Humphrey's magical catch helps Longhorns stop two-game skid at Jones AT&T Stadium
Posted November 11th, 2018
LUBBOCK — Texas Tech fans never get tired of seeing Michael Crabtree’s famous catch against No. 1 Texas. But that was 10 years ago. Most of the players on the field these days were grade-schoolers.
They don’t know future All-Pro Earl Thomas took a bad angle on that play, or that Curtis Brown couldn’t get Crabtree out of bounds. All they know is what they’ve seen on YouTube.
All of those memories came roaring back to life Saturday night at Jones AT&T Stadium.
One decade later, the roles were reversed. Tech’s Damarcus Fields, a 6-foot tall cornerback, went up into the chilly Lubbock air, but 6-foot-4 Lil’Jordan Humphrey soared even higher.
Humphrey made a spectacular catch at the 4-yard line and battled his way into the end zone with 23 seconds left to capture a 41-34 victory.
Crabtree’s score came from 28 yards out. Humphrey’s was 29. Did he know that was the same northeast corner where Crabtree scored? “I didn’t, honestly. But hey, it’s the LJ corner now,” Humphrey said.
Did quarterback Sam Ehlinger? “I was just told that. That’s awesome,” he said. “I’m not going to compare, but for me, that was absolutely better.”
Tech defenders couldn’t stop Humphrey all night long, so the final play couldn’t have been a total surprise. He finished with a career-high 159 receiving yards on eight catches and two touchdowns. Ehlinger threw a 50-50 ball and the freak athlete known as “LJ” just went and got it.
“He can do literally anything as far as receiver, running back, I think he could play quarterback if he wanted to,” linebacker Gary Johnson said. “He’s just an exciting player to watch each and every day from practice to the game.”
— Danny Davis (@aasdanny) November 11, 2018
The 19th-ranked Longhorns (7-3, 5-2 Big 12) snapped a two-game losing skid and now have seven regular-season wins for the first time since 2013. The defense melted down for the third straight week and nearly gave the thing away as Tech (5-5, 3-4) racked up 595 total yards.
Jett Duffey, who started the year as Tech’s third-string quarterback, completed 37 of 47 passes for 444 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for 80. He helped Tech erase a 17-point deficit with touchdown throws from 2 and 9 yards out late.
“I am really proud of our guys,” UT coach Tom Herman said. “I said in the (post-game) radio, I said in the locker room, I’m proud of our defense. I know when you look at the stat sheet and see 595 yards, you say, ‘Coach, what are you talking about?’”
What’s Herman talking about? The same unit that gave up points on the opening drive for the eighth time in 10 games this season? That defense?
Herman was proud of a unit that sacked Duffey four times and forced him to turn it over three times inside the Texas 20-yard line. Davante Davis had an interception on Tech’s second possession at the 2. If the Raiders score there, they would’ve had a 14-point lead and felt terrific. Davis would later knock the ball out of Duffey’s hands for a turnover, and Kris Boyd stripped one away, too.
It’s the defense that settled down and forced two three-and-outs in the second quarter. Texas took over with 11:56 before halftime, and Ehlinger engineered an 18-play scoring drive that gobbled up 8 minutes, 10 seconds.
Herman’s color-coded binder told him to play it safe on fourth down last week against West Virginia. Maybe he was reading it wrong. Or maybe it was turned upside-down. There was a lot of that against the Mountaineers.
This time, Herman left the offense on the field on fourth-and-4 at the Tech 43, and Ehlinger found his roommate Andrew Beck for a five-yard catch. He rolled the dice again in the third quarter on fourth-and-goal at the Tech 1. Ehlinger threw a ball through a keyhole straight to Devin Duvernay to unlock another score, giving Texas a 24-10 lead.
Lubbock winds are unpredictable, but Herman still trusted Cameron Dicker. The freshman from Lake Travis drilled a season-long 52-yard field goal and then another from 46 yards.
Duvernay’s 39-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter gave Texas a 34-17 lead with 10:26 remaining. That should’ve been enough. Not against Tech, though. Still, plenty of fans headed toward the exit.
“Yeah, I mean that’s kind of par for the course right now with our fans,” Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “So it is what it is.”
Tech fans were mildly intrigued when Clayton Hatfield hit a 36-yard field goal. They were captivated when the Red Raiders corralled an onside kick. They were back on their feet when T.J. Vasher caught a 2-yard touchdown pass.
Things were getting so heated, a side judge with rabbit ears turned around and pointed at security to escort UT athletic director Chris Del Conte off the field. There was all kinds of chatter coming from the UT sideline. “I walked to the other end,” Del Conte said. “I got outta there.”
“The Jones” was absolutely rocking when Antoine Wesley caught a 9-yard touchdown pass and fought his way into the end zone. That tied things up at 34-34 with 1:45 left. Texas left West Virginia too much time last week. The Raiders returned the favor this time around.
Two Ehlinger runs, a pass to Tre Watson and an 11-yard catch by Jerrod Heard got things moving. Ehlinger then ran for 12 yards to the Tech 29. Herman called timeout to talk things over. From that point on, it was fate.
“My mentor Greg Davis taught me a long time ago that in critical moments of games, think players, not plays,” Herman said. “For us, 11 and 84 are pretty good players and they’re playing pretty good right now. We were going to throw the ball to LJ.”
Ehlinger said Fields turned his body and was watching him, not Humphrey. Everyone saw what happened next.
“Just put it in an area where it was a 50-50 ball,” Ehlinger said, “just having full confidence in him, and look what happened.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email email@example.com.