ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Texas Tech hadn’t started a game like this since 1973. The Red Raiders hadn’t finished one like this in more than a month.
Keke Coutee had their first game-opening kickoff return for a touchdown in 44 years, and the Red Raiders got plenty of help from their defense to end a four-game losing streak with a 38-24 win over Baylor on Saturday.
“It was big. We needed this one, been right there the last four games … just couldn’t pull it out,” quarterback Nic Shimonek said. “I felt like we played one of our most complete games start to finish than we have all year. Good confidence builder.”
Texas Tech (5-5, 2-5 Big 12) still needs one more win to get bowl eligible, and there is still uncertainty about coach Kliff Kingsbury’s future at his alma mater. The Red Raiders won their first seven games after the former quarterback became coach in 2013, but are 22-31 since and missed out on bowl games two of the last three seasons.
Even though the Bears (1-9, 1-6) had 523 total yards, they were stopped on a fourth-and-goal from the 1 and had four turnovers. One of their two fumbles on quarterback-running back exchanges came inside the 10, and there was an interception in the end zone and another late fumble returned for a touchdown after a receiver got stripped.
“Turnovers erase all the ugly things that happen,” said defensive tackle Broderick Washington, relaying one of defensive coordinator David Gibbs’ messages to them. “We didn’t even know they had that many yards.”
Coutee took the opening kickoff back 93 yards to start the game with a touchdown return, the first for Tech since Lawrence Williams opened a 1973 game against New Mexico with a 95-yard TD.
“We put a huge emphasis on kickoff return unit this week. We knew we could make some plays on those guys,” Coutee said. “The first one worked out perfectly.”
Baylor got even when Charlie Brewer threw a 4-yard TD to Gavin Holmes on its opening drive, but the Red Raiders went ahead to stay on Tre King’s 1-yard TD run that capped their first offensive possession.
Shimonek threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns, the eighth time this season the fifth-year senior had multiple TD passes for Tech. Shimonek completed his first 10 passes for the third time this season, and finished 24-of-29 passing.
Brewer completed 43 of 63 passes for 417 yards and three touchdowns in his second start for the Bears, a week after they beat Kansas in his starting debut. Denzel Mims had 12 catches for 152 yards and a late score.
“I felt like we moved the ball very well throughout the game but those four turnovers really killed us,” Brewer said. “Very frustrating, we need to find a way to be more efficient in the red zone.”
Texas Tech: Coutee entered the game tied for the Big 12 lead with 69 catches, or 7.7 per game. He had only two catches against Baylor, but had the big play to start the game. Dylan Cantrell had 11 catches for the Red Raiders.
Baylor: Brewer and the young Bears can’t overcome so many turnovers and mistakes. Brewer is among 17 true freshmen who have played this season. They have two more games in coach Matt Rhule’s first season.
ALMOST IN, THEN OUT
On Tech’s opening drive of the second half, Shimonek kept the ball and stretched out when trying to get into the end zone. The play was initially ruled a touchdown, but overturned on a replay review that put the ball back inside the 1.
On the next play, King took and handoff and leaped toward the end zone with the ball in both hands extended in front of his body trying to reach into the end zone. The ball popped out of his hands after hitting the helmet of a defender. The fumble call was upheld, though some angles showed how close the ball was to maybe breaking the line for a touchdown.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders hosts No. 8 TCU in their last home game of the season next Saturday.
Baylor: The Bears play their home finale next Saturday against No. 24 Iowa State.
More AP college football: http://collegefootball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25