Texas Tech vs. West Virginia: ‘Hollywood’ Henry Colombi Holds Off the Mountaineers in Lubbock
While Texas Tech's matchup against the West Virginia Mountaineers Saturday afternoon wasn't a must-win in the strictest sense of the word, it was still important in another way: it was Utah State transfer Henry Colombi's first start for Lubbock's team.
Colombi took over for a foundering Alan Bowman, who led the team to a 1-3 record heading into the game.
Colombi was up for the task early. After a big pass on the Red Raiders' first possession put the team in the red zone, Colombi and co. went for it on 4th and goal, and it was the QB himself who put the first points on the board. A PAT put Texas Tech up 7-0.
West Virginia fought back quickly, taking advantage of gaps in protection to nail a pair of passes that placed the Mountaineers within striking distance. Star running back Leddie Brown would jog it in to tie up the game, 7-7. From early on, it was clear Brown would be a thorn in the side of Texas Tech's defense.
Back on the ball, Colombi wouldn't be able to convert on 3rd down, giving West Virginia a shot to take over. The Mountaineers averted disaster at one point in the drive when Thomas Leggett leaped in front of a receiver to easily pick off a pass, but couldn't get a foot in bounds. The move, however, helped rally the Red Raiders defense, which collapsed on the Mountaineers' offense, including a failed 4th down attempt.
Colombi would show off his legs to get a 1st down on the subsequent drive, followed by a TD run from SaRodorick Thompson. The star running back darted up the middle and took off with little resistance. A missed PAT from Trey Wolff, however, threw some cold water on the big drive. The botched kick, which went right into the legs of the O-line, was Wolff's 4th missed PAT so far this season.
But you could tell the crowd, the atmosphere, the Red Raiders' momentum or some combination of the three was beginning to get to WVU QB Jarret Doege. An overthrown pass and squelched runs would give the Red Raiders a shot to continue their offensive onslaught as the 2nd quarter loomed with the score 13-7.
Colombi drew a targeting penalty during a previous run to remove a Mountaineer DB from the field, but the hard hit didn't stop him from putting his legs to work.
A big sack against Colombi set up a 3rd down and 14 for the Red Raiders, who would take a chance on 4th and 2. The dropped pass, however, would turn it over to the Mountaineers. Using Brown, West Virginia aggressively moved the ball, but a key tackle by Texas Tech's DeMarcus Fields set up a tough choice on 4th and 5. Opting for points over possibilities, a 41-yard field goal by Evan Staley closed the gap to 13-10.
The Red Raiders struggled in the following drive. Colombi would get knocked around a little, but shook off two sacks to run for a clutch first down. An overturned fumble call, along with an unsportsmanlike call against the WVU player who had previously been ejected for targeting, would keep the Red Raiders' drive alive.
Not comfortable giving Wolff a long field goal attempt, Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells would go for it on 4th and 11. A bullet from Colombi to Erik Ezukanma placed the Red Raiders in the red zone. Colombi connected with redshirt freshman Trey Cleveland to end a 13-play, 75-yard drive with another TD for Texas Tech. Cleveland's first-ever touchdown would give the Red Raiders some breathing room, 20-10.
In the final minute of the half, West Virginia converted on 4th and 1 to make it to midfield and fought to keep points within their grasp. Using time outs to extend those 30 seconds, the Mountaineers scraped to get into field goal range. Texas Tech used its final timeout to ice Evan Staley before a 45-yard field goal attempt, but the WVU kicker was undeterred, adding three points and ending the 2nd quarter 20-13, Texas Tech.
At the end of the first half, one thing was clear: this wasn't the same Texas Tech offense seen in the first four games of the 2020 season.
The beginning of the second half immediately went sideways for the Red Raiders. A fumble by freshman receiver Ja'Lynn Polk gave the Mountaineers the ball near the red zone. T.J. Banks would score on a subsequent play to tie up the game, 20-20.
The return of SaRodorick Thompson would give the Texas Tech offense's next drive a boost, serving as a dual-threat for the Red Raiders. Colombi used all the tools in his toolbox, including tight end Travis Koontz and running back Xavier White, to keep moving the chains into West Virginia territory.
A perfect pass from Colombi in the midst of getting smashed by a West Virginia DB made it into the hands of Ezukanma for a clutch 3rd down conversion. Freshman running back Tahj Brooks would run it in with little resistance to put the Red Raiders back on top, 27-20.
The Mountaineers weren't out of it yet. On the outs on 4th down, the Mountaineers pulled off a perfectly executed fake punt to get the first down. One big throw later, and the Doege-led offense would be in the red zone. A Texas Tech-side facemask penalty would re-inflate the Mountaineers' stalling drive on 3rd down and provide Brown another rushing touchdown.
Tie game, 27-27.
A downed SaRodorick Thompson walked off the field, and later into the locker room, with an upper body/rib injury on the Red Raiders' next drive. With Xavier White also on the sidelines, Texas Tech was stuffed in and had to punt from their end zone. A monster punt from Austin McNamara, however, flipped the script, rolling into the other endzone. According to the announcers, the 87-yard punt was the longest in Texas Tech history.
The Mountaineers were forced to punt after a drive that went nowhere, but put the Red Raiders on their heels at their 9-yard line.
With White and Thompson hurt, the young Tahj Brooks, who previously scored a touchdown for the Red Raiders, would take over as the team's key running back as the game headed to the 4th quarter.
The story of the 3rd quarter: the Mountaineers dominated the numbers game.
The 4th quarter stalled when the Mountaineers and Red Raiders started trading punts like they were Pokemon cards.
The Red Raiders would get the only big play of the 4th quarter when Jarrett Doege threw it to the flats and Texas Tech forced a fumble. Zech McPhearson grabbed the ball and took it 59 yards back the other way for a touchdown, giving Texas Tech the lead, 34-27.
Texas Tech's Eli Howard would get a sack on the ensuing drive as the Red Raiders would force the 5th West Virginia punt of the game with just over five minutes of game time remaining.
Texas Tech would drive the ball for just over four minutes and get a few first downs giving the ball back on a punt with 49 seconds left on the clock.
Doege would complete a 26-yard pass to put West Virginia at midfield with one second left on the game clock. The following hail mary was picked off in the endzone by Damarcus Fields to ice the game for Texas Tech.
Final score: 34-27