Texas Tech survived an unlikely challenge from an FCS team Saturday.
The Red Raiders eked out a 42-35 home win against Central Arkansas at Jones AT&T Stadium to open their season. But the shower of boos from fans as time expired — a response to Central Arkansas' physical play following a Red Raiders kneel — would've fit as a response to how poorly Tech played.
“They just got their players ready to go and we didn't,” Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “That's on me. I'll take that one. We just didn't show up. To come out and have that many undisciplined penalties and turn the ball over twice and take a safety of the other one which counts as a turnover, it was pretty embarrassing to be honest.”
The Red Raiders were expected to win — and big.
They are now 18-1 against FCS programs and scored an average of 40.6 points in winning their previous 11 home openers. But two interceptions and 15 penalties for 114 yards nearly ended their 12-game season-opener winning streak and nearly gave them their first loss to an FCS team since 1988.
Saturday was their closest margin of victory against an FCS team ever. The previous mark had been a 21-point win came in 1985 against against North Texas, the lone FCS team to beat them.
Davis Webb and Brad Marquez did enough to lead the Red Raiders (1-0) to the win. The former threw for 452 yards, 10 short of his career high, and four touchdowns. Marquez caught two of those scores, as well as 11 passes for 184 yards. All were career highs for him.
The Red Raiders' rush came in the second half.
Webb finished the first half 21 of 32 for 198 yards and two interceptions. While he completed 65.6 percent of his passes, most of those were dinks and dunks.
He finished with a 10 of 11 performance in the third quarter, which included a 5-yard touchdown pass to Reginald Davis that gave the Red Raiders a 28-16 lead with 11:05 left. That capped 21 consecutive points that started with the Red Raiders trailing 16-7 with 10:38 left in the second quarter.
They finally broke through with a 70-yard touchdown to Marquez with 12:58 left in the fourth quarter. Marquez added his second touchdown, a 27-yarder, with 5:38 left in the game, for a 42-28 lead they wouldn't lose.
But they came close to doing so.
The Bears (0-1) brought the score to 42-35 with 2:57 left in the game on an 8-yard touchdown between backup quarterback Ryan Howard and receiver Damien Watts.
Dylan Cantrell recovered the Bears' ensuing onside kick, and the Red Raiders ran out the clock.
They needed the strong second-half performance after what happened early. Among the lowlights: needing two timeouts after improper substitutions on defense over the first 5:02 and one penalty for having 12 men on the field, which was part of six first-half penalties for 52 yards.
That included poor play from their young cornerbacks.
“We've got to grow up,” Kingsbury said. “We were way off most of the night.”
The rush offense — notably DeAndre Washington — buoyed the Red Raiders during the first half. DeAndre Washington finished with a career-high 104 yards on 20 carries.
“That's what they were giving us,” Kingsbury said. “We weren't able to run as well as we should have been able to, but I thought those guys carried it well. They didn't put it on the ground and made plays when we had to have them.”
(This first appeared in the Lubbock Avalanche Journal, a sister paper of the Log Cabin Democrat)