Take this 37-34 loss for what it is: Texas stumbled in its Big 12 opener, falling as a favorite on the road after leading by two touchdowns near the end of the third quarter. The national goodwill earned from the 20-19 loss to Alabama has been chipped away, the national ranking will be gone on Sunday and there are some serious questions to answer over these next four weeks.
Our takeaways from Texas’ overtime loss:
What does Texas’ loss to Texas Tech mean?
On the obvious front, it drops the Longhorns to an even 2-2 on the season and 0-1 to start out Big 12 play. Yes, 3-1 and 1-0 would have looked much better. Because it would be much better.
Whys of Texas:Yeah, the Horns spent $280,000 on Arch Manning’s visit. And? So?
Things are about to get pretty real in the conference, with what should be a season-shaping run of Oklahoma, Iowa State and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weeks starting in two weeks. The record and ranking would have been nice, but there are more important things to worry about, specifically how this team will bounce back, if this team will bounce back, how much longer Quinn Ewers will be out and how Texas responds to the rest of the Big 12.
This has been a bit of a rollercoaster season despite the 3-1 start, going from blowing out ULM in the opener to looking like one of the better teams in the country against Alabama, then the first-half sleepwalk and second-half surge against UTSA. Quinn Ewers was lost early in the second game, Hudson Card has gone 2-0 in his place and when you come down to it, you probably should be feeling pretty good about this team at the end of every game so far, even the 20 -19 heartbreak to the Tide.
So, what happened?
Oddsmakers thought this would be a tight one and they were right. Texas looked like it had gotten things under control when it went up 31-17 in the third quarter, but couldn’t close it out. The defensive line overcame a slow first quarter to start applying steady pressure over the second and third quarters, but looked tired in the critical fourth. Tech began to focus on its two big tight ends in the second half and the Horns lost more of those coverage battles than they won. Maybe Joey McGuire picked up the success UTSA had last week against Texas with its tight ends. Hudson Card played fine, took few shots downfield, made one bad mistake, kept Texas in the game and made a couple of big throws and one big run. But the offense looks a little off.
More:Golden: Texas is showing that now, double-digit deficits do not equal doom
A player on the rise: Jahdae Barron
Barron followed up being named the Big 12’s defensive player of the week for his pick-six last week with another strong game — nine tackles, including five solo stops, and two tackles for loss. He was active all day.
He had three tackles and two tackles for loss in the first half, including a loss of three after popping Tajh Brooks. That play forced a third-and-long that the Red Raiders didn’t convert. He stuffed Brooks for no gain on the final play of the third quarter. And his open-field stop of Donovan Smith on third-and-10 forced a fourth-and-5 with eight minutes left in the game (Tech converted it).
Other Horns who looked good in Lubbock today: Anthony Cook, Ryan Watts, Keilan Robinson, Jordan Whittington and Casey Cain.
More:While quarterbacks get the attention, Texas’ young offensive line quietly strengthens
The three biggest plays of the game
Bijan Robinson never fumbles — until he does: As brilliant as Robinson looked on some plays today, his fumble on the first drive of overtime ended up being the real Longhorns killer. A Tech tackler knocked the ball loose and the Red Raiders recovered. Then won it. For the game, Robinson finished with 17 touches for 123 total yards and two touchdowns. And the one fumble.
Tariq Milton’s catch: Yes, Bert Auburn’s 48-yard field goal as time expired sent this game into overtime, and yes, Hudson Card was masterful in getting Texas into Auburn’s range with 21 seconds left and no timeouts to work with. But it was his 28-yard pass to Milton that was so critical, as it set up Card’s next pass with only six seconds left to Ja’Tavion Sanders. And that completion set up the field goal.
Ford alters the game: Jaylan Ford affected this game when Texas really needed someone to make a play — and he won’t even get credit for it on the final stats sheet. With the Horns on shaky ground, trailing 14-10 in the second quarter and the Red Raiders driving at midfield after picking off Hudson Card, Ford flashed a blitz on third-and-6, forcing Tech’s center into a false start. Tech failed to convert on third-and-11, Texas regained momentum and then went up 17-14 on its next drive. The Horns never trailed again after Ford’s play.
Today was Tech’s sixth sellout at home vs. Texas. … Since that huge 2008 loss that ended with Graham Harrell’s game-winning touchdown throw to Michael Crabtree, the Longhorns had owned Tech in Lubbock. Today’s loss was Texas’ first in Lubbock since that game; overall, the Horns are 54-16 against Tech and 22-11 in Lubbock. And Texas’ four-game winning streak over the Raiders was snapped, too. … Boy, did Texas’ kickoff team look ready and focused on Tech’s kickoff after the touchdown that made it 31-31 in the fourth. Last week, the Longhorns looked woefully unprepared for UTSA’s surprise onside kick.
Up next for Texas: West Virginia, next Saturday at Royal-Memorial Stadium (either ESPN or Fox).
We’re waiting on the Big 12 to tell us when this game will kick off.
The Mountaineers are 2-2, 1-0 after Thursday night’s 33-10 win over Virginia Tech. The conference loss was to Kansas two weeks ago (55-42 in overtime, in Morgantown). Texas lost 31-23 last year in Morgantown, the sixth and final loss of that six-game losing streak. The Longhorns and Mountaineers have split their last six games with each other.