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Red Raiders vs. Oklahoma State: Tech Defense & QB Behren Morton Show Valiant Fight in Loss

The Texas Tech Red Raiders didn't back down on the road against the No. 7 Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday.

Despite a strong start, the Texas Tech Red Raiders were bludgeoned on the defensive end in a loss to the Kansas State Wildcats last week.

But they faced an even better offense in Stillwater, Okla. on Saturday, as the No. 7 Oklahoma State Cowboys boasted arguably an even better scoring unit headed into the 50th meeting between the two teams. The Cowboys have averaged the fifth-most points per contest in the country (47.8) this season. 

Even behind some strong play from the defense and unexpected heroics from freshman quarterback Behren Morton, the Red Raiders fell 41-31 despite a valiant effort from coach Joey McGuire's group. 

Let's look at a few takeaways from the loss. 

Three-Way QB Controversy? 

We've heard of two guys battling for the starting quarterback job. But does McGuire now have three legitimate starting options after the performance from Morton against the No. 7 team in the country on Saturday? 

Donovan Smith, who has risen to the top of the Big 12 in passing yards (1,475) since taking over for the injured Tyler Shough in the opening game of the season, was active despite being banged up with a shoulder injury. 

Morton got the start, as he was making concentrated throws against the blitz and continued to show immense confidence early on. This included an opening-drive touchdown and a nine-yard score with his legs to end the first quarter. 

He did, however, have a costly interception right after Oklahoma State tied the game at 31-31, giving the Cowboys the ball back at the Tech 19-yard line.

Morton kept putting up a fight on a bum knee until the end of the game, as he finished 39 of 62 passing for 379 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. While visibly uncomfortable with the injury, he still finished with 16 carries for 46 yards and another score.

With Shough inching closer to a return and Smith already with some proven success as a starter, McGuire now has a huge decision on his hands headed into a matchup with the West Virginia Mountaineers. 

Tech's defense bent before it finally broke

The Red Raiders held one of the highest-scoring offenses in the country in check for the first half before things slowly started to cave in. 

Oklahoma State did jump out to a 14-7 behind two quick touchdown drives in the first quarter, but production was relatively stalled from there headed into the half. 

Tech forced the Cowboys into two three-and-outs in the first half and held them to just a field goal after a 16-play drive, keeping it at a 24-20 Red Raiders lead after two quarters. 

Even after Morton's interception in the third quarter gave the Cowboys possession right outside the red zone, the Tech defense held up and forced a field goal after a goal-line stand. 

Two more forced punts gave Tech's offense a chance late, but it was the final 11-play, 57-yard touchdown drive that broke the Red Raiders' back. 

Tech held Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders to a season-low 48.9 completion percentage and sacked him a season-high three times. 

But Sanders' experienced ability as a dual-threat weapon eventually made the difference as he finished with 17 carries for 56 yards and two scores, the second of which was the game-sealer. 

Jerand Bradley stepped up in Myles Price's absence 

The Red Raiders were without their leading receiver on Saturday, as Myles Price was nursing an ankle injury. 

But in a receiving room that has proven to have multiple weapons this season, Jerand Bradley came up big on the other end of the arm of the freshman Morton. 

After an impressive season-opening performance, Bradley had been a bit quiet over the past few weeks. But the freshman led Tech in receiving on Saturday, as he totaled eight catches for 119 yards and a touchdown that opened up the scoring on an impressive snag in the back of the end zone. 

You can follow Zach Dimmitt on Twitter at @ZachDimmitt7

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