Midland -- Texas Tech Football invaded Midland for the seventh-straight year Friday evening, bringing a vibrant tailgating scene to Grande Communications Stadium as well as a back-and-forth battle between the Red Raider offense and defense.
The Midland area, home to one of Tech’s largest alumni bases, boasted one of its largest crowds in Tech’s first Friday Night Lights format, allowing three Permian Basin natives in McLane Mannix, Desmon Smith and Jax Welch to play in front of plenty of friends and family.
“It’s extremely important,” Tech head coach Matt Wells said of Midland’s importance to the university. “Midland is Texas Tech. I think this is my third time here, and it has been a huge welcome. I can feel the pride of Texas Tech, and I think it’s important to come down here and be around our alumni base.”
Similar to the Lubbock scrimmage a week ago, Wells placed both sides of the ball in various situations such as starting drives from the 50 or even from inside the offense’s own 1 yard line. The scrimmage also included several special teams periods.
The defense stole the spotlight early with stops on each of the first five drives of the night, highlighted by a pair of sacks from Eli Howard and Quentin Yontz. Adrian Frye, the Big 12 leader in interceptions this past season, created the only turnover of the scrimmage during that stretch, picking off a deep pass to Myller Royals and returning it 14 yards.
The offense got rolling soon after, though, as Trey Wolff connected on a 21-yard field goal before Royals broke loose on a 47-yard touchdown strike from Jett Duffey down the right side. It was the first of two long catches for Royals, who added a 37-yard haul from Alan Bowman during the closing two-minute drill as part of a team-leading 84 yards through the air.
Bowman led the Red Raider quarterbacks, completing 11-of-23 passes for 119 yards, while Duffey finished 8-of-14 for 76 yards and a touchdown. Colt Garrett was also 5-of-6 for 27 yards as one of six quarterbacks to see action.
On the ground, SaRodorick Thompson paved the way, carrying seven times for 66 yards, the majority of which came on a 47-yard touchdown scamper to cap a 99-yard scoring drive. Duffey navigated through several third-down conversions on that drive before Thompson escaped down the left side for the longest rushing play of the night.
Fellow running back Ta’Zhawn Henry added a 23-yard touchdown run up the middle later in the scrimmage, closing out a quick drive for the offense that started on the defense’s 25 yard line. Henry wrapped the scrimmage with six carries for 38 yards overall.
The defense picked up two key stops at the end, however, as Douglas Coleman III and DaMarcus Fields both broke up fourth-down passes in separate two-minute drills. Coleman’s deflection came on a pass in the end zone as time expired after the offense had already drove the length of the field facing a 42-37 deficit.
The Red Raiders will conclude spring ball this next week with practices on Tuesday and Thursday morning before heading to Frisco for the Spring Game. Kickoff for the Spring Series Presented by Pro Petro finale is slated for 2 p.m. inside the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco.