LUBBOCK — All eyes were on the highly anticipated Tarleton State-Texas Tech matchup in Lubbock, Texas, as the 2-0 Texans tried to send the 0-2 Red Raiders to their first 0-3 start in over 50 years.
But the Red Raiders took advantage of early Texan miscues to jump out to a hot start and never looked back, upending Tarleton State 41-3 at Jones AT&T Stadium Saturday night.
The Texans (2-1, 1-0 UAC) were facing their second-ever Power Five conference opponent, a year after taking on TCU in Fort Worth, a Horned Frog team that eventually played in the College Football Playoff national championship game. The Red Raiders (1-2, 0-0 Big 12) had suffered close losses in 2023 before beating the Texans, dropping a road contest at Wyoming 35-33 in double overtime, then a 38-30 defeat in their home opener against No. 13 Oregon.
It was a sellout crowd of 56,200 in Lubbock for the Tarleton State-Texas Tech game Saturday, and the energy was palpable throughout all 60 minutes.
The Texans made an impression right out of the gate, as Josh Griffis sacked Texas Tech QB Tyler Shough on the first play of the game. Tarleton forced a three-and-out on their first defensive series.
On the ensuing drive, however, Texan quarterback Victor Gabalis was intercepted on 3rd and 7 by Malik Dunlap, his first of two interceptions in the game, and returned it 54 yards for a touchdown to put the Red Raiders ahead 7-0 about two-and-a-half minutes in.
After the Red Raiders forced a three-and-out on Tarleton’s next possession, Texas Tech put together a 64-yard scoring drive to go up 14-0 nearly seven minutes in on a Shough two-yard rush.
Again the Red Raiders forced a three-and-out, and again struck on their ensuing drive, this time a 68-yard march capped off by a Shough 28-yard throw to Mason Tharp with 4:36 to play in the first. Texas Tech led 21-0 after one.
The Texan defense limited the Red Raiders from there, allowing just a field goal through the rest of the half, as the teams entered the locker rooms with the score 24-0.
Tarleton got things moving more in the second half, but drives just stalled at the end. Texas Tech added a field goal and a 15-yard touchdown, Behren Morton to Myles Price, in the third quarter to lead 34-0. In the fourth, Morton found Jordan Brown from five yards out to go up 41-0. Tarleton kicker/punter Adrian Guzman made a 21-yard field goal with five minutes to play to avoid the shutout.
Gabalis completed 21-of-40 passes for 182 yards, with three interceptions on the night. Tarleton’s third running back Caleb Lewis ended up leading the backs with 67 yards on 11 carries (6.1 yards per rush), with Derrel Kelley III adding 45 yards on 10 attempts, and Kayvon Britten 40 yards on nine attempts.
Benjamin Omayebu set a new career-high in receptions with 12, going for 76 yards. Jaden Smith had four receptions for 62 yards.
Smith had to leave the game in the fourth quarter, just a couple of plays after making a spectacular one-handed grab. He was transported to the hospital for further evaluation on a neck injury, and as of this publication, he was undergoing testing but had full neurological function.
Defensively, the Texans had three sacks on the night, one each by Griffis, Kyle Taylor and Ahmir Crowder. Les Odimara had a late fourth quarter interception. Blake Smith had a tied-team-high seven tackles to go with a pass breakup. Patrick Jones also had seven tackles, six in solo fashion. Griffis added another tackle for loss to his sack to finish with 2.0 TFL.
Tarleton ended up with more passing yards than Tech, 197 to 195, but the Red Raiders had the ground game going, rushing for 221 (5.7 YPC) compared to the Texans’ 145 (4.0 YPC).
Tarleton State now returns to non-Power Five conference play for the rest of the season, where they’re 2-0 and had the most average points across all of the FCS (52.0 PPG) entering Week 3. The Texans will host Southwest Baptist on Family Weekend, with kickoff set for 6 p.m. on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.