The West Texas sky didn't fall in Lubbock after all on
Saturday. The Texas Longhorns - whose self-esteem took a week-long beating
after a dismal win at Kansas seven days ago - at the very least quieted some
doubters Saturday by beating the Red Raiders 31-22. Per usual, it wasn't easy.
The Longhorns brought the "good" David Ash to
Panhandle - not the imposter who arrived in Lawrence wearing #14 - and he
finished the game 11 of 19 for 264 yards and three touchdowns, including a pair
to Mike Davis, the last one a 25-yard clincher in the fourth quarter. The
Longhorns also did what fans have been beseeching them to do more often: give
the rock to Johnathan Gray (20 carries, 106 yards) , whose running early and
late helped Texas secure the victory. Praise God and Bryan Harsin: the talented
Gray finally got 20 carries.
On the other side of the ball - where the Longhorns have spent
the first two months of the season dodging a series of well-deserved slings and
arrows - Manny Diaz's defense was serviceable enough overall and downright
clutch in some instances, bending to the very edge of breaking but finding
enough fortitude to make every Red Raiders' trip into the red zone a very
difficult proposition at the very least. Go ahead and keep those office keys in
your pocket Manny, at least for another seven days.
Special teams? How about Carrington Byndom, whose all-out
field goal block late in the game kept the Longhorns with a nine-point lead.
And hello Anthony Fera, who poked a 42-yard field goal through the uprights for
As for an analysis of this one, the game was a fairly simple
one to decipher: when Texas plays with motivation, intelligence and at least a
modicum of passion, the Longhorns have the physical talent to consistently beat
teams of Tech's ilk. The problem - if at 7-2 with a 4-0 road record it can be
accurately called a problem - is that Texas hasn't shown an ability -
willingness? - to put all of those traits together very often at all in 2012.
That wasn't a problem on Saturday.
The Longhorns' offense did not return to West
Virginia/Baylor form, especially in the second half, but mixed an efficient and
error-free passing attack with what at times was a devastating ground attack.
The Longhorns managed to plug into Gray and the running attack for a
fourth-quarter clock-eating drive that culminated in the final Davis touchdown
Individually, Davis' stats were gaudy and included a
game-opening 75-yard touchdown reception in the first drive of the game: four catches
for 165 yards.
But perhaps most importantly - for UT fans, Mack Brown,
DeLoss Dodds, the Longhorn Network, all those deep-pocket boosters at DKR and,
mainly, Diaz - the Longhorns' defense mostly played smart, aggressive and
confident football in the win. Did the defense make every play? Of course not -
Tech quarterback Seth Doege was 26 of 44 for 329 yards - but did the defense
make enough important plays to salvage the win? Absolutely.
Doege was rendered at least mortal on Saturday after a
season of superlatives: he added only a single touchdown pass to his 30-plus
season total. The Texas D showed a tendency to at least occasionally allow
"only" field goals instead of six-pointers against the potent Red
Raiders' offense, who booted a pair of second-quarter field goals, another in
the third period, and was forced to try a fourth in the final period that
culminated in Byndom's block.
The Longhorns were especially effective in stopping the run
- yes, you read that correctly - as the Red Raiders gained just 112 yards on 28
With gloom and doom and disaster predicted for Texas, Diaz
and Brown were undoubtedly feeling a great deal of relief after the win. In
fact, as the clock ticked town Saturday, television cameras caught Brown in a
sideline hug with Dodds, whose relief seemed as palpable as Brown's and Diaz's.
Did Texas show enough improvement from Kansas to Tech to give fans a reason to
think next week's Iowa State game at home is a likely win? Probably, and
another win in Austin would give the beleaguered Longhorns a 9-2 record.
Certainly the year hasn't gone as anticipated for Brown and
the Longhorns. But an unexpected win in Lubbock and a perfect road record certainly
goes a long way toward quieting what had been a growing group of critics who
were calling for everyone from Dodds to the team manager to lose their jobs
after a season filled with inconsistency.
After a win in Lubbock, maybe some of that talk will be
suppressed at least a bit. For now.