Texas Tech hangs tough, falls short to No. 15 Oklahoma State

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Photo- Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

It was a night game and a “blackout” for Texas Tech fans in Lubbock, full of promise for an exciting contest; and it lived up to the hype. Oklahoma State ultimately prevailed over the Red Raiders, 41-34 to keep their Big 12 championship hopes alive.

Mason Rudolph and the Oklahoma State offense started off strong, displaying promising effort in an attempt to bounce back from a loss last week at the hands of TCU. They consistently rolled down the field with little resistance, finishing every first half drive in the red zone.

With the Cowboys ahead 7-0 and threatening to score again, Rudolph sailed a pass too high for his intended receiver and into the arms of Texas Tech’s DeMarcus Fields, who was making his first career start at cornerback. Fields ran straight up the sideline for a 95-yard pick six to keep things from getting ugly early.

Even after the momentum boost, Texas Tech struggled on offense for a majority of the first half, notching just 10 points in addition to Fields’ defensive touchdown. However, Oklahoma State left them in the game by missing a field goal on another trip to the red zone.

Despite a two to one advantage in total first half yardage – 343 to 172 – Oklahoma State led the game just 21-17 at halftime.

Things once again looked promising for Oklahoma State early in the second half. After receiving the kickoff to start the third quarter, the Pokes marched down the field yet again and scored a touchdown to make it 28-17. The Red Raiders went three and out on their next offensive possession, followed by a blocked punt attempt that gave Oklahoma State the ball inside the 10-yard line.

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But Texas Tech’s improved defense limited the Cowboys to a field goal, and kept the score a fairly respectable 31-17. After that, Texas Tech made some serious pushes to pull off the upset.

After trading field goals to make it 34-20, Texas Tech running back Justin Stockton punched it in from a few yards out to make it 34-27. After a 15-yard facemask penalty, Tech kicked off from the 50-yard line and used the field position to try a surprise onside kick. It worked, and Tech had the ball seemingly ready to strike.

Their momentum was stunted as quarterback Nic Shimonek made an ill-advised throw on a screen pass while escaping pressure, and Oklahoma State notched their first turnover of the game with the interception.

The Texas Tech defense forced their first Oklahoma State punt of the evening on the Cowboys’ ensuing drive. With the momentum back on their side and a chance to tie it up, the Texas Tech offense responded with another short yardage touchdown, this time by way of running back Desmond Nisby.

Oklahoma State drove the length of the field but was forced to settle for a field goal attempt after Rudolph was stuffed on third and goal from inside the five-yard line. Oklahoma State kicker Matt Ammendola missed his second field goal of the night, and Tech had yet another opportunity to claim the lead late in the game with the score tied up at 34.

Still, the Red Raider offense couldn’t capitalize. Star wide receiver Keke Coutee, the team’s most explosive offensive player, missed most of the second half with an injury, and his absence was felt while Tech struggled to take advantage of some offensive opportunities in the fourth quarter.

Charlton Gladden/ TexasHSFootball.com

Oklahoma State regained possession with three and a half minutes left in the game, and Rudolph showed why he’s in the discussion for the Heisman Trophy. On third and eight, he connected with wide receiver Marcell Ateman on a miraculous catch over some solid coverage by Texas Tech cornerback Octavious Morgan.

Once in the red zone, Rudolph dashed into the end zone on a quarterback keeper, a play that had been effective all night for the Oklahoma State offense. Leading 41-34, the Cowboys kicked off to Texas Tech with 1:12 left on the clock. The Oklahoma State defense responded by holding Tech on fourth and 10 from midfield, then took a knee to seal the deal.

While it was an inspiring performance from a Texas Tech team picked to finish near the bottom of the Big 12 in 2017, they will still come away feeling like they missed opportunities to notch a huge win and improve to 4-0 on the season. On the other hand, Oklahoma State needed the win to keep major postseason hoped alive.

The Cowboys head into a bye week before a matchup with Baylor, and Texas Tech travels to Lawrence to take on Kansas in search of their first Big 12 win next week.

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