Head coach Mike Gundy’s team kept alive its Big 12 championship aspirations in what was all but an elimination to stay in the race for the conference title as the Cowboys improved to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in league play. Texas Tech falls to 7-2 overall and 4-2 in the league with its second consecutive loss. The Cowboys have yet to face Texas (5-0 in the Big 12), Baylor (4-0) and Oklahoma (4-1), all of whom are on the schedule in the last five weeks of the regular season.
The Cowboys got impressive performances in all three phases of the game including quarterback Clint Chelf, who heard his share of criticism after completing just 10 of 26 passes for 78 yards in last week’s win over Iowa State. He used his throwing arm and his fleet feet on Saturday night in Lubbock, passing for 211 yards and two touchdowns (although he did throw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a score by Texas Tech), while also rushing for 88 yards and two more scores on just six carries.
Chelf got plenty of help from running backs Desmond Roland and Rennie Childs, who led a rushing attack that went for 281 yards. Roland followed up last week’s outstanding performance with a career-high 31 carries for 96 yards and three touchdowns against the Red Raiders. Childs gave Roland a break in the second half, gaining 70 yards on nine carries.
But the Cowboys also had several defensive standouts. They allowed Tech freshman quarterback Davis Webb to throw for 425 yards but he needed to put the ball in the air 71 times (tying a single-game school record). While Webb threw for two touchdowns, the Cowboys also intercepted him twice.
OSU linebackers Caleb Lavey and Shaun Lewis and free safety Daytawion Lowe came up with game-changing plays against the Red Raiders.
“Our defense was tremendous. They gave up some points but when you look at it at the end of the day they gave up 28 or 24 or something like that,” Gundy said. “They had 97 plays and that’s the style of offense you play when you come out here and play in Lubbock. That’s their style, which is high-risk, high-reward, (and) there’s going to be a lot of plays.
“For the most part, (the defense) was really good. We forced turnovers , so they continue to force turnovers and play with great effort. Then in special teams, (assistant coach) Ty Leonard did a heck of a job. He came up with another punt block, and we were able to turn it into a score. We got another (big) return by Josh Stewart and turned it into a score, so we got 14 points in the kicking game. That was huge.”
The Cowboys were already ahead 7-0 on Chelf’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Tracy Moore midway through the first quarter when Lowe’s hit on Texas Tech’s 6-5, 260-pound tight end Jace Amaro forced the standout tight end to fumble and Lyndell Johnson recovered. It took the Cowboys just three plays to make it 14-0, with Chelf completing a 44-yard flea flicker pass to Jhajuan Seales down to the 1-yard line, and then Roland scoring the first of his three TDs.
Special teams set up OSU’s third touchdown in the first quarter. Walk-on Derek Branson blocked a punt and recovered it at the Red Raiders 15. Three Chelf handoffs to Roland later, including the final one from the 1-yard line, resulted in the Cowboys third touchdown in the game’s first 11 minutes, giving Gundy’s squad a 21-0 lead.
Texas Tech finally got rolling in the second quarter and pulled within 28-24 at halftime, but the Cowboys took command in the third quarter. Josh Stewart’s 46-yard punt return gave the offense great field position at the Red Raiders 11 and Roland did all the work from there, carrying four times for the touchdown.
The defense forced its second three-and-out of the second half on the next possession, and this time it only took three plays for the Cowboys to increase their lead to 42-24. Jeremy Smith gained a yard on first down. Chelf threw incomplete on second down. Then from his own 33 on third-and-9, Chelf kept on a designed quarterback draw and went untouched for the 67-yard, back-breaking touchdown.
Chelf would add an 8-yard scoring run in the third quarter and freshman Ben Grogan’s 41-yard field goal in the fourth period closed out the scoring for the Cowboys.
“Offensively, I thought Clint played much better than he did in Iowa. He had a good night. He ran the ball great. For months I’ve been telling everybody that he runs the same plays as the other guy. He’s been very effective running the ball. His leadership was good. His demeanor was good,” said Gundy.
“It was a great college football game, a great college atmosphere. You can’t ask for anything else than to be in an environment like we were in (tonight). I can’t say enough and how proud I am of our team. They just make decisions to do things right, to work hard, and as long as they do it they are going to have success,” Gundy added.