Daje Johnson

Trick play by Texas Tech cemented Texas’ bowl-less season

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For just the second time since 1998, the Texas Longhorns will not be going to a bowl game this season. A home loss to Texas Tech sealed a winless season for the Longhorns, leaving them at the mercy of a waiting list to get in if they happen to pull a stunner against Baylor in the season finale to go 5-7 and hope there are bowl vacancies to be filled. In other words, don’t count on it. The fate of the Longhorns this season may have been expected for weeks or months, but the final nail in the coffin may be have delivered by a Texas Tech trick play that saw Jakeem Grant  sneak down the left sideline and dodge a couple of defenders on his way to a 40-yard touchdown, which would prove to be the game-winning score.

Up 41-38, Texas Tech forced a Texas turnover on downs at the 40-yard line of the Longhorns with 2:51 to play. Despite Texas having a couple of timeouts to spare, Texas Tech appeared  to line up in a victory formation. Perhaps inspired by the fumblerooski, Kliff Kingsbury had his offense set in a formation that would make it difficult to tell which player had the football until it was too late. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes dropped back deep and appeared to fake a hand-off on his way. Meanwhile, Grant was running with the ball to the left side of the field and found daylight. In the blink of an eye, Texas Tech expanded its lead to 48-38.

Texas still found a way to make Texas Tech sweat it out though. Daje Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff 42-yards and received an extra 15-yards due to a facemask penalty to the Red Raiders special teams unit. Two plays later, Chris Warren III ran eight yards for a touchdown. On Texas Tech’s final possession of the game, there would be no tricks. After Texas was forced to burn each of its two remaining timeouts, Texas Tech set up in a true victory formation for the final two plays of the game as the clock expired and Texas saw its postseason eligibility expire in sync.

This will mark the second straight losing season in Austin for the Longhorns after Texas lost a bowl game last season to end the season at 6-7. The last time Texas had back-to-back losing seasons was in the old Southwest Conference with David McWilliams as the head coach. Texas had consecutive losing and bowl-less seasons in 1988 and 1989. But at least Texas made an appearance in the AP Top 25 in those disappointing seasons. The Longhorns have now gone two straight seasons without appearing in the top 25 for the first time since 1986 and 1987.

Missed PAT costs Texas as California outduels Horns, 45-44

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We noted at halftime that a plethora of mistakes was the only thing keeping California from holding a substantial lead over Texas. But it was one crucial mistake that cost Texas, as a Nick Rose missed PAT prematurely ended a three-touchdown rally and allowed California to hold on for a 45-44 win in Austin.

First, how they got there. Thanks to an offside penalty that cost them a fresh possession deep inside Texas territory, a fumble at the Longhorns goal line and another one near their own and, finally, a procedure penalty that led to a missed field goal, Cal – a touchdown favorite in most books – found itself down 24-14 with 1:32 to go in the first half after Johnathan Gray charged in for a six-yard touchdown run, his second of the half. But the Bears immediately marched 75 yards in four plays, capped by a one-yard Vic Enwere run, to pull within 24-21, and Jalen Jefferson stepped in front of a Jerrod Heard and raced it back to the Texas 30, leading to a 34-yard Matt Anderson field goal that knotted the game at 24-24 at the half.

Cal opened the second half by scoring touchdowns on all three of its third quarter possessions: a 42-yard march punctuated by another one-yard Enwere plunge, a three-yard Jared Goff pass to Kenny Lawler, and a 74-yard Khalfani Muhammad dash, to grab a 45-24 lead.

It was a 21-0 quarter and, in total, a 31-0 run dating back to the end of the first half that put the game completely out of reach… until it wasn’t.

Texas rallied in the fourth quarter, getting a 13-yard Heard run to pull within two scores with 13:24 to go, then a 27-yard D’Onta Foreman dash to pull within one touchdown at the three minute mark. Facing a potential game-ending 3rd-and-7 at the Texas 44, a Goff pass was dropped deep in Texas territory and the Longhorns stayed alive. Heard moved the Longhorns 81 yards in six plays, dashing 45 yards for his third score of the day, seemingly tying the game with 1:11 to go. And then Rose missed the extra point.

California recovered the onside kick and, with Texas out of timeouts, that was that. The Bears (3-0) held on for an important non-conference win, and Texas (1-2) found another way to lose a game in a half-decade full of them.

Goff completed 27-of-37 passes for 268 yards with three touchdowns and one fumble, hitting nine different receivers on the night. Lawler was his top target on the night, snaring six passes for 79 yards and two scores. The Bears rushed for a combined 280 yards and three scores; Muhammad racked up 164 yards on 10 carries, and Enwere notched 73 yards and two touchdowns on 16 attempts.

In just his second start, Heard flummoxed California on the air and the ground. The redshirt freshman connected on 20-of-31 passes for 364 yards with one interception and rushed 24 times for 163 yards and three scores with one fumble. Two weeks after Texas posted 163 yards – total – in a blowout loss at Notre Dame, Heard racked up 527 by himself. Daje Johnson grabbed five receptions for 145 yards, and Gray posted four grabs for 71 yards to go with 11 carries for 46 yards and two touchdowns.

In all, Texas outgained Cal 650-548 and held a 28-26 first downs advantage.

California visits Washington next week, while Texas hosts No. 25 Oklahoma State.

Jerrod Heard and Jared Goff staging a duel in Austin

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A polished, pro-style passer and a raw, athletic freshmen have meshed their styles into an entertaining display of football in Austin as Texas and California are tied at 24-24 at the half.

