With 4-7 record, Longhorns reduced to playing out the string in season finale at No. 7 Baylor
Posted November 27th, 2015
Normally on Thanksgiving, touch football is confined to backyards, neighborhood streets and nearby gravel parking lots.
Tackling was optional Thursday night at Royal-Memorial Stadium, which made for some entertaining holiday fare. But the Longhorns were the ones needing antacids and feeling sick afterward.
A fourth-down, long-shot heave to Daje Johnson fell incomplete. Then, Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury drew one up in the dirt resulting in Jakeem Grant’s 40-yard, game-clinching touchdown run into the southeast corner.
“It was a midget play called Hook ‘em,” Grant said of the play’s name.
The Red Raiders clinched a 48-45 victory that was their first in Austin since 1997. But it also meant the Longhorns fell to 4-7, securing a losing season for the second straight year. Texas had not suffered back-to-back losing seasons since 1988-89.
“We’re out of the bowl picture,” said UT coach Charlie Strong, who is now 10-14 in two seasons. Next week’s game against No. 7 Baylor serves as the season finale. “But we have one more game to play, and we’ve got to go play for pride and play for ourselves.”
The Texas coaching staff was probably thankful just being in it, considering how many players went down to various ankle, knee and leg injuries. Eight players were listed on the post-game injury report, and that doesn’t include running backs Johnathan Gray (turf toe) and D’Onta Foreman (finger surgery) and right guard Patrick Vahe (knee), who didn’t play.
The Horns unleashed running back Chris Warren III, who gashed the Raiders for a freshman-record 276 yards on 25 carries and scored four times. His 91-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was the longest by a freshman in school history. Warren also scored from 21, 23 and 8 yards out against a Tech run defense that’s been stuffed and glazed all season long.
The Red Raiders actually prefer messy shootouts. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw for 372 yards, and DeAndre Washington ran for 173 yards and scored twice. Ian Sadler caught six balls for 108 yards, and Grant had two catches for 105.
Still despite giving up 665 total yards — the fifth-highest total in school history — Texas still had a chance to ice it in the closing stages of the fourth quarter. Starting quarterback Jerrod Heard left the game with a concussion, and backup Tyrone Swoopes was at the controls with 6:18 remaining.
Connor Williams was flagged for being an ineligible man downfield after John Burt made a difficult 8-yard grab on a comeback route. Swoopes got 7 yards on third-and-14, setting the stage for a pivotal fourth-and-7 from the Texas 40-yard line.
Swoopes looked to his left, believed that Johnson was open and let loose a ball that fell incomplete. It’s simply not a throw Swoopes has shown an ability to make consistently. “We had the right play on and we got one-on-one coverage with Daje,” UT play-caller Jay Norvell said. “We just didn’t quite make the play.”
Swoopes said, “We throw that route pretty much every day in practice. I just missed it and missed it at a bad time.”
Tech took over on downs and wasted no time. On a play Kingsbury said coaches stole from the Auburn-Texas A&M game, Grant raced around the left end and bolted for the end zone. That gave Tech a 10-point lead with 2:41 remaining.
“They were in a weird formation, and we couldn’t identify where No. 11 was, and that’s where most of the trick plays come from,” UT linebacker Tim Cole said. “Hats off to Texas Tech. They ran up a good play and unfortunately we didn’t stop it.”
In typical sandlot fashion, the Longhorns scored in 30 seconds, thanks to Johnson’s 42-yard kickoff return. Tech’s Ja’Deion High recovered the onside kick, yet UT still had one last gasp.
After burning his last timeout, Strong could only watch as Tech lined up for third-and-2. Mahomes kept the ball and bulldozed his way through two UT tacklers for a 3-yard gain and a final first down. It was only Tech’s second win in the series since 2002.
“To sum it all up in one word is just special,” Washington said about the atmosphere in the Tech locker room.
Over on the other side, the Longhorns have been reduced to playing out the string. Texas will look to be spoiler against a Baylor team still harboring hopes of getting into the College Football Playoff.
“We’re just trying to win that game for us. We’re not worried about Baylor,” UT senior Duke Thomas said. “Same thing we’ve always been doing.”
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