipped the game.
Bowman started at quarterback for Texas Tech after Henry Colombi got the nod in the past four games. Wells said during the week that he planned to use Colombi, but the Utah State transfer did not appear in the game. Wells said he was managing an injury and available in an emergency situation.
Bowman threw for 372 yards and three touchdowns, including three beautiful balls to Ezukanma that helped him rack up a career-high 183 receiving yards. But his second pick-six in as many games was a backbreaker.
“That safety made a really nice read, broke on it, and it’s just kind of one of those things where as soon as you let it go, it’s like ‘uh oh,'” Bowman said of the interception.
Texas Tech caught a break when Oklahoma State’s star running back Chuba Hubbard, who rushed for 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns last year, was ruled out for the game.
Hubbard’s backup LD Brown missed the game as well, so the Cowboys handed the duties to third string running back Dezmon Jackson. He didn’t miss a beat.
OSU’s offensive line carved holes for Jackson to run through and he finished his runs well, often dragging a Texas Tech defender for extra yards at the end of runs.
The junior rushed for three touchdowns in the first half alone and piled up 245 total yards.
“I feel like we had a few misalignments coming from the inside and that allowed them to make some explosive plays,” Zech McPhearson said.
Despite Jackson’s explosion, Texas Tech kept it close in the first half.
The Red Raiders scored the game’s first points thanks to aggressive calls by Wells. He went for a fourth-and-1 from his own 30 and SaRodorick Thompson picked it up. Four plays later with the same down and distance, Thompson picked up the first and then some, racing 59 yards for a touchdown.
Oklahoma State scored touchdowns on two of its next three possessions, and All-American wide receiver Tylan Wallace was a big reason why. Wallace sprawled to catch a back shoulder throw deep down the sideline to set up Jackson’s second score of the game, which gave the Cowboys a 14-7 lead.
DaMarcus Fields drew the Wallace assignment, and the two engaged in a physical battle all afternoon. While Fields was able to force some incompletions and held him to one catch in the second half, Wallace finished the day with 129 yards and caught a critical touchdown in the third quarter.
“Tylan, he’s an elite player and I think DaMarcus Fields is a really good corner,” Wells said. “So I think there was some give and take there… that was certainly a highlight battle.”
Texas Tech’s defense struggled to stop OSU’s dynamic offense, but the duo of Colin Schooler and Zech McPhearson made huge plays once again. In the first half, Schooler tackled Spencer Sanders on third down to force a field goal that would miss, and he stripped OSU’s Dominic Richardson to set up a Texas Tech field goal before halftime. That kick cut Oklahoma State’s lead to 21-17 going into the break.
On OSU’s first drive of the second half, McPhearson picked off Sanders. It was his fourth interception of the year.
But one play later, it was Cowboy ball again. Ezukanma lost a fumble, the first of three Red Raider turnovers in the second half.
Texas Tech’s running game was a bright spot in the loss. Thompson and Xavier White combined for 231 rushing yards, and each broke long touchdowns. White bounced off a tackler and went 70 yards for a score to cut Oklahoma State’s lead to three after Sterling’s pick-six.
The Cowboys made sure it never got closer than that for the rest of the game, matching White’s score with a three-play touchdown drive and forcing another turnover, this time stripping Myles Price.
Loic Fouonji’s first career touchdown catch, a gorgeous one-handed grab, cut the lead to six points late, but TTU could not stop Jackson on a fourth down, effectively ending the game.
Texas Tech went blow for blow with a top 25 opponent for 37 minutes, but could not do so for a full 60.
The Red Raiders handed Oklahoma State touchdowns with costly mistakes on offense and special teams. Those are the plays that the program needs eradicate if it wants to climb towards the top of the Big 12.