Let’s be honest.
Despite the 60 minutes of competition, the outcome Thursday night was never in doubt. There was no drama involving the scoreboard. The final score of Texas Tech 55, Kansas 19 was pretty much as expected.
The “breaking news” didn’t involve the Red Raiders’ victory. It was all about one of Texas Tech’s 79 plays that might change the course of its season.
Midway through the third quarter, the Jayhawks had pulled within 28-19 and the Red Raiders’ offense was struggling. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes galloped to a career-best 32-yard run on a second-and-six play.
At the end of the run, instead of sliding, he was tackled with KU’s Isaiah Bean and his 215 pounds driving Mahomes’ right shoulder into the turf. The national leader in total offense and passing yards per game left the field, tried one short throw on the sideline and then headed to the locker room.
Chris Level, the sideline reporter for the Texas Tech radio network, reported that Mahomes had an “upper arm injury.”
Interviewed by Level after the game, coach Kliff Kingsbury offered this report on Mahomes: “We’ll see. Sounds like he should be OK, but we’ve got to go get him checked out.”
In a follow-up question, Kingsbury was asked why he thought Mahomes would be okay: “I didn’t see the trainer jump off the side of the stadium.”
So if there’s levity, perhaps there’s no gravity.
Texas Tech’s next six games: at Kansas State, West Virginia, Oklahoma, at TCU, Texas, at Oklahoma State. While a healthy Mahomes is preferable for the Red Raiders’ chances in those games, what we learned is that Texas Tech has a more than capable backup.
Nic Shimonek, who transferred from Iowa, concluded the drive on which Mahomes was injured with a 4-yard TD pass to Dylan Cantrell. Shimonek was 4-of-5 on the drive and carried that accuracy through the rest of his performance. He finished 15-of-21 for 271 yards and four touchdowns.
“That was awesome,” Kingsbury said of Shimonek. “There is not a harder worker on the team, and it was exciting to have the fans see what he can do. We are comfortable (if we have to go with him). He knows where to go with the ball and did a really good job tonight.”
Texas Tech became the first Big 12 team to have two quarterbacks each throw four touchdowns. Mahomes was 27-of-34 for 277 yards and four TDs.
The Red Raiders rolled to 622 total yards as the two quarterbacks combined to complete 42-of-55 for 548 yards.
That passing success proved that Texas Tech has found a go-to receiver. Sophomore Jonathan Giles had 12 catches for 219 yards and two TDs. Over the last two games, Giles has totaled 18 receptions for 405 yards and five TDs.
“There’s a reason their offense is second in the country,” Kansas coach David Beaty said. “Those dudes can score fast.”
The offensive success – four touchdowns over the last 20 minutes – overshadowed a ragged performance by the Red Raiders’ special teams. Punter Erik Baughman dropped a snap in the end zone for a safety. Cameron Batson’s muffed punt led to a KU touchdown. Kicker Clayton Hatfield missed an extra point and then shanked a kickoff out of bounds.
Texas Tech also committed 12 penalties for 70 yards. Two penalties on the offensive line wiped out pass plays that went for 36 and 31 yards.
“I don’t think our O-line played very well, and it’s something we’ve got to address,” Kingsbury said.
Kansas recovered from Texas Tech’s roaring start – a 14-0 lead in the first five minutes – to keep the home fans from celebrating until the fourth quarter. Thanks to a muffed Texas Tech punt, the Jayhawks scored to pull within 28-16 and then followed that up with a defensive three-and-out.
KU’s momentum on the ensuing drive stopped after gaining a first and goal at the Texas Tech 4. Consecutive penalties (false start, intentional grounding) pushed the Jayhawks back to the 24 before they kicked a field goal to make the score 28-19.
Giving up eight touchdown passes and over 600 yards of offense would indicate that the Jayhawks’ defense was overmatched, but Kansas at times was able to contain the Red Raiders. KU’s offense failed to help out, producing just 290 yards as quarterbacks Montell Cozart and Ryan Willis were ineffective.
It was the Jayhawks’ 36th consecutive road loss and 32nd consecutive road loss in the Big 12. Over the last seven seasons, Kansas is 4-58 in the Big 12.
Thursday night, most people didn’t care at the end: The status of Patrick Mahomes occupied the attention of the college football world.
Texas Tech lives in a realm where a 36-point victory produced an incomplete performance and a considerable amount of anxiety. At least the Red Raiders know that if Mahomes doesn’t heal quickly, they have another quarterback who appears capable of leading their offense.