Four mistakes cost the Bears from holding a lead, and probably a substantial one. First, Cal recovered a kickoff deep inside Texas territory after taking a 7-0 lead, but the Bears were offside and had to re-kick. Texas promptly marched 76 yards in eight plays, capped by a two-yard Jerrod Heard run, to tie the game at seven. Next, as Khalfani Muhammad was just strides away from strolling into the end zone for Cal’s second touchdown, Longhorns safety Kevin Vaccaro separated the running back from the ball, and UT’s Antuwan Davis hopped on the loose pigskin inside the end zone. Texas marched 71 yards to set up a 27-yard Nick Rose field goal, giving Texas its first lead at 10-7.

Third, with the Texas lead at 17-14, Cal was set to go for a 4th-and-1 at the Longhorns’ 21 – a situation Cal had won every time to that point – but the Bears were flagged for too many men in the huddle. Sonny Dykes had to settle for a field goal, and Matt Anderson‘s 44-yard field goal sailed wide right. And finally, facing a 3rd-and-3 at its own 27 just before the half, Goff was sacked and stripped by Shiro Davis, and Texas’s Desmond Jackson recovered the ball at the Cal 6. Gray rushed in one play later to give Texas a 24-14.

However, don’t let that take away from the fact Texas has made Cal pay for its mistakes.

Making just his second start, Heard has burned Cal’s defense with a number of long connections, completing 11 of his 15 throws for 222 yards. Daje Johnson has receptions of 54 and 45 yards, John Burt has a 43-yard grab, and Johnathan Gray nabbed receptions of 26 and 22 yards. Heard is also Texas’s leading rusher with seven carries for 42 yards and a touchdown, while Gray nine times for 40 yards and two scores.

One key mistake cost Texas its lead, as Heard was intercepted by Jalen Jefferson inside the final minute. He returned the ball to the Texas 30, and Anderson cashed in with a game-tying 33-yard field goal with four seconds to play.

Goff has dazzled as well, hitting 20-of-27 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns. Eight different Bears have caught passes, led by Stephen Anderson with five grabs for 47 yards. Vic Enwere has rushed 10 times for 61 yards.

Texas will receive to open the second half.

And the young shall inherit the ‘Horns, Heard leads UT past Rice

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After one of the longest weeks in recent memory, in which the team was shellacked in South Bend, leading to Charlie Strong to demote play-caller Shawn Watson and Mack Brown washing his hands of the mess he left behind, it was safe to say Texas needed this. Jerrod Heard and a bunch of freshman led the Longhorns to a 42-28 win over Rice, in what felt like a ceremonial turning of the page from whatever the past six years have been to whatever the next few years could become.

Heard, a redshirt freshman and a two-time state champion from Denton, Texas, earned the first start of his career and made an immediate impact, accounting for 78 yards (40 passing, 38 rushing) on an 80-yard opening touchdown drive. Heard and an explosive punt return unit (141 yards between returns by Daje Johnson and Duke Thomas) pushed Texas to a 21-0 lead after one quarter.

It was the third quarter, however, that showed the promise of what Texas football could become. Heard opened the frame by hitting true freshman John Burt for a 69-yard touchdown, the team’s first third quarter touchdown in 13 games. The Longhorns pushed the lead to 35-14 when true freshman Kris Boyd forced a Driphus Jackson fumble and true freshman Malik Jefferson picked it up and raced 26 yards for a touchdown. Sophomore D’Onta Foreman closed the quarter with a two-yard touchdown plunge.

In all, Heard finished the game by completing 4-of-7 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns and rushing 10 times for a team-high 96 yards.

In showing its promise, Texas also revealed its limitations on Saturday night. While the Longhorns won the odd-numbered quarters 42-0, they lost the evens 28-0. Rice consistently exploited a soft underbelly in the Longhorns’ defense, rushing 58 times for 228 yards and converting 13 of their 17 third downs. Those stats allowed Rice massive advantages in first downs (30-11), total plays (96-38), total yards (462-277) and time of possession (44:02 to 15:58). If not for Texas’s explosive plays in the passing and kicking games and a 5-1 turnover edge, Rice could easily have won this game.

Texas (1-1) moves to 41-1 since 1966 against Rice; the ‘Horns have now marked a full 50 years since last falling to the Owls in Austin. The Longhorns will host California next week in a critical game for Strong and company. Rice (1-1) visits North Texas next week.

Rice hanging around through one half at Texas

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Texas used an early spark from new starting quarterback Jerrod Heard and a pair of huge punt returns from Daje Johnson and Duke Thomas to build a 21-0 lead through one quarter, but Rice stole momentum back in the second frame to pull within 21-14 at the break in Austin.

Rice’s rebound, oddly enough, started with an interception. Driphus Jackson hit Texas safety Jason Hall with an interception in the Owls’ end zone, but Hall fumbled the return and the Owls recovered at the Texas 35. Rice scored four plays later on a 22-yard Samuel Stewart run, and then added another Stewart run, this time a 16-yarder you’ll see on SportsCenter tonight, to climb within seven.

The Owls have churned the inside of Texas’ defense, rushing 30 times for 138 yards and those two Stewart scores. After converting one of their first four third downs, Rice moved the chains on seven of its final eight tries. Rice threatened to tie the game before the half, but Dylan Haines stepped in front of a Destri Jackson throw at the Texas goal line to end the threat.

Heard started fast, accounting for 78 yards on the Longhorns’ opening touchdown drive, but didn’t get many opportunities after that thanks to those two punt returns and a Rice offense that won’t give the ball back. He finished the half with 51 passing yards on 3-of-4 tries and seven carries for 50 yards. Johnathan Gray carried six times for 18 yards and a score.

Texas will receive to open the second half.