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Notebook: Texas Tech's Wheels Fall Off in Fourth Quarter

Texas Tech looked like the better football team for most of the game, but poor field position put them in a hole too deep to dig out of.

Sometimes a genius, other times, a fool. That's life for a head coach who likes to go for it on fourth down. Nobody knows that better than Texas Tech's Joey McGuire, whose Red Raider offense stays on the field on fourth downs more than any other team in college football.

That strategy can pay big dividends or cause big problems, sometimes both in the same game. TCU got the full Red Raider experience today, as Tech converted on their first three fourth-down attempts, before failing on their final two. Ultimately, those last two failures led to extremely short fields for the Horned Frog offense and allowed them to race out too far ahead late for the Red Raiders to have a chance. TCU was able to hold on for the 34-24 win, despite trailing 17-13 at the start of the fourth quarter.

Fourth Down Follies

Sure, Tech went 3-for-3 on their first three fourth down tries. But two were on the same drive, and in the end, it only earned the Red Raiders one touchdown. To be fair, that was the go-ahead touchdown and the Tech staff looked like a brain trust with a late lead over the nation's seventh-ranked team. They had to know, though, that they couldn't sustain that perfect clip, especially with the offense going just 3-for-16 on third down for the day. 

That didn't stop McGuire from trying two more fourth downs in the Raiders' own territory, though, and those shortcomings were costly. TCU got the ball back around the 40-yard line both times and was essentially spotted 14 points. The game may have seemed to get out of hand late, but who knows what the final moments would have looked like if Tech had played it safe. When the strategy works, it works pretty well. But when it's bad, it's catastrophic. McGuire's going to have to decide whether those lows are worth the highs.

QB Behren Morton Goes Down

Morton looked a bit nervous at first, but quickly found his footing against the Horned Frogs. He was 7-for-10 with 79 yards and a touchdown before being hit with the TCU curse. Morton suffered a leg injury in the second quarter and was sidelined for the remainder of the game, marking the fifth game in which the Horned Frogs defeated a team playing with their backup quarterback. 

It was also the second time Morton's been hobbled this year, and you've got to wonder if we'll see him suit up again with so little left to play for. If he doesn't return, it will be interesting to see if the Red Raiders go with Tyler Shough, who took over today, or Donovan Smith, who's been converted to more of a third-down specialist. Either way, Tech's got some serious thinking to do about who suits up as the starting field general next week. 

Tech Defense Dominates Then Deflates

The Red Raider defense was in lockdown mode for 90 percent of the game, notching four sacks and ten tackles for loss behind standout efforts from linemen Tyree Wilson and Jesiah Pierre. Then, in the final quarter, Tech collapsed and gave up 21 points in just under ten minutes. It would be easy from the outside looking in to blame the defense for letting up, but the fault should be placed squarely on the coaching staff and the decision to put that defense in short-field situations. 

When Tech has a full field to defend, it frees them up to call more plays and get after the quarterback more. The offense's short drives also forced Tech's defenders to play tired, which resulted in some gashing runs from the Horned Frogs. We've seen this all year from the Red Raiders. The defense impresses but is asked to do too much, and then Texas Tech is left hanging out to dry. 

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