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The Joey McGuire era kicked off with a bang on Saturday night as Texas Tech buried Murray State 63-10 to give the Red Raiders a 1-0 start to the year. It was the highest scoring performance for the Raiders since 2018 and their head coach is all smiles about the direction of the program.

“I’m fired up. First win of the season…I was really proud,” said McGuire during the post-game press conference. 

He went on to list a number of young players that stepped up under the bright lights in Lubbock, such as receivers Loic Fouonji and Jerand Bradley, who hauled in two touchdown receptions apiece.

There were a ton of good things going on offensively for Tech, but the lone downturn was a devastating moment. Senior quarterback Tyler Shough left the game early in the first half only to return in a sling, leaving many to speculate that he’d re-injured his non-throwing collarbone. 

It would be the same injury that sidelined him last season and would be a heartbreaking blow to both Shough and this Raiders team.

With most of the game left to play, it was sophomore quarterback Donovan Smith’s time to take over and he delivered in style. 

Smith lit up the Racers, going 14-for-16 with 221 yards and 4 touchdowns through the air. After losing the position battle to Shough just days prior to the game, Smith remained focused, and McGuire applauded his young field general for how he performed under the pressure.

“One of our big deals as a team is ‘What’s next?’. It’s everything in life,” said McGuire. “Good things are going to happen, ‘what’s next?’. Bad things are going to happen, ‘what’s next?’. And I think it shows a lot about (Smith's) character…I was really proud of that.”

Smith was surgical in the victory over Murray State. Picking their defense apart on every pass play for a nearly perfect rating. 

He’ll likely be the Raiders starter for at least the next several weeks and McGuire believes that his ball club is in good hands.

“He was ready to play at an extremely high level…(Smith’s) ready to run this team whenever it’s his opportunity,” McGuire added.

On the other side of the ball, the Red Raiders were dominant, especially up front. Texas Tech overpowered the Murray St. offensive line at every turn, finishing the night with 13 tackles for loss and four sacks. 

That’s a huge improvement for a team that only averaged five tackles for loss per game last season, even if it is against an FCS opponent. Junior defensive lineman Philip Blidi made the biggest individual impact, recording two sacks and three tackles for loss.

“I'm proud of the defense. We played a lot of guys on defense,” noted McGuire, also mentioning that “We’ll add to the depth of that defensive front, that front seven. We’ll just keep getting better.”

Their opponents will also be getting better as the season goes along. The Raiders will face 24th-ranked Houston, who just came off a two-point win over UTSA in an overtime nail-biter. 

Alabama the Murray State Racers were not, but Tech did what they were supposed to do and moved seamlessly into a new starting quarterback at the drop of a hat. 

The Red Raiders will have their work cut out for them going forward, but that’s the reason McGuire’s here.

“That’s the number one thing at the end of the day…when that ball gets kicked off, all we care about is winning.”

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