Even despite heartbreaking back-to-back losses to Oklahoma State and No. 9 West Virginia, No. 19 Texas entered Saturday with a path to reach the Big 12 Championship. That path required three straight wins to close the year and a WVU win over No. 6 Oklahoma on Black Friday.
It wasn’t easy, but Step 1 of the plan is completed when the Longhorns pulled off a 41-34 win at Texas Tech.
When Sam Ehlinger hit Devin Duvernay for a 39-yard touchdown pass with 10:26 left in the fourth quarter, Texas seemingly had the game in hand, taking a 34-17 lead.
But Texas Tech (5-5, 3-4 Big 12) lodged a Clayton Hatfield field goal to make it a two-score game, then stole a possession by pegging Texas safety PJ Locke with an onside kick, recovered by Texas Tech. A pass interference penalty helped the Red Raiders convert a 4th-and-10, and Texas Tech pulled within 34-27 with 4:47 to play on a 2-yard pass from Jett Duffey to TJ Vasher.
Trailing 34-27 now, the Red Raider defense forced a three-and-out to give the ball back to a white-hot Duffey, who tied the game with 1:45 remaining on a 9-yard strike to Antoine Wesley.
In a similar position as the Oklahoma win, Texas (7-3, 5-2 Big 12) snatched victory from the jaws of defeat-by-epic collapse, moving 75 yards in seven plays. Ehlinger hit his favorite target, Lil'Jordan Humphrey, for a 29-yard touchdown with 21 seconds left to seal the win. Humphrey finished the game eight catches, seemingly all of them clutch, for 159 yards and two touchdowns, while Ehlinger was 22-of-34 for 312 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions, in the process breaking Geno Smith‘s Big 12 record with 274 passes (and counting) without an interception.
Though he threw for a career-high 442 yards, Duffey helped Texas built its 17-point lead thanks to three red zone turnovers. Leading 7-0 in the first quarter, Duffey threw away a potential 14-0 lead when, rather than eat the ball after an errant snap, Duffey attempted to allude Texas safety Caden Sterns and fire a pass, which was intercepted by Davante Davis.
Given new life, Texas mounted its first drive, aided by two third down completions from Sam Ehlinger to Humphrey, first for 15 yards, then for 40. The second gained pushed the ball to the Red Raider 24, but consecutive sacks forced a career-long 52-yard Cameron Dicker field goal.
After forcing a Texas Tech punt, Texas again mounted a methodical, 18-play, 8-minute drive down the field until two more consecutive sacks backed the ‘Horns up from the Texas Tech 11 to the 34. However, during a 7-yard completion to Humphrey on 3rd-and-33, Texas Tech was flagged for a face mask on the complete opposite side of the field. Rather than kick a 44-yard field goal, Texas was given a 1st-and-10 at the Texas Tech 13. The Longhorns converted this time, as Ehlinger again found Humphrey on another third down, securing a 9-yard touchdown to put Texas up 10-7 with 3:46 left in the first half.
Facing his first deficit, Kliff Kingsbury decided to roll the dice deep inside his own territory. After Ward was corralled for a 1-yard gain on 3rd-and-2, Kingsbury put Duffey under center at his own 34 and called for a sneak — which was stuffed.
Texas took advantage of the short field, needing three plays to set up a 1-yard Keaontay Ingram touchdown run with 1:16 left in the first half.
Texas Tech halted UT’s 17 straight points when Clayton Hatfield snuck in a 41-yard field goal with seven seconds left before halftime.
Texas opened the second half with a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, scoring on a fourth-and-goal 1-yard pass from Ehlinger to Duvernay.
Duffey then committed the second of his three turnovers when, going out of bounds at the Texas 19, he was stripped by Davis, who immediately recovered the ball. Texas turned the opportunity into another Dicker field goal. Trailing 27-10 in the third quarter, Duffey again was stripped inside the Texas red zone, this time by Texas cornerback Kris Boyd.
Texas punted after that turnover, and Duffey made up for his latest turnover by hitting Wesley over Boyd for a 57-yard touchdown pass, pulling the Red Raiders within 27-17 with 13:26 remaining. The Longhorns answered that score with a 5-play, 92-yard drive capped by the throw to Duvernay, seemingly putting the game away with 10:26 to play.