LUBBOCK, Texas — Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders fumbled the ball on the third play of the game at Texas Tech, and the turnovers never stopped for the Cowboys.
Sanders threw three interceptions and lost two fumbles in a 45-35 loss to the Red Raiders.
It’s the first time since 2012 OSU has committed five turnovers in a game.
The OSU offense had an uncharacteristically slow start Saturday. The No. 21 Cowboys had four punts, two interceptions and a lost fumble in their first seven possessions, while Texas Tech racked up 20 points in its first seven drives to hand OSU (4-2, 1-2 Big 12) its first loss in Lubbock since 2008.
“Two things that we hadn’t done, and we actually have done a good job of, was not giving up big plays this year and taking care of the ball, for the most part,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “But when you have five turnovers, particularly on the road, it’s even worse and then we’re giving up big plays on defense. That’s really what it comes down to.”
The Texas Tech defense smothered Sanders by sacking the redshirt freshman seven times and forced two of his interceptions on back-to-back series. Sanders threw for 290 yards and two touchdowns on 22-of-37 passing.
His first interception was on the first play of the drive and his second was on the third play of the following series. Despite having offensive lineman Teven Jenkins back in the lineup, the offensive line didn’t do Sanders any favors. Texas Tech (3-2, 1-1) had consistent pressure on him.
“I want to say the first two interceptions were based on protection issues,” Gundy said. “If that’s true, it’s hard to blame him. Now, I might watch the tape and see differently, but that was my gut feeling.”
Offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson said turnovers are never on one guy, but Sanders took responsibility for them after the game.
“I had five turnovers, not the offensive line, not the receivers, not the defense. I did,” Sanders said. “Spencer Sanders had five turnovers. (I) can’t do that, so I’ve just got to do better.”
The Cowboys were shut out in the first quarter for the first time in 16 games and trailed Texas Tech 13-0 heading into the second quarter. OSU was 30 seconds shy of being shut out in the first half for the first time in five years, but running back Chuba Hubbard’s 3-yard touchdown run cut the Red Raiders’ lead to 20-7 right before the half. Hubbard rushed for 156 yards and three TDs on 34 carries.
Moving the ball was a struggle for the Cowboys early. OSU didn’t drive past the Texas Tech 40-yard line until its eighth series. That drive ended with a turnover on downs at the Red Raiders 34 after Hubbard picked up 2 yards on a fourth-and-3 play.
The OSU offense had a better second half, scoring 28 points. However, the Cowboys couldn’t keep Texas Tech from scoring to completely close the gap. The OSU defense stopped the Red Raiders from converting on 11-of- -13 third-down attempts but still allowed quarterback Jett Duffey to pass for 424 yards and four touchdowns.
“I think we got behind in the game and allowed them to open up their offense,” Gundy said about Texas Tech. “I think it allowed (Duffey) to freelance, and he got very comfortable with what he was doing.”
The Cowboys had a chance to cut the Tech lead to one score late in the third quarter, but Texas Tech forced a fumble on a Sanders sack and recovered it on the Red Raiders 30. The Red Raiders turned the miscue into a 26-yard field goal.
OSU trailed by as many as 24 points in the second half, but 14 unanswered points cut the Texas Tech lead to 45-35 with 3:37 remaining. A Texas Tech punt gave the ball back to the Cowboys with 3:02 remaining, but Sanders threw his third interception with 1:15 left.
“There was a lot of blame to be put around,” Gundy said. “Quarterbacks, offensive line, corners, the coaches, everybody. But in the big picture, if you turn the ball over that many times, no matter what forced those turnovers, and if you give up big plays, it’s difficult to win. And that’s what we did today.”