Pulling off a quick toss from Smith, scoring a touchdown

Junior runningback Tahj Brooks scores a touchdown up the Red Raiders' lead to 35-10 at the Tech football game versus Murray State at the Jones AT&T Stadium Sept. 3, 2022.

Tahj Brooks and SaRodorick Thompson established themselves as a formidable running back duo last season — each scoring a touchdown in Tech’s Liberty Bowl win over Mississippi State — and seemed to have picked up right where they left off this season despite a new coaching staff. 

Brooks burst on the scene with three rushing touchdowns in Tech’s season opener against Murray State on Saturday after a breakout sophomore season that saw him lead the Red Raiders in rushing yards (568), according to Tech Athletics. 

“It was awesome just to let the whole nation know that we’re a team to be dealt with,” Brooks said after the highest scoring game of his career. “If you come in just thinking you’re going to beat us then you’ve got the wrong answer.”

The first hat-trick of his career, Brooks is the first Big 12 running back to score three rushing touchdowns in a game this season after ten did so last year, according to Big 12 Sports. 

Tech was responsible for just one of those occurrences when Thompson recorded a career-high 170 all-purpose yards against Texas Christian University on Oct. 9, 2021 according to Tech Athletics. 

Despite leading the Red Raiders with 10 rushing touchdowns last season, it took Thompson until the third game of the season to score a rushing touchdown. He’s still looking for the first of his senior season after racking up a scoreless 48 rushing yards against Murray State.

However, Thompson made the most of his lone catch in the opener, turning a checkdown pass 30 yards from the endzone into his first career touchdown reception. A stutter step was needed to get past his first defender and then used his speed to outrun the rest of MSU’s defense.

“He’s very dynamic. Really good in pass protection, great ball carrier. It just kind of was what it was with the rotation,” Tech offensive coordinator Zach Kittley said. “When you saw him, you know, he’s really fun to watch … He’s special, a special young man, I’m glad he’s here for one more go with us.”

Thompson showed promise as a receiver out of the backfield last season by hauling in six receptions for 113 yards, averaging over 18 yards per catch. Brooks also had six catches last season for 52 yards (8.67 yards per catch), according to Tech Athletics. 

Kittley said it’s a helpful tool for his offense to have reliable receiving threats out of the backfield when attempting to stretch the opposing defense. 

“We’re gonna try to stretch the defense - kind of like we did this last week - that’s gonna make them retreat more so those checkdowns and layoff throws are gonna be there,” Kittley said. 

While Thompson offers upside in the passing game, his running mate offers a consistent option in the running attack. Brooks averaged 6.5 yards per carry last season, the third best mark in the conference according to Big 12 Sports. His bang-for-your-buck running style is reflective of his 5-10, 230 lb frame. 

After his explosive first game under the new offensive coordinator, Brooks said Kittley’s offense is a great one for running backs to thrive in. 

“He’s gonna get you the ball in different ways, as people know seeing him, so it’s just awesome to be in his offense,” Brooks said. 

Brooks was on pace to record a 100-yard game against Murray State when his snaps ended at halftime after racking up exactly 50 yards. He surpassed that mark three times last season, which led the team, according to Tech Athletics. 

Thompson and Brooks will look to rebound from leading a Red Raider rushing attack that finished among the Big 12’s bottom three teams in total rushing yards, according to Big 12 Sports.

The duo ended last season with a pair of strong performances in Tech’s Liberty Bowl win last season and appeared to pick up right where they left off with dominant performances against Murray State`

Brooks said he spent a lot of time in the offseason learning from Thompson during film study and feels their relationship resembles one shared by brothers.

“I call him lover boy, that’s my guy. He’s a big brother, he’s a role model. We watch film almost every day together, really just get into the details of football,” Brooks said. “He’s someone I can talk to about personal issues or things like that, it just goes on a personal level.”

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