LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Malik Dunlap returned the first of his two interceptions for a touchdown, Tahj Brooks set a career high with 158 yards rushing and Texas Tech got its first win of the season, beating lower-division Tarleton State 41-3 on Saturday night.
The Red Raiders (1-2) led for good when Dunlap had a 54-yard interception return only 2 1/2 minutes into the game.
“I was really proud of our team. ... Created three turnovers, had a chance for a few more,” Red Raiders coach Joey McGuire said.
Tarleton State (2-1) trailed 41-0 until Adrian Guzman's 21-yard field goal with 5:04 left in the game. That came at the end of the same drive when Texans junior receiver Jaden Smith was taken off the field on a stretcher after being down near the goal line for several minutes while being treated by trainers from both teams. ESPN's broadcast said Smith had a neck injury.
Tarleton State said afterward that Smith was transported to the hospital for further evaluation, and was undergoing testing, but had full neurological function.
“He was moving everything out there. He was talking to us. So the initial reports on the field were good,” Texans coach Todd Whitten said. “Certainly prayers up for Smitty. But I think, I feel like, you know, what I saw out there on the field was positive.”
Smith had given a thumbs-up with both hands as the motorized cart with him on a stretcher was driving off the field. He had an incredible one-handed diving catch for a 33-yard gain earlier in the fourth quarter.
Tech quarterback Tyler Shough was 10-of-20 passing for 123 yards with a touchdown and ran for another score before coming out of the game after only one series in the second half. Behren Morton, a four-game starter as a redshirt freshman last year when Shough was hurt, completed 8 of 13 passes for 72 yards with two touchdowns and an interception after that.
“I know everybody’s going to ask about the quarterbacks, so I’ll go ahead and tell you that was my plan from last week. That was going to happen no matter what,” McGuire said. “Tyler Shough's our starter and he’ll be starting against West Virginia. So that’s not an issue or question.”
Tarleton State, in the fourth and final season of its transition to the Football Championship Subdivision from NCAA Division II, entered the game averaging 518 total yards per game and leading the FCS with 52 points a game. The Texans were held to 342 total yards but avoided being held scoreless for the first time since midway through the 2015 season.
Texans quarterback Victor Gabalis completed 21 of 40 passes for 182 yards with three interceptions. Benjamin Omayebu had 12 catches for 76 yards.
A LOT EARLY
Brooks had 140 yards on 15 carries at halftime, already surpassing his previous career high of 134 yards set against Houston in the 2021 opener. He had only four carries in the first two drives of the second half before coming out of the game.
Tarleton State: The Texans didn’t have a first down on their first three drives and were already down 21-0 by then. They got to around Tech’s 33 on each of its next two possessions, but Dunlap had his second pick and the next drive ended on a fourth-down incompletion with Dunlap in coverage along the sideline.
Texas Tech: After a double-OT loss at Wyoming to open the season and a 38-30 loss at home last week to 13th-ranked Oregon, Shough’s former team, the Red Raiders, did what they needed to do against an overmatched opponent. They avoided their first 0-3 start since 1971. They have won their last 21 games against FCS opponents since losing to North Texas in 1988 but missed out on their first shutout in five years.
Tarleton State hosts Southwest Baptist on Saturday night.
Texas Tech plays its Big 12 opener Saturday at West Virginia.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll