Once the Red Raiders got on a roll, they were hard to stop.
Texas Tech scored touchdowns on seven-straight possessions and rolled past Eastern Washington University 56-10 Saturday (Sept. 2) at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas, in the season-opener for both teams.
Eastern’s defense held the Red Raiders to just 20 yards on their first three possessions, but a 75-yard touchdown pass got TTU untracked. Texas Tech, which led the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision in total offense and passing yards a year ago, finished with 626 yards, including 449 through the air.
Eastern’s offense managed 301 yards of offense, including 207 passing and 10 rushing by Eagle All-America quarterback Gage Gubrud. He had a 22-yard touchdown pass to Terence Grady in the second quarter to cap a five-play, 75-yard drive for EWU.
“Collectively we didn’t maintain the consistency,” said Eastern head coach Aaron Best, whose team trailed just 7-0 after the first quarter. “The doors were opened but we didn’t capitalize in the first half, and then it bled into the second half.”
The game marked the head coaching debut of Best whose NCAA Football Championship Subdivision team was hoping to repeat its success of a year ago when it beat FBS Washington State 45-42 and in 2013 when it knocked off Oregon State 49-46.
“This one is going to sting – they all sting when you lose,” added Best. “We aren’t used to this. You have to be humbled when you lose, so this is a lesson for our team. They’ll learn and grow up from this.”
Won-Lost Records . . .
* The game was the season-opener for both teams. Coached by Kliff Kingsbury, The Red Raiders were 5- last year and 3-6 in the Big 12 Conference to tie for sixth. The Eagles were ranked fifth in the preseason STATS NCAA Football Championship preseason top 25 rankings, and were one notch higher in the poll of coaches. EWU’s finished 12-2 and a perfect 8-0 in the Big Sky Conference a year ago and ended the year ranked fourth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Eastern advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs for the third time in the past five seasons, and 12th playoff berth overall.
What It Means . . .
.* The game was a starting point for the Eagles as they face a difficult non-conference schedule with 51 returning letterwinners. Twenty-one of 22 starters hit the field against Texas Tech with starting experience under their belts. Six full-time starters return on each side of the ball, plus all of the team’s specialists from a year ago. An additional five starters on offense and four on defense had previously started for the Eagles. The lone starting debut came on defense when sophomore Jack Sendelbach started in place of Ketner Kupp(ankle) on defense.
What’s Next . . .
* The Eagles open their 2017 home schedule at sold-out Roos Field at 1:05 p.m. Pacific time on Sept. 9 when North Dakota State visits in the opening weekend of the Big Sky Conference/Missouri Valley Football Conference Challenge Series. The showdown with the five-time NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Champions is the second game of a home-and-home series against the Bison. Eastern, which won the national title in 2010 prior to NDSU’s incredible run of five-straight, lost 50-44 in overtime on Sept. 10, 2016, in Fargo. Eastern knocked off NDSU 38-31 in overtime in the only previous meeting with the Bison on Dec. 11, 2010, in the FCS Playoffs in Cheney.
Keys to Game . . .
Texas Tech quarterback Nic Shimonek was accurate, completing his first 14 passes and finishing 26-of-30 for 384 yards and three touchdowns in just under three quarters of action. His TD passes included strikes of 75 and 68 yards as the Red Raiders scored touchdowns on six-straight possessions on drives of 75, 68, 75, 75, 81 and 85 yards. Texas Tech added an interception return for a score and another touchdown on a 69-yard drive.