A fantastic, sweet win over a quality Texas Tech team in a hostile environment. The win doesn't obscure our obvious flaws, but why pick nits when our players play their asses off, our offensive coordinator lays down a smooth X and O ass kicking, and the defense surrenders yardage, but not the end zone.
I'll write a more comprehensive post-mortem, but these are my heroes of the game:
The Texas offense struck the perfect balance between maintaing a strong run identity and aggressively attacking downfield in the passing game. And he did it with deception Throughout the game, Harsin repeatedly ran out of spread passing formations and threw deep on 1st down out of run formations. Texas Tech was caught cheating on formational keys on a half dozen instances and Texas made a quality Red Raiders defense pay.
More globally, we've made the decision to feature Johnathan Gray (20 carries looks to be his pitch count), make Joe Bergeron a powerful change of pace back, and limit snaps from Ryan Roberson in favor of featuring a 3rd WR, Daje, or DJ. This is a much more aggressive Longhorn offense and one we probably couldn't have run early in the season given the development schedule of our offense and Gray himself.
The Longhorns averaged 7.4 yards per play and completely controlled a quality, well-coached defense. We were also stubborn with the run - in a good way - and our last two drives were textbook running game close-this-shit out football.
I suspect Longhorn Scott will treat us to a video breakdown of a number of Harsin's tactics, but two that caught my eye was a 1st touchdown drive conversion to Johnathan Gray on a short side screen on 3rd and 14 and a more innocuous 17 yard throw to Bryant Jackson on 1st down from our 25. Jackson (#16) lined up at TE instead of DJ Grant (#18). Both guys are about the same height and their numbers look similar. Not coincidence. We play action, Ash throws to Jackson (covered by a LB keying run who can't recover against a WR), Jackson jukes a safety, and we take the candy. It seems a small thing, but it's one version of that happened throughout the game. One of the better schemed and called games I've seen in a while.
He's got your QB controversy hanging. 10 of 19 for 264 yards and 3 TDs in addition to 5 runs for 25 yards. Ash threw strikes to Mike Davis deep twice in the first half for giant gains, dropped in a nice 25 yard ball to him in the end zone for the decisive TD, nailed Jaxon Shipley with a gorgeous 24 yard gain on a sideline wheel route and generally played perfect football for our game plan. He did overthow Marquise Goodwin on a streak route, but the Tech DB jam messed up the timing. Similarly, the announcers (who were moronic) overplayed his 1 of 8 stretch - we had some penalties take away some good throws, some tipped balls, general static that happens in all football games. It meant nothing and it was absolutely clear to me that he'd come up huge down the stretch.
The blocked field goal is enough to get him mention because that was balls out football, but he also covered extremely well. Break down our coverages. We placed Byndon on a complete island on 90% of our defensive snaps, most of them on Tech's best WR. Quandre Diggs got all of the help. I won't say we stopped Seth Doege, but his inability to attack Byndom successfully in the red zone is the primary reason this defense held Tech out of the end zone on so many crucial drives. He offered some textbook examples of how to play ball instead of man on jump balls. Hats off to Carrington Byndom.
Overall, the defense evidenced a number of the issues it has all year, but I think Byndom was crucial in giving us an identity that we can work with going forward. Particularly if our opponents will consent to stop running the ball, as Tech did.
His best game as a Texas Longhorn. Tech attacked him constantly with interior shades and A gap blitzes from their LBs and he held up well in the passing game. In the run game, he was imperative to our success. We ran inside well throughout the game, he did a great job as our pulling lineman when Tech covered our guards, and he played a like a man with his hair on fire.
If you need evidence, check out:
- Gray's first run of the game. Gorgeous pull and cut on Tech's DE. 26 yard gain
- 3rd and 14 screen for 34 yards to Gray that went for a 1st down. Got out and made one of the crucial blocks to spring him
- 4th and inches. Our side of the field. Ash sneaks it up Espy's ass for an easy 3 yards. Tech's interior DL goes for a roller skate ride
- He had a great cut block on a playside Tech LB to spring Gray for 14 on the key 4th quarter scoring drive
Dom ain't headed to the Rimington Awards Ceremony, but he's my OL of the game. Dude scrapped his ass off and that's all any of us can ask of any player.
I SAID GODDAMN. 4 catches, 165 yards, 2 TDs. No drops. Texas Tech wanted to man him up so they could put 8 in the box against our run formations and then give help on passing downs. Understandable. Harsin and Davis weren't having it. This and our ability to run late were pretty much the ball game on offense.
Our freshman is growing up. I like that we're judicious about his pitch count and I understand the Longhorn fans will argue he could have been doing this from Day 1, but he couldn't. Don't break the colt early and steal his spirit. 20 carries, 106 yards, great finishing down the stretch. More crucially, 2 catches for 41 yards in the screen game after being responsible for two screen game fuck-ups last week. He's also showing better in pass blocking and that's allowing us to keep him on the field in play action situations. Which we utilized to great effect. Gray showed great vision and patience and when his power catches up to his sophistication, he's going to be housing some of those 7 and 9 yard slashing runs.
This is a very good win, much needed for the program and the development of this team. It's a true confidence builder that can elevate a football team and give our defense and offense something to build on. No false achievement and soccer trophies in Lubbock today, y'all. That was a real football win. We are flawed. I don't care.
The Longhorns played really hard, our coaches all coached better, and Texas got it done.
And it feels good.