And the 38-24 victory over Baylor at AT&T Stadium also turned down the heat just a bit on coach Kliff Kingsbury, who is in desperate need of a winning season to keep his job secure in Lubbock.
The win was more perfunctory than spectacular, although it started in dramatic fashion when Tech’s Keke Coutee returned the opening kickoff for a 92-yard touchdown. The Red Raiders put an emphatic end to their scoring when defensive back Douglas Coleman stripped the ball from Baylor wideout Tony Nicholson and seamlessly returned it for a 31-yard score.
Tech improved to 5-5, 2-5 in Big 12 play. They’ll go home to prepare for next week’s game against TCU and then will close the regular season at Texas on Nov. 24.
“We like our team,” Kingsbury said. “We think we’ve had moments where we feel like we can play with anybody. We just have to be more consistent.”
Baylor, a week removed from its first win of the year, fell to 1-9, 1-6. The Bears play host to Iowa State next Saturday and then end their season at TCU.
Although the score suggested a tighter game, Tech was in control from the opening kick to the final three rushing calls for tailback Desmond Nisby to wind down the clock. Forcing four turnovers that translated into 17 points gave a team that sort of clout.
Red Raider quarterback Nic Shimonek completed his first 10 passes against a soft Baylor defense designed to thwart any sort of long play. He was 24 of 29 for 246 yards with touchdown passes to T.J. Vasher and Cameron Batson. Tailback Tre King also scored from a yard away.
Kingsbury said the offense never really recovered from some clumsy play near the goal line midway through the third quarter. On first down and goal from the Baylor 3-yard line, Shimonek stretched forward for what appeared to be a touchdown. But after a review, officials ruled he was inches short. A play later, King fumbled just as he was crossing the goal line. A review of the play confirmed the fumble, which was recovered by Tyrone Hunt in the end zone, giving the Bears a touchback and the possession at the 20-yard line.
But Baylor couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity. On second and four from the 31-yard line, Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer fumbled. Defensive lineman Mychealon Thomas fell on it at the 35-yard line. The turnover set up Clayton Hatfield’s 39-yard field goal, giving Tech a 24-7 lead.
Tech totaled only 337 yards, the second fewest it’s gained this season. And Baylor was on the field for nearly 13 minutes longer than the Red Raiders.
“I just think at times we just get stagnant,” Kingsbury said. “In the first half, we didn’t have many possessions, missed a couple of things that you’d like to hit. Second half, it was a little funky after we fumbled on the 1. I felt like we didn’t recover. And you get in a situation where we are trying to run some clock and didn’t have many explosive plays after that.”
Baylor’s Brewer, a true freshman making his second straight start, was the offensive star on the field. He threw for 417 yards, completing 43 of his 63 attempts. Both the attempts and completions set school records. Brewer threw touchdown passes to Denzel Mims, Pooh Stricklin and Gavin Holmes. But Brewer couldn’t pull his team closer than 10 points in the second half.
The Tech defense only sacked Brewer one time. But he fumbled twice and had a pass picked off in the end zone with 17 seconds to go in the first half.
“When you have all those turnovers,” said Tech defensive lineman Broderick Washington, “you erase all the ugly.”