Colombi calling the signals again, but questions surround Red Raider defense

Gold and Blue Nation

(Photo courtesy Texas Tech Athletics)

Texas Tech started the season with three straight wins — but it takes just one game to change the narrative of a season.

On the first Big 12 road trip, the Red Raiders trekked across the Lone Star State to square off against the Texas Longhorns. After four quarters of football, they went from undefeated, to victims of the Longhorns’ wrath, losing 70-35.

“I think the vibe around the program within the program is kind of the, ‘it’s just one game,’ but the vibe if you listen on Twitter — which you shouldn’t for anything ever — is [head coach] Matt Wells went from…having an approval rating of near 70 percent last week, to a few days, everyone wants him fired for one game,” said Eric Kelly, who covers Texas Tech for KLBK’s Red Raider Nation. “So I really think it’s the classic, like, what happens when any coach comes in the season on a relatively warm seat, is everything is going good until you lose.”

There were plenty of variables in that contest that may have led to the lopsided victory — for example, the Red Raiders lost their starting quarterback Tyler Shough in the early minutes of the second quarter as he dove for a score, but since they were already down two touchdowns, it’s difficult to tell whether or not that impacted the final score.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and when Henry Colombi is on the roster, he’s getting the start against the Mountaineers. West Virginia fans got to know Colombi well in 2020 when he got the start against the Mountaineers in Lubbock. He gave the Mountaineers some fits — he threw 22-of-28 for 169 yards and a touchdown, while adding 40 yards and a score on the ground. He had a strong game against Texas this season as well, notching 324 yards, three touchdowns and a pick in the losing effort.

“People can say it was already kind of out of control at that point, but you’ve still gotta play well,” Kelly said.

Colombi has a corps of familiar skill players around him to help him out on offense — the running back trio of SaRodorick Thompson, Xavier White and Tahj Brooks have returned for another year, with Brooks leading the touch tally so far. Similarly, Erik Ezukanma leads nearly the same receiver room, plus the addition of Troy transfer Kaylon Geiger Sr.

Texas Tech’s problems reside on the other end of the ball, however. They sit ninth in the Big 12 in both major defensive statistical categories, which obviously wasn’t helped by the 70 points they gave up to the Longhorns.

Through four games, those numbers are marred by a short sample size, and that Texas matchup could be an outlier — before that, they hadn’t allowed more than 22 points in a game, and the Red Raiders largely looked like they had made forward steps.

“Overall, this is a really improved defensive unit, and last year we threw one or two games out and really, when you looked at it outside of those two games, it was a really good unit,” Kelly added. “I think when we look back on this season, it will be the same way for this one.”

Catch the full interview with Kelly on Saturday’s live edition of Mountaineer GameDay, airing at 10 a.m. ET on West Virginia Nexstar stations and 11 a.m. ET on AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh.

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