Tech Routs Utah State
By Garrett McKinnon
LUBBOCK, Texas - The comeback was short lived.
The Texas Tech Red Raiders (2-2) took a 28-13 lead into the locker room at the half time of their game against the Utah State Aggies (2-3). In the end, though, a third-quarter Aggie comeback was stifled and the Raiders went on to trounce the Ags 58-20.
For a while, it was not apparent if that lead would hold. The Raiders took the second half kickoff and were marching down the field when Aggie free safety Johndale Carter forced Tech's I-back Byron Hanspard to fumble. Two plays later, the Aggies were in the end zone courtesy of a 37-yard pass from quarterback Matt Sauk to wide receiver Steve Smith and a nine-yard run by running back Abu Wilson. Suddenly, a 28-13 lead was down to 28-20.
That's as close as the Aggies would get.
The Red Raiders scored 30 unanswered points in the third and fourth quarters en route to their second victory of the season.
Hanspard, a Heisman Trophy candidate who rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns in the first half alone, continued his torrid pace in the second half, finishing the game with 224 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries. He carried only once, a 39-yard scoring rush, in the fourth quarter.
The Red Raiders took over the ball at their own 20-yard line following the Aggies' third-quarter touchdown. On the second play of the drive, quarterback Zebbie Lethridge's deep pass was intercepted at the USU 25 by cornerback Dwayne Nelson.
The Raider defense returned the favor, though, when linebacker Robert Johnson intercepted Sauk's pass to end the Aggies' next drive.
Tech capitalized on the turnover when Lethridge found wide receiver Field Scovell in the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown pass, his second of the evening. Kicker Jaret Greaser's point-after attempt was wide right, and the Raiders led 34-20.
Johnson ended the next Aggie drive when he recovered Demario Brown's fumble at the USU 42-yard line. Three plays later, Lethridge hit tight end Kyle Allamon in full stride. Allamon strolled into the end zone from 38 yards out, scoring his first career touchdown on his first career reception. Greaser's PAT made it 41-20 with 6:29 left in the third quarter.
The Tech defense held the Aggies on their next possession, opening the way for a 23-yard Raider drive that set up Greaser's 48-yard field goal attempt. With 1:41 left in the third period, the Aggies faced a 44-20 deficit.
On their next possession, the Aggies drove to the Tech 35-yard line. A 17-yard penalty put them back on their own 41, where Tech cornerback Darwin Brown intercepted a Sauk pass and returned it to the USU 39-yard line just as time expired in the third.
Hanspard took the first hand off of the fourth quarter over right guard and was praying in the end zone 39 yards and seven seconds later. Tech led 51-20.
Patrick Mullins came in at quarterback for the Aggies on their next drive, and promptly threw an interception to Tech free safety Duane Price, who zigged and zagged his way 51 yards for his first career touchdown on his first career interception.
"When I caught that interception, I guess I was at the right place at the right time. The Georgia game was a heart breaker, but tonight we pulled together as a team and took control," said Price.
The Tech defense intercepted a fifth pass on the next drive when Johnson hauled in a Mullins throw at the Tech five-yard line and returned it to the Utah State 47. Greaser missed only his second kick of the year from 36 yards out after a short Raider drive.
On the next possession, the Aggies drove down to the Tech five-yard line, where they had a first-and-goal situation. The defense stiffened, and held Aggie wide receiver Nakia Jenkins short of the goal line on a fourth-down play. The Red Raider offense then ran out the clock, securing Tech's biggest win of the year.
"Tonight was a nice win for us. I felt our team made progress. We're capable of a lot of things and we proved that tonight. I think the big difference in tonight's ball game was that we kept coming. We had more depth and talent and were able to do more," said Tech head coach Spike Dykes. "We were good offensively. The line did well and so did Zebbie and the receivers. Zebbie continues to improve. He played extremely well."
"They are a much better team than we are," said Utah State coach John L. Smith. "We made them look better by making mistakes. We needed a perfect game to win. Zebbie Lethridge is an outstanding athlete. Fans that were doubting him were bandwagon fans."
In the first half, Tech scored on its first possession after cornerback Tony Darden recorded his second interception of the season on the game's initial play. Sauk had gone deep to wide receiver Shawn Turner when Darden leaped in front of the pass and picked it off.
