The Longhorns throw it out of run formations and run it out of the spread at 7.4 yards per play.
Three outstanding quarters of offense in the first half and 4th quarter (44 plays, 393 yards, 31 points) were paired with one 3rd quarter of struggle (14 plays, 34 yards, 0 points, but mostly attributable to Tech making some plays on defense), but the end result was 7.4 yards per play, early big plays in the passing game paired with a physical 4th quarter game-clinching running game, and a Texas offense that controlled a hedging Red Raider defense with a game plan that featured aggressive play action passing out of run formations and creative running out of spread formations. If you want more on that point, please look at my quick react post-game.
In addition to throwing deep on 1st down out of clear run formations, Harsin adjusted some of our deep shots from go routes, where Ash hasn't always thrown good balls and shown anticipation, to deep posts where the angle advantage allows Ash to place the ball more accurately and in stride. Which he did fairly flawlessly to Mike Davis.
Texas could have been better on 3rd down (an OK, but not great, 5 of 11 conversion) and our 3rd quarter malaise was largely attributable to that fact. We didn't change what we were doing. Tech just made some plays and we had some player miscues. I was really encouraged to note this on the re-watch.
A bad 3rd quarter:
- Our first possession of the 3rd quarter was actually a great drive, featuring a 2nd and 10 strike from Ash to Shipley for 17 yards to the TTU 35, but Josh Cochran held a Red Raider cornerback on a perfectly timed blitz. I don't fault Cochran - it was a great call and flawlessly done. Sometimes you have to tip your hat. Without it, I'm absolutely convinced that Texas finishes that drive and goes up 31-13.
- The second possession was a three and out. Ash threw a ball that would have converted but Bullitt tipped it. Punt.
- The third possession of the 3rd quarter was maddening. Ash missed Marquise Goodwin on 1st down on an up route that would have gone for big yardage and we gave up a negative play in the running game to Kerry Hyder. Bad execution, bad offense, punt. It's now 24-22 and we're all starting to pucker. But schematically, we're still giving our players opportunity.
Fortunately, the 4th quarter showed a dominant Texas run offense behind Gray and Bergeron and David Ash regaining his deep touch with a 25 yard strike to Mike Davis for the 9 point lead. The final clock running possession was a final message to the Red Raider defense as Texas telegraphed our run game against a 8 man front and still rattled off consecutive runs of 7, 6, 7, 11, 7, 0, 9. Trey Hopkins was in beast mode on that drive. Seven runs, forty seven yards, ball game.
16 of our last 17 plays of the game were runs. That's imposition of will.
Great game. Solid push against an active Tech front, good pass protection in the play action game for Ash (0 sacks), and their mistakes (Cochran hold) were largely of the understandable variety. I thought this was Espinosa's best game as a Longhorn and Trey Hopkins and Donald Hawkins also distinguished themselves in run blocking. When you close out the game running the football up the defense's ass, your OL is doing it right.
The push on the QB sneaks and the Longhorn ability to close out the game running the ball tells you all you need to know about their intensity.
Gray demonstrated his now trademark sophistication and vision throughout the game, but he also showed his grit inside when it was time to maximize inside runs and burn clock. He's now our leading rusher on the season with 533 yards (Bergeron has 464). And now our featured back. I don't expect that to change, whatever Malcolm Brown's injury or punishment status. Aside from Gray's 20 carries for 106 yards, it's also important to note that he came up big in the screen game with two catches for 41 yards (after screwing up there last week) and he's now able to pass protect well enough to stay on the field when we want to play action. As Mack would say - AND THAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT.
Bergeron did exactly what was needed from him and his unselfishness, reliability, and willingness to play through injury endears him to me permanently.
DJ and Daje chipped in 5 carries for 31 yards combined and we had some things set up for them late that Texas didn't go to that well in favor of pounding out Gray and Bergeron between the tackles. Worked for me.
David Ash was 11 of 19 for 264 yards, 3 TDs, no interceptions and 5 carries for 25 yards is about as efficient as it gets. Completions included throws of 75, 56, 27, 25. Three of those for touchdowns. Defenses that want to line up 8 in the box against our run formations now have something to keep them up at night. Anyone else chuckle at the announcer's suggestion of a QB controversy and a Longhorn fanbase that's split 50/50?
Fantastic game by a player who has been our Offensive MVP. On the season: 233 attempts -158 completions -1990 yards - 15 tds - 5 ints. A 3:1 TD/INT ratio, 8.5 yards per attempt, and a 68% completion rate. Who'd have thunk it?
Mike Davis has offered a resounding retort to his critics (namely me, and most of you) all season after a tough sophomore year. 4 catches, 165 yards, 2 TDs now puts him over 700 yards on the year and he has a legitimate shot at 1,000. He has repeatedly shown a knack for slipping deep against single coverage with deception and change of pace that you usually only find on Sundays. Jaxon Shipley caught 2 for 30 and missed out on a couple of other opportunities with penalties and tips at the line of scrimmage. Bryant Jackson gave us a sneaky 17 yard gain while lined up at TE in a sweet wrinkle and Goodwin just missed on a long gain up ball that Ash mis-timed.
Texas Tech had a number of injuries in their secondary and the Texas WRs needed to make them pay. They did.
Nick Rose kicked it well with give touchbacks. Mike Davis set up Tech for a nice kick return with his taunting call, but other than that, Texas was OK in the kickoff game. Texas roughed the Tech punter when we probably should have gotten a piece of the ball and a no-call. The return game for punts has been negligible all year - we're all in on the kick block, it seems. Alex King averaged 45.8 per kick and pinned Tech down inside their 10 once, but our coverage was less than stellar, conceding 17 and 24 yard returns.
Any game we don't at least achieve a tie in the kicking game is a disappointment and I thought Tech won here slightly.
We ask our coaches to put our players into good spots and throughout the game, the offensive staff did so. The point and yardage totals are deceptive - given the pace of the game, number of plays available, and the way the game played out, this was one of the best-called offensive games I've seen at Texas.
Now, 7-2 and onward to Iowa State at home. We'd better be ready, because Paul Rhoads' Cyclones will be.