Kickoff return, blocked punt spark Texas Tech in 49-28 win over Houston

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LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Drae McCray returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, Loic Fouonji blocked a punt for one of his two scores and the Texas Tech offense did the rest in a 49-28 victory over Houston on Saturday.

The Red Raiders (2-3, 1-1 Big 12) won the first Big 12 meeting of former Southwest Conference foes despite 335 yards passing and four first-half touchdowns from Houston’s Donovan Smith, their former quarterback.

Behren Morton threw for two TDs in his first start after Tyler Shough sustained a long-term injury for the third consecutive season with a broken leg in Texas Tech’s league-opening loss at West Virginia last week.

Tahj Brooks and Cam’Ron Valdez rushed for 106 yards apiece, with Brooks scoring twice and Valdez getting a clinching 41-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.

The teams combined for just 14 points after halftime — all by Texas Tech — after scoring 63 in the first half, which ended with the Red Raiders leading 35-28.

Texas Tech has its longest winning streak in the series at six games and has won 11 of the past 12 meetings going back to the SWC days, which ended in 1995.

Smith’s first TD toss gave the Cougars (2-3, 0-2) the first points on an opening possession against the Red Raiders this season before McCray tied it on the ensuing kickoff.

The Austin Peay transfer fielded the ball 2 yards deep in the end zone and almost stopped before the 15-yard line to avoid tacklers, then found an opening along the Houston sideline and got a final clearing block near midfield from Drew Hocutt, the son of Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt.

Houston went 75 yards for touchdowns on each its first three possessions before finally stalling at its 33.

A little more than a minute after a 25-yard touchdown catch, Fouonji easily reached punter Laine Wilkins on a rush from the right side, kept running after the block and grabbed the ball chest-high on a bounce at the 5 for the easy score and Texas Tech’s first lead at 28-21.

Samuel Brown had 113 yards receiving and a touchdown for the Cougars, who have lost their first two conference games for just the second time in 20 years, a span that started with Conference USA before a switch to the American Athletic.

THE TAKEAWAY

Houston: Smith’s start was stunning in his first visit to Lubbock after playing 23 games over three seasons for the Red Raiders. He was 19 of 24 for 264 yards with all four his touchdowns before the break, but the Texas Tech defense adjusted. Smith was just 10 of 17 for 71 yards in the second half.

Texas Tech: After Shough’s latest injury, this could be the blueprint for Texas Tech victories. The 239 yards rushing were a season high, and they had 37 running plays against 22 pass attempts. The 59 plays were well below the average for an offense that ranks among the national leaders in plays per game.

UP NEXT

Houston: Off next weekend before hosting West Virginia on Thursday, Oct. 12.

Texas Tech: At Baylor next Saturday.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll

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