Texas Tech opens the 2023 season in Laramie, Wyo., on Saturday, and second-year Red Raiders coach Joey McGuire doesn’t want his team to misunderstand why a rare road trip for a Power 5 team to the Mountain West needs to stir up excitement.
Especially for a Texas Tech team brimming with potential that wants to build on the momentum of a strong finish to last season.
“This is an extremely important game to us,” McGuire said on Monday. “I’m really excited about playing Wyoming.”
At the crux of the Red Raiders’ enthusiasm is an 8-5 record in McGuire’s initial season, which culminated with a 42-25 romp against Ole Miss in the Texas Bowl to cap a season-ending four-game winning streak.
Back from that team are 16 starters, 10 on offense, and a whole lot of confidence after Texas Tech notched victories against Texas and Oklahoma in the same season for the first time.
Wyoming coach Craig Bohl is well-versed in Red Raiders history. He was defensive coordinator at both Rice and Nebraska before carving out success at North Dakota State and Wyoming.
“That program has a proud tradition, but they also play with a chip on their shoulders, and they take on all comers,” Bohl said of Texas Tech. “I think it’s a great fit for Coach McGuire, and I’m excited about coaching against these guys.”
Dampening that excitement for Bohl and the Cowboys, who went 7-6 last season, is the challenge they face on Saturday.
A major reason why Texas Tech charged to the finish line was the healthy return of quarterback Tyler Shough, a transfer three years ago from Oregon. Those four wins gave Shough a 5-0 record as the starter last season and 8-1 since he arrived.
Shough was the bowl game MVP after passing for 242 yards and a touchdown and running for 111 yards and two scores. That came after he lit up the Oklahoma defense for a career-best 436 yards to key a 51-48 overtime triumph in the regular-season finale.
With Shough and a bevy of experienced weapons around him, Texas Tech figures to ratchet up its offense engineered by offensive coordinator Zach Kittley, a disciple of former Red Raiders and Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Last season, Texas Tech averaged 84.2 snaps and 461.4 yards per game. The Red Raiders led FBS by going on fourth down 52 times last season with a 63.5 percent success rate.
Wyoming is likely to counter with a running attack designed to play keep-away from the Red Raiders, although injuries to running backs Dawaiian McNeely (torn ACL) and Northern Illinois transfer Harrison Waylee (recovering from offseason knee surgery) have caused some shuffling and a much different look.
Instead of the big-body backs that have typified the Cowboys’ running game under Bohls, they will lean on 5-foot-7 D.Q. James and 5-8 Jamari Ferrell. The Cowboys also have the luxury of a veteran presence under center.
Quarterback Andrew Peasley is back at the controls and can rely on a familiar cast of receivers and tight ends: Wyatt Wieland, Alex Brown, Treyton Welch and John Michael Gyllenborg.
—Field Level Media
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