LAWRENCE, Kan. — Two plays into the second half Saturday ended any mystery over whether No. 20 Texas Tech would remain undefeated.
Taking over from its 35-yard line, a pass thrown by Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps promptly bounced off the hands of receiver Tony Pierson and was intercepted by the Red Raiders’ J.J. Gaines.
Gaines’ return, as well as a personal foul on the tackle, put Tech on the Kansas 4-yard line. DeAndre Washington immediately rushed in untouched to boost the lead to 17 points. Tech eventually clubbed Kansas 54-16 in Memorial Stadium to climb to 5-0 overall. The Red Raiders are tied for the Big 12 lead at 2-0.
The 5-0 start is the first for the Red Raiders since 2008. Kliff Kingsbury became just the second first-year coach at Tech to attain that mark, joining Dell Morgan (1941).
True freshman quarterback Baker Mayfield, whose passing production had steadily decreased since he threw for 413 yards in the opener against SMU, completed 33 of 51 passes for 368 yards.
Mayfield injured his right knee, however, on the last play of the third quarter and left the field on crutches. Afterward, Kingsbury did not address the severity of the injury.
Tech’s backup QB, freshman Davis Webb, struck on his first attempt, firing a 25-yard touchdown to Eric Ward. Webb had split time with Mayfield the previous three games, including a 310-yard passing performance against Texas State on Sept. 21.
Three Tech receivers — Ward, Jace Amaro and Jakeem Grant — exceeded 90 yards receiving while combining for 23 receptions.
After it was outgained in yardage 121-85 in the first quarter, Tech went on a rampage and finished with a 519-266 advantage. It ran 100 plays.
“They came out with some things locked down,” said Kingsbury, “but I thought our offense did a good job not panicking, continued to make routine plays and things just snowballed for us.”
One of the Red Raiders’ key strengths, their defensive front, was vital in holding Kansas (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) to 53 yards on 37 carries, a 1.4-yard average. The Jayhawks rushed for 390 yards in last year’s meeting, which the Red Raiders won at home in double-overtime. James Sims, the second-leading rusher in the Big 12, was limited to just nine carries for 28 yards.
“That was one of the things we were harping on,” said Tech linebacker Will Smith, who had one of the Raiders’ three sacks among his team-high six tackles. “This is not the same defense as last year, so let’s let that be known pretty early and I feel like we did a good job with that.”
Kansas led 10-0 with scores on its first two possessions. From that point, its possessions ended with a punt, punt, punt, fake punt, interception, punt, punt, turnover on downs, punt, fumble, and fumble, before a pair of backups, quarterback Michael Cummings and wide receiver Andrew Turzilli, connected for a 28-yard touchdown pass with 7:43 remaining.
The loss was the 22nd in a row in Big 12 play for the Jayhawks, who are 0-10 in conference games under second-year coach Charlie Weis.
Momentum swung completely in the first half when Kansas inexplicably tried a fake punt deep in its territory midway through the second quarter and the score tied 10-10.
Punter Trevor Pardula did not bobble the snap and did not seem to be pressured when he took off on fourth-and-13 from his own 16. Pardula only got back to the line of scrimmage. Tech gained possession and scored on its second play, a 19-yard keeper by Mayfield.
“That was a big momentum shift,” said Kansas defensive tackle Keon Stowers. “When you’ve got momentum on your side, with a team like this, we’re not a great team. We understand that, so we’ve got to do every little thing right.”
Tech added a 25-yard field goal by Ryan Bustin as time expired for a 20-10 lead at halftime. Bustin tied a career high with four field goals.
The Red Raiders scored 44 unanswered points following the fake punt attempt by Kansas, part of 54 unanswered points overall.
“It isn’t any one play,” said Weis, “whether it’s a fake punt or an interception off a deflection, it’s really not relevant. There was just too many negative plays across the board.”
Kansas began the game strong, scoring on its first two possessions. An interception by linebacker Ben Heeney, who finished with 12 tackles, gave the Jayhawks the ball at the Tech 44. The Jayhawks settled for a 32-yard field goal by Matthew Wyman.
After holding Tech to a three-and-out, Kansas marched 79 yards in nine plays as Heaps hit tight end Jimmay Mundine with a 25-yard touchdown strike. Heaps went 5-for-5 on the drive for 72 yards. The 10-0 lead, however, evaporated as Kansas generated just one more first down on its last five possessions of the half.
Tech recovered behind 189 yards passing from Mayfield, who moved into the starting role in fall camp after sophomore Michael Brewer suffered a back injury. Tech had 290 total yards at the break, blending in a ground game that added 101 yards on 23 carries.