Black Friday feels like an appropriate moniker for what happened at Royal-Memorial Stadium. Unless you were wearing red and black, of course.
For the second time in three years, Texas Tech came to Austin and ruined Thanksgiving weekend for the locals. The Longhorns turned it over four times in the second half and had to choke down a 27-23 loss in front of an announced crowd of 100,629.
Nobody does mediocrity quite like Texas (6-6, 5-4 Big 12). So much for all those positive vibes coming off the West Virginia win. A team that had visions of a three-game winning streak heading into the bowl season now faces the prospect of a fourth straight losing year.
Quarterback Sam Ehlinger threw two interceptions late in the fourth quarter, making it all too easy for the Red Raiders (6-6, 3-6). The first was returned 55 yards to set up the go-ahead score. The second with 55 seconds left clinched it for the happy out-of-towners, who are now bowl-eligible.
“For it to happen again, and let down the team again, it’s awful,” said Ehlinger, now responsible for game-deciding mistakes in three losses.
This was a night that provided new fodder for offensive coordinator Tim Beck’s critics. The Horns had a pedestrian 388 yards and went 7 for 22 on third down. The Horns had seven three-and-outs.
Asked how his team could look so good one week and not the next, Texas coach Tom Herman said, “I don’t know. I don’t know. They’re kids. We’ve got to figure that out, obviously. But I don’t have a good answer for you.”
Texas is going to a bowl game, although the destination is now foggy. No announcements will be made until Dec. 3. “We’ll see when our slot comes up and what conversations occur,” UT men’s athletic director Mike Perrin said. “I’m just glad we’re going to a bowl this year.”
It sure beats the alternative. Texas hasn’t been a bowl game since 2014. What’s more, the same Longhorns that played for two national titles in the previous decade are still just four games over .500 since the start of 2010.
Talk about shell-shocked. Senior Armanti Foreman walked off the field crying. All-American left tackle Connor Williams, who may not return, had to be pulled away from an official afterward while yelling, “That’s bull—” multiple times.
“I feel like we panicked just a little bit,” linebacker Gary Johnson said. “I really can’t tell you (why), but I feel like that’s what we did.”
Linebacker Malik Jefferson, who is probably NFL-bound, reached down and kissed the Longhorns logo. He had the same awestruck look that running back D’Onta Foreman had last year when the junior played his last home game. “Yeah, I’m still stunned,” Jefferson said. “I’m trying to get over that hump. It’s just super frustrating.”
The big winner on Friday was Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury. His boss, Kirby Hocutt, said after the game that Kingsbury will remain Tech’s head coach in 2018. Kingsbury gambled by starting backup quarterback McLane Carter but inserted senior Nic Shimonek for the decisive fourth quarter.
Carter completed 16 for 37 passes for 237 yards. Shimonek didn’t have to do much considering all the chances Texas wasted inside the 5-yard line and freebies handed out late.
A 14-play drive to the Texas Tech 3 ended with mass chaos in the second quarter. The Horns had five plays from the 3-yard line and in and still couldn’t score. Joshua Rowland had to come out and drill a 20-yard field goal, something Herman detests.
Then just before halftime, Ehlinger hit Chris Warren III for a 19-yard gain to the 1. After an official review, a run for no gain, a Texas timeout, a 1-yard loss, a Texas Tech timeout, another replay review and an incomplete pass, Rowland came out for a 19-yard field goal.
Neither team got much going in the third quarter as the Horns pushed their lead to 10 points.
Shimonek finally got Tech rolling with a 52-yard catch to Keke Coutee early in the fourth. Then he hit T.J. Vasher for a 13-yard touchdown pass with 11:29 remaining.
Texas responded by going three-and-out twice and then moving 34 yards before facing third-and-2 from the Tech 37. Instead of running for the first down, Ehlinger rolled out of the pocket and threw across his body. Justus Parker read the play perfectly and took an interception 55 yards the other way.
Two plays later, Shimonek threw a high spiral toward the northwest corner for Cameron Batson. UT safety DeShon Elliott, a Thorpe Award finalist, fell down in the end zone in coverage. Batson made the easy 16-yard catch, and Tech had a four-point lead.
“You want to learn from your mistakes and never let them happen again,” Ehlinger said.
No, this was a mistake in coaching. Herman and Beck asked their freshman quarterback to throw on third-and-2 with just over two minutes left? With two-time Ray Guy Award finalist Michael Dickson as your punter?
Texas did have only 116 rushing yards on the night. Daniel Young was the leader with just 55 yards against the seventh-best run defense in the Big 12.
“We weren’t running the ball very well regardless of down and distance,” Herman said. “Got to do a better job coaching them in those end-of-game scenarios, how to handle that.”
Now in desperation mode, Texas had second-and-12 from the Tech 42. Ehlinger threw a ball up for grabs near the Texas sideline. It made for an easy interception for Douglas Coleman. Game over.
The season isn’t, though, even if it felt like it. Texas will take the week off as players gear up for final exams. “We’ll keep fighting throughout the bowl preparation,” Herman said.
At 6-6, that’s all Texas can do.
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The post Texas Tech 27, Texas 23: Four second-half turnovers sink Longhorns on Black Friday appeared first on Hook ‘Em.
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