Douglas Coleman was gone.
In track terms, that means no one was catching him.
The Texas Tech defensive back had wrested the ball away from D’Onta Foreman at the goal line and was headed the other way with a momentum-reversing touchdown against a Texas team that had won only one true road game in its last eight tries.
Lubbock’s Jones AT&T Stadium was going nuts as Coleman sprinted down the sideline.
Then Devin Duvernay appeared.
The freshman wideout, arguably the fastest Longhorn, was in full sprint mode, but this time he wasn’t looking over his shoulder for a pass from Shane Buechele. He had turned into a defender.
Coleman ran 100 yards. Duvernay, lined up on the opposite side of the play, may have run 120 but h was able to force Coleman to step out of bounds before he crossed the goal line. The refs blew the call, but the point was made on Texas’ sideline.
Duvernay’s effort spoke volumes. The Longhorns are all in.
They believe now.
Sometimes it takes that little piece of desperation to show a locker room that all-out effort will be rewarded. Texas Tech got the touchdown, but Duvernay provided a teaching tool for every player on his team and every other player in America. Teammates notice when you give it your best, especially when the odds are against you. That kind of will can trickle down to others in a locker room.
“Everybody thought (Duvernay) would catch him,” Texas coach Charlie Strong said. “I just think that was a turning point because all our players are standing there. That swing could have been a swing where we could not have recovered from. They watched his effort. Then everybody on the sideline kind of got juiced just looking at his effort.”
That kind of juice can lead to wonderful things. It shows the Horns are willing to do whatever it takes to get a win. One of the youngest players on the team displayed with his actions, not his words, the type of effort needed to keep this program moving in a positive direction.
It’s the kind of buy-in Strong has been seeking. It’s the kind of buy-in that will be needed to hand West Virginia a loss Saturday.
“Hustle and desire,” said wideout Jake Oliver. “The willingness to know you may not catch him, but to put in that effort.”
This was a different look from past road no-shows in Fort Worth, Ames, Stillwater and Manhattan. After the Horns blew a chance to win at Kansas State, senior leader Paul Boyette Jr. let his emotions spill over in the interview room when he said, “It’s like a broken record in there.” He was referring to the same old answers to the same old questions after a loss.
Some younger teammates noticed his angerm.
“I’m sorry, Unc,” cornerback Kris Boyd told him. “I’m really sorry.”
That touched something in PB&J, whose biggest wish is to leave college with a bowl game win. It occurred to him that after four years on campus, the underclassmen had finally realized what it meant to the senior class to feel as if it was leaving college on a high note.
“For guys like that to step up and be a man meant something,” Boyette said. “Ever since Kansas State, everyone has held themselves up to a higher standard, myself included.”
Boyette said sometimes you have to get a little upset to get your point across. Linebacker Malik Jefferson has been playing angrily after his first-series benching at Baylor, but has channeled that emotion into some of the most spirited play of his career. Shoot, the head coach is probably angry at the media (including yours truly) for harping on substituting Tyrone Swoopes’ 18-Wheeler package for the best running back in the country at crunch time the last two weeks, but if he uses that as fuel to get wins … then it’s all good at Bellmont.
That said, West Virginia represents this team’s toughest challenge to date. Skyler Howard is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country and Dana Holgorsen has that Big 12 rare team that actually has a defense getting consistent stops to go with a high-powered offense.
All things considered, Texas has a great chance to pull off a fifth straight home win. The Horns have the home crowd, the nation’s most productive back and, for the first time in a very long time, a real sense of belief on both sides of the ball.
I’m rolling with Texas to beat West Virginia.