Texas Tech began a pivotal season on a high note, with a promising 56-10 victory over FCS power Eastern Washington.
The Red Raider defense stifled the Eastern Washington offense, while the Texas Tech offense didn’t miss a beat with a new quarterback.
Here are five takeaways from Saturday’s season opener.
Promising start to the season
A win against the Eagles at home is a good start to a pivotal season for head coach Kliff Kingsbury and the Red Raiders. Plenty of uncertainty surrounded the program heading into this season after a 5-7 season and losing star quarterback Patrick Mahomes to the NFL.
Eastern Washington beat Washington State to open last season, so an upset-victory over a vulnerable Texas Tech team wouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise. The Red Raiders made sure that wasn’t the case. They played a complete game in front of a fired up crowd at Jones AT&T Stadium.
Shimonek shines in first start
Quarterback Nic Shimonek impressed in his first start. The fifth-year senior completed 26 of 30 passes for 384 yards and three touchdowns, helping the Texas Tech offense hit 626 total yards. Shimonek is replacing a star in former Red Raider quarterback Patrick Mahomes, but Kingsbury’s offense is quarterback friendly.
Shimonek will face stiffer competition in the coming weeks, but the system and the weapons he has on offense will put him in a position to succeed. He likely won’t throw for over 5,000 yards like his predecessor in Mahomes, but Shimonek has a chance to be one of the leading passers in the Big 12.
Defense shows major improvement
Texas Tech’s defense was one of the main reasons it was 5-7 last season. The defense was one of the worst units in the country last season, which forced the Red Raider offense to outscore opponents.
In Eastern Washington, the Texas Tech defense faced one of the most explosive offensive teams in the FCS and a talented quarterback in Gage Gubrud. The Eastern Washington quarterback passed for over 5,000 yards last year and broke multiple FCS records in the process. The Eagles presented a good opening-season test for the Red Raider defense, and Texas Tech passed.
The Red Raiders held the Eagles to 301 total yards and forced six punts. Gubrud passed for 207 yards and didn’t look like his usual explosive self. Texas Tech also came up with a fumble recovery and an interception returned for a touchdown by sophomore defensive back Willie Sykes.
The rest of nonconference play and the elite teams in the Big 12 will tell more about Texas Tech’s defense than an FCS team, but this is a promising start for a unit that needed to turn things around.
Stockton shows flashes in the running game
Senior running back Justin Stockton got the start for the Red Raiders and was a major part of Texas Tech’s victory. Stockton only ran the ball eight times for 47 yards, but two of those rushes ended in touchdowns. Stockton scored the first touchdown of the game.
No one carried the ball more than eight times for Texas Tech. Junior running back Demarcus Felton got six carries for 30 yards, while junior Desmond Nisby had six carries for 47 yards. Sophomore Da’Leon Ward didn’t see any carries after missing fall camp with academic issues. Expect the Red Raiders to continue to rotate running backs as the season goes on while riding the hot hand.
Receivers dominate Eastern Washington defense
Wide receiver is one of Texas Tech’s deepest positions, and it was evident on Saturday. Senior Derrick Willies caught four passes for 126 yards and one touchdown, while junior Keke Coutee had five catches for 99 yards and two touchdowns.
Dylan Cantrell and Cameron Batson didn’t score, but each made their presence felt. Batson caught the ball six times for 53 yards. Cantrell had four catches for 35 yards. Each of them will have bigger games as the season progresses.
Shimonek utilized all of his receivers on Saturday, and has an abundance of weapons to throw the ball to on any given day.
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