Well that escalated quickly. Texas was in control of things for most of the night in Lubbock and the things got wild and crazy as things normally do on the plains as the Red Raiders came storming back late in the 4th quarter. If you are tuning into Longhorn football games these days, then you better make sure to pop a double dose of your heart medication, because nothing is coming easy for this team as the season heads down the home stretch.
Tonight’s game had a similar ending to the game that took place ten years ago when, Michael Crabtree and Graham Harrell delivered a gut shot to Texas national title aspirations, but this chapter ended in favor of the Longhorns. It got hairy down the home stretch, but the Longhorns found a way win rather than finding a way to lose. Behind Sam Ehlinger and Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Texas scrambled late to notch their 7th win and remain in contention for the Big 12 title.
Now that the pleasantries have been exchanged, how about we get to the meat and potatoes of this piece and discuss some of the bigger storylines coming out of this matchup.
The Struggles Continue Defensively
The back half of this schedule has not been kind to Todd Orlando’s defense and the issues that have plagued them the past couple weeks showed up tonight in Lubbock. Texas Tech was down to its backup quarterback in Jett Duffey, who coming into this game had struggled as a passer. Duffey proceeded to shred the Texas defense to the tune of 524 total yards, including 444 through the air with four passing touchdowns. If it isn’t for three turnovers by Duffey those numbers would be even higher and Texas probably isn’t as fortunate tonight in Lubbock.
What makes the numbers even worse is that Texas unraveled defensively late in the fourth quarter. Texas held Tech to 10 points in the first three quarters and then allowed a 24 point explosion that almost pushed the game into overtime if it wasn’t for the Ehlinger and Humphrey being the monsters that they have developed into this year.
Todd Orlando has some serious soul searching to do and some things to get sorted out as the Longhorns prepare to host Iowa State.
LJ Humphrey Turns In A Monster Performance
Texas has one of the top receiver duos in the country in Humphrey and Colin Johnson, but the Longhorns were forced to head into this matchup without Johnson due to an injury suffered during the week. This was something that worried me going into the matchup because it would allow Tech to scheme up the Texas offense and take away Humphrey. Well it worried be until number 84 reminded me he was part transformer and went full Optimus Prime on the Red Raiders tonight.
It didn’t matter the coverage or who was covering Humphrey tonight. He came up with several big catches including the reverse Crabtree that ended up being the game winner and a dagger to the heart of Red Raider fans hoping for another upset of their rival from Austin. Humphrey turned in an 8 catch, 159 yard performance and found the end zone twice in Lubbock and continued to make an excellent case that he may be ready to get paid to catch touchdowns on Sunday. The kid is an absolute stud and Longhorn fans may only have a few more weeks to enjoy him.
On another wide receiver note, it should be mentioned that Devin Duvernay came up big with two touchdown catches of his own. He was the number two option tonight with Johnson out and he more than did his part within the offense.
Sam Ehlinger: Budding Superstar
How much fun has it been to watch number 11 in burnt orange and white this year? You will be hard pressed to find another player on the roster that has come further in their development as Ehlinger has this fall. I was as critical of Ehlinger as anyone last year when it came to his tendencies to turn the ball over in critical spots, but he has taken care of the football as well as any quarterback in the country this year and hasn’t committed a turnover since the season opener against Maryland. Tonight Ehlinger broke the Big 12 record for pass attempts without an interception (273) that was held previously by former West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith and its makes even more impressive considering Ehlinger is pushing the ball down the field consistently and not dinking and dunking.
Ehlinger posted 312 yards through the air and recorded four passing touchdowns, as he continues to make remarkable strides a player in year two in Austin. Ehlinger is playing at an All-Big 12 level and that’s saying something when you got guys like Kyler Murray and Will Grier playing in the same conference. Ehlinger continues to come up big when the game is on the line and he and Humphrey hooked up for a cold blooded touchdown connection that turned the lights out in Lubbock.
Ehlinger is likely a four year player and that should make every Texas fan ecstatic.
Winning The Turnover Battle
As mentioned early, the Longhorns forced three turnovers of Jett Duffey this evening and you could even say they forced four when you count the 4th down stuff on the quarterback sneak that set the Longhorns up with favorable field position. The two fumbles and interception of Duffey all occurred in the red zone and ended up being back breakers for the Red Raiders, as Duffey simply was careless with the football in each instance.
On the other side of the ledger, Texas didn’t commit a single turnover and didn’t give Tech any extra opportunities to beat them. At least in that manner anyway. That’s meaningful given what this game came down to and it’s those kinds of things that can make a difference in a ball game.
Survive and Advance
It wasn’t the prettiest win of the evening, but with the Big 12 title race shaping up the way it is you will take them however you can get them. Texas isn’t a playoff team this year, but they are still in the hunt for the conference crown and they could end up in the dance if they take care of business the next two weeks and get a little bit of help. Oklahoma flirted with their second loss today in their annual Bedlam matchup with Oklahoma State and still has to travel to Morgantown to take on West Virginia to end the regular season. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers have to take on the Cowboys in Stillwater before hosting the Sooners. All hope is not lost just yet, Longhorn fans.
Things have been complicated with the two conference loses in the previous two weeks, but if the Longhorns handle their business and a few bounces go their way, then we could be seeing a matchup for a chance at redemption for a conference title.
Keep the faith and for now… #BeatISU.