The Texas Tech Red Raiders delivered second-half knockout blows and staved off a late Kyle Postma-led Houston Cougars rally for a 27-24 win Saturday at TDECU Stadium.
“This one, it stings, but we have to get over it and move on and understand there’s eight games left to play and we’re just starting conference play and there’s a lot left,” Houston head coach Major Applewhite said.
With two missed field goals and a drop on a sure touchdown pass, Texas Tech let Houston hang close, clinging to a 13-10 lead well into the third quarter.
At the 4:48 mark of the third quarter, the Red Raiders delivered their first haymaker of the game with a 77-yard TD pass from quarterback Nic Shimonek (29-for-45, 321 yards, two TDs, one interception) to receiver Keke Coutee (11 receptions, 161 yards, one TD) for a 20-10 lead.
Running back Justin Stockton (10 carries, 102 yards; two receptions, 22 yards, one TD) completely took over a quick, 94-yard drive in the fourth quarter that gave the Red Raiders just enough cushion for the win.
Stockton took a handoff 84 yards and then, following a holding penalty, hauled in a 20-yard TD reception to put Texas Tech ahead, 27-10, with 7:28 left to play.
On Houston’s ensuing series, starting quarterback Kyle Allen (24-for-39, 217 yards, one TD, two interceptions, one fumble lost) was replaced by Postma (8-for-13, 100 yards, one TD; four carries, 52 yards, one TD), and the Katy Seven Lakes product nearly led the Cougars all the way back.
“We always go through personnel after the series,” Applewhite said. “It was just apparent at that point in the game they were going to drop back into coverage and they were giving you quarterback runs, in terms of scrambles. So, (Postma) was going to give us the best opportunity at that point.”
A 10-play, 73-yard drive ended with a 9-yard TD on a QB keeper to cut the Texas Tech lead to 27-17 with 4:29 remaining in the game.
The Cougars’ defense got a three-and-out on Texas Tech’s next possession, but Red Raiders defensive back DaMarcus Fields ripped the ball out of the hands of Houston punt returner Brand McDowell to give Texas Tech the ball right back and allow the offense to kill more game clock.
Postma led the Cougars on an eight-play, 76-yard scoring drive capped by a 4-yard TD pass to receiver Linell Bonner (seven receptions, 66 yards, one TD) to make the score 27-24 with 15 seconds remaining.
Texas Tech recovered a Houston onside kick attempt to wrap up the game.
Neither team could pull away in the first half, although the chances were there.
An interception by Texas Tech linebacker Dakota Allen on Houston’s opening possession set up the Red Raiders’ offense at the Cougars’ 32-yard line, but they were held to a 32-yard Michael Ewton field goal for an early 3-0 lead.
An 12-play Texas Tech drive resulted in a 47-yard field goal for Michael Barden to give the Red Raiders a 6-0 lead with 1:45 remaining in the first quarter.
The Red Raiders appeared to be wearing down the Houston defense when they went on an 11-play, 86-yard scoring drive capped by a 3-yard rushing TD up the middle by running back Desmond Nisby to take a 13-0 lead at the 11:08 mark of the second quarter, but the Cougars finally got a couple sparks to help jump-start a sluggish offense.
A 47-yard kickoff return by Houston’s John Leday helped set up a career-long 45-yard field goal for kicker Caden Novikoff for the Cougars’ first points of the game, as they trailed 13-3 at the 8:26 mark of the second quarter.
An interception by safety Terrell Williams with a 15-yard face mask penalty tacked on put the Cougars’ offense at the Texas Tech 19-yard line. Just two plays later, receiver D’Eriq King (five receptions, 50 yards, one TD) found pay dirt on an 18-yard screen pass from Allen to cut the Red Raiders’ lead to 13-10 with 4:41 to go in the first half.
Texas Tech appeared on its way to scoring right before halftime, but receiver T.J. Vasher landed just barely out of bounds on potential TD reception, and then Ewton missed a 33-yard field goal attempt as time expired in the first half.
The Red Raiders put up 521 yards of total offense, although the Cougars weren’t far behind with 427 yards. The big game-changing factor was the turnover differential, with Houston giving the ball away five times, compared to just one turnover for Texas Tech.
Up next for the Cougars will be their American Athletic Conference opener at Temple. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, and ESPNU will broadcast the game.
“You can’t let one loss beat you twice,” Applewhite said. “It’s time to move on.”
With three official turnovers (and also a mishandled snap that went down as a team turnover) Saturday, Allen now has had multiple turnovers in two of the Cougars’ first three games (a total of four interceptions and two fumbles lost).
Couple that with Postma’s late-game heroics, and Houston most definitely has some uncertainty at the starting quarterback position before its conference opener next week.
Applewhite, though, was noncommittal on the QB situation immediately after the game.
“Every job is open,” Applewhite said. “I know what it looks like on the outside, but we don’t really discuss any other positions any differently.”
• Houston’s loss snapped a 16-game home winning streak, which had been the nation’s longest active home winning streak.
• The last time Houston lost a home game against Texas Tech was in 1995 in a game played at the Astrodome. At the time, Texas Tech and Houston were conference opponents in the Southwest Conference.
• Texas Tech had three plays go for more than 75 yards in the second half: a 77-yard rush up the middle by running back Tre King, Stockton’s 84-yard rush and the 77-yard TD pass from Shimonek to Coutee.