Hanspard hit pay dirt from 22 yards out to give the Raiders a 7-0 lead. Fullback Sammy Morris scored from 22 yards out on the Raiders' next possession, as Tech built a 14-0 lead. Mullins replaced Sauk at QB for the Aggies and threw a 62 yard touchdown pass to Jenkins to cut the lead in half.
The Aggies made it 14-10 on their next possession when kicker Micah Knorr nailed a 46-yard field goal early in the second quarter.
Lethridge found wide receiver Stacy Mitchell in the end zone on the Raiders' next possession to widen the lead to 21-10.
The Aggies turned the ball over during their next series on an odd play. Facing fourth-down and 13 yards deep in their own territory, punter Nathan Morreale attempted to rush before punting the ball. He crossed the line of scrimmage before kicking it, though, getting a 15-yard and loss-of-down penalty for illegal kicking.
That gave the Raiders the ball at the USU 15-yard line and set up Hanspard's second touchdown, a six-yard jaunt, two plays later.
The Aggies scored on Knorr's 37-yard field goal late in the half.
"It felt great to play at home. I was amazed at how many yards we had on offense," said Lethridge.
For the game, the Raiders amassed 530 yards of total offense, the most since Tech had 578 against Houston in 1993. The Raiders also rolled up 347 yards on 47 carries.
Quarterback Zebbie Lethridge broke out of a slump by completing 14 passes in 24 attempts for 178 yards and three touchdowns. He threw an interception, but completed passes to 11 different players.
The Aggies had 434 yards agains the Raiders, the most of any Tech opponent this year. The two Utah State quarterbacks accounted for 316 of those yards through the air. In all, the Aggies threw five interceptions and had one fumble.
At: Lubbock Date: Sept. 28, 1996 Att: 39,778 Utah St 7 - 6 - 7 - 0 -- 20 Texas Tech 14 -14 -16 -14 -- 58 First Quarter Texas Tech-TD, Hanspard, 22 run (Greaser kick) Texas Tech-TD, Morris, 22 run (Greaser kick) Utah St-TD, N Jenkins, 62 pass from Mullins (Knorr kick) Second Quarter Utah St-FG, Knorr 46 Texas Tech-TD, Mitchell, 20 pass from Lethridge (Greaser kick) Texas Tech-TD, Hanspard, 6 run (Greaser kick) Utah St-FG, Knorr 37 Third Quarter Utah St-TD, A Wilson, 9 run (Knorr kick) Texas Tech-TD, Scovell, 17 pass from Lethridge (kick failed) Texas Tech-TD, Allamon, 38 pass from Lethridge (Greaser kick) Texas Tech-FG, Greaser 48 Fourth Quarter Texas Tech-TD,Hanspard, 39 run (Greaser kick) Texas Tech-TD, Price, 57 interception return (Greaser kick) Utah St Texas Tech First downs 22 26 Rushed-yards 33-118 47-352 Passing yards 316 178 Sacked-yards lost 1-6 3-10 Return yards 0 112 Passes 22-45-5 14-24-1 Punts 5-42.2 3-37.7 Fumbles-lost 2-1 3-2 Penalties-yards 12-95 7-70 Time of possession 31:11 28:49 RUSHING: Utah St-A Wilson 23-104, Brown 5-18, Morreale 2-8, Sauk 2-minus 4, S Smith 1-minus 8. Texas Tech-Hanspard 22-224, Ervin 7-54, Morris 3-37, Peters 2-30, R Jones 2-2, Robertson 2-2, Renda 1-2, Lethridge 8-1. PASSING: Utah St-Mullins 8-19-3-136, Sauk 14-26-2-180. Texas Tech-Lethridge 14-24-1-178. RECEIVING: Utah St-N Jenkins 8-114, S Smith 6-109, A Wilson 4-25, Turner 2-53, Frazier 1-13, Chavez 1-2. Texas Tech-Scovell 2-30, Morris 2-23, Hanspard 2-4, Allamon 1-38, Mitchell 1-20, Mckenzie 1-17, Dubuc 1-15, Bass 1-11, Ervin 1-9, Hart 1-9, Hayes 1-2.