Two starters out
Offensive tackle Travis Bruffy and kicker Clayton Hatfield missed Texas Tech’s season opener Saturday against Eastern Washington. Bruffy was out with an illness, Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said, and Hatfield was sidelined by a leg injury.
“Travis was sick, so he lost a bunch of weight,” Kingsbury said, “and we’re in the process of getting him healthy and putting weight back on to give him a fair chance. This bye week (upcoming) will really help.”
Bruffy’s a sophomore who won the left-tackle job, but will have to wait a couple of weeks, to the Sept. 16 Tech-Arizona State game for his first career start. Sophomore Madison Akamnonu took his place at left tackle.
Hatfield’s injury led to the first career action for Michael Ewton, a freshman from Allen. He went 8 for 8 on extra points and did not attempt a field goal. Kingsbury said he’s unsure of Hatfield’s status and added, “I would think we’d see him at some point during the season.”
Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said sophomore defensive tackle Joe Wallace will redshirt this season “and give him a chance to mature and grow up and develop.”
Wallace played last year as a true freshman and appeared to be among the team’s top three or four defensive tackles. Kingsbury, when asked a follow-up about why Wallace will redshirt, said, “It’s probably the right thing to do. We had him plya last year, and he just needs some time to mature and develop, so we’ll do that.”
Offensive guard Jack Anderson, middle linebacker Riko Jeffers, wide receiver Dalton Rigdon and kicker Michael Ewton became Tech’s first true freshmen to play this season. Anderson, as expected, started at right guard.
Jeffers thrilled the Jones AT&T Stadium crowd with a crunching hit on the second-half kickoff. While fighting through a blocker, Jeffers cut down Eagles return man Antoine Custer at the EWU 15-yard line.
Rigdon’s a walk-on from Perryton who entered the game in the fourth quarter, playing behind Derrick Willies and Quan Shorts at split receiver. He was the Class 3A state champion in the long jump in May.
Making a mark
Sophomore linebacker Christian Taylor made the first big play of his career, foiling a fourth-down run in Tech territory in the first half. With Eastern Washington facing fourth-and-1 at the Tech 31, Taylor got penetration and stopped running back Sam McPherson for a 1-yard loss.
Taylor, a sophomore from Houston Jersey Village, is a converted safety who secured the second-team middle linebacker spot in preseason practice and spelled starter Jordyn Brooks on Saturday.
A slew of Tech transfers from four-year and junior colleges made their Tech debuts, and chipped in several big plays. Among them:
Punter Dominic Panazzolo from Snow College had punts downed at the EWU 7- and 4-yard lines. Nickel back Willie Sykes, formerly of Arkansas, returned an interception for a touchdown. Rush end Tony Jones from Butler (Kan.) Community College registered a sack and an interception. Nickel back Justus Parker from Texas Lutheran had a third-down stop that forced a punt. Second-string quarterback McLane Carter from Tyler Junior College threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Quan Shorts.
The Red Raiders’ starting lineup had two transfers: Left guard Jacob Hines from Long Beach (Calif.) City College, safety Vaughnte Dorsey from Mississippi Gulf Coast and cornerback Octavious Morgan from Butler Community College.
Tech offensive lineman Bailey Smith played in the opener, ending any chance he might sit out this season. Smith was pressed into service last year as a true freshman, and Kingsbury said during the off-season that redshirting him in 2017 could be a consideration. … DB Abraham Wallace, who recently graduated from LSU and came to Tech as a graduate transfer, got into the spirit of his new team, dying his hair red. … A handful of Texas Tech players changed uniform numbers to avoid duplicate numbers with other teammates in the game. The switches are TE-FB Donta Thompson going to No. 17, NB Justus Parker to No. 31, DS Kyle Heffron to No. 48 and DT Houston Miller to No. 89.
— Compiled by Don Williams