D'Onta Foreman rumbles for 341 yards, the third-best performance in school history, as Texas captures fourth straight win in Lubbock
Posted November 5th, 2016
LUBBOCK — His cornerbacks have been burned numerous times this season, and opposing ball-carriers have literally hurdled over his safeties.
Yet for some strange reason, Texas head coach and defensive coordinator Charlie Strong claims he was calm Saturday afternoon against the most prolific offense in college football.
“I kind of wanted the game to fall on the defense’s hands there at the end,” Strong said, “because it’s a confidence builder for them, to go out and make a stop.”
Sure enough, a secondary that’s been maligned all year came up with the biggest play possible. Kris Boyd’s interception in the end zone with 9 seconds left sealed Texas’ 45-37 win over Texas Tech at Jones AT&T Stadium.
Finally, after going 1-7 the last two seasons on the road, the Longhorns (5-4, 3-3 Big 12) captured a rare win away from Royal-Memorial Stadium. They recovered from a crippling 100-yard fumble return, climbed out of a nine-point hole and moved to 4-0 in their last four trips to Lubbock.
The noise emanating from the visiting locker room after the game was incredible.
“Texas Tech is a hostile environment, and to come here and get a win, it feels like a weight’s been lifted off our shoulders,” cornerback John Bonney said. “We finally got over that hump.”
Kris Boyd's game-winning INT. pic.twitter.com/Q0jHFJzgKX
— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) November 5, 2016
In his dual role, Strong had every right to be apoplectic when offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert didn’t run D’Onta Foreman on third-and-2 or fourth-and-1 late. After all, Foreman had an eye-popping 341 yards in the third-greatest rushing performance in school history. It was only UT’s fourth 300-yard game. Foreman now sits 16th in the annals with 2,200 career yards.
“Coach Strong said 341, and I was shocked,’ Foreman said. “I was like, ‘Wow! I had that many yards?’”
But instead of giving the ball to Foreman at closing time, Gilbert chose the backup quarterback and his struggling 18-Wheeler package. Needing a critical first down to keep the clock moving, Tyrone Swoopes was stuffed twice, turning it back over to Tech with 2:11 remaining in a one-possession game.
Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes started the drive 4 of 5 and reached the Texas 20. After two incompletions, he tried to find Cameron Batson in the southeast corner. Boyd, a wild-eyed sophomore, simply went up and snagged the biggest interception of the season for the UT defense.
“I wouldn’t say hero,” Boyd said in his first interview in two seasons. “I’m just playing my position and my role and anything I can do for the team.”
Said nickel defensive back P.J. Locke III, “He’s come a long way, man. He definitely deserves it.”
Nobody ever truly stops the Red Raiders (4-5, 2-4). They came in ranked first nationally in yards (603.4) and second in points (47.4). To hear Strong tell it, the Longhorns ran literally everything — man-to-man, zone coverage, nickels, dimes, two safeties high, one safety in centerfield and used Malik Jefferson as a spy.
Mix it all together, and Mahomes was thrown off his game. He completed 36 of 59 passes for 367 yards, and Tech was 7 for 19 on third-down conversions.
“Seemed like he was getting out of the pocket more so than he has been and trying to do a lot,” Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said.
That’s exactly what Strong wanted. “Once we got him to scramble, we were going to bring a guy like Malik or (Jeffrey) McCulloch, we were going to chase him to the outside,” he said.
The Longhorns certainly didn’t do themselves any favors early. Jerrod Heard dropped a potential game-breaking catch late in the first quarter. Gilbert finally allowed Swoopes to throw a pop pass out of the 18-Wheeler formation, and it would have worked, too. Tight end Caleb Bluiett was as wide open as the West Texas sky. Only a chop block negated the easy score.
On third-and-goal from the Tech 24, Foreman went charging ahead and carried a mass of humanity toward the goal line. But the ball somehow popped loose and Douglas Coleman went 100 yards the other way, giving Tech a 23-14 lead.
“I looked up and he was at the 50,” left tackle Connor Williams said, “so I definitely couldn’t go get him.”
Said Strong, “I was hoping that (Devin) Duvernay could catch him. I said, ‘Go get him, dude. Go get him.’”
Thanks to the turnover, UT’s offense actually stayed on the field. Collin Johnson caught the second of two touchdown passes (16 and 9 yards) and Texas was back in it. Shane Buechele ran a perfect two-minute drill that ended with Trent Domingue’s 29-yard field goal before halftime.
The Eyes in Lubbock. pic.twitter.com/W665fYnuzv
— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) November 5, 2016
After the break, it was Foreman left, right and straight up the middle for 38- and 74-yard scores plus Boyd’s interception.
Texas has three regular-season games left. One week after Strong insisted this was not a “program in disarray,” things might be coming together for the Horns.
“We have a lot more focus,” Locke said. “It feels good. It just shows that when we put our minds together, we can make things happen.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.