AUSTIN – Texas simply could not get a stop.
On the heels of a horrendous first half showing, the Longhorns rebounded, turning a potential blowout into a shootout behind the play of freshman running back Chris Warren III. Despite the turnaround, there was no answer for Texas Tech’s offense, which racked up 665 total yards en route to a 48-45 victory.
After the loss, Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong admitted his defense allowed a golden opportunity slip away.
“We were able to match them score for score,” he said, “but it was a matter of limiting their possessions. We just kept giving up the big plays.”
The squads combined to tally 66 points after halftime, including 42 in the fourth quarter, and the Red Raiders reached the end zone every time they needed to.
Texas got a pair of rushing touchdowns from quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, who replaced starter Jerrod Heard in the second quarter following an injury, in the fourth quarter to erase a 10-point deficit, claiming a 38-34 lead with 7 minutes, 54 seconds remaining in the game, but the four-point cushion was not enough.
Less than two minutes later, Texas Tech sophomore Justin Stockton punctuated a six-play, 75-yard drive with a 1-yard go-ahead touchdown. Then, the Longhorns turned the ball over on downs as Swoopes’ pass sailed incomplete on fourth-and-7.
The decision to throw left many scratching their heads because Texas (4-7, 3-5 Big 12) averaged a whopping 8.4 yards per carry on 48 attempts.
“I’m not going to question the call now,” Strong said. “It comes down to making plays. We had opportunities, and we just didn’t make them.”
On the ensuing snap, Jakeem Grant pushed the Red Raiders’ lead to 48-38 on a 40-yard touchdown run with 2:41 remaining.
One of the bright spots for the Longhorns’ defense, though, was former Harker Heights standout Naashon Hughes, who had a game-high 10 tackles, including seven solo, and 1.5 sacks.
While Texas’ defense was repeatedly gouged, Texas Tech was not much better.
The Longhorns finished with 467 total yards, including 403 rushing behind a breakout game from Warren, who finished with 276 yards on 25 carries, setting a school record for rushing yards by a freshman.
“I told Chris Warren before the game, ‘I guarantee you’ll have a breakout game,” Strong said. “I told him he’s have 200 yards rushing.”
Warren recorded four touchdowns as well, with his last coming on an 8-yard run with 2:06 remaining, but Texas Tech (7-5, 4-5) was able to easily move the ball and collect critical first downs before running out the clock.
“It’s disappointing,” Strong said. “It’s frustrating.”
The Longhorns’ late outburst was a stark contrast to their first-half performance.
Texas struggled to move the ball in the first half, posting 170 yards with more than half the total coming on one play.
After their first three possessions ended in punts, the Longhorns delivered the game’s first score as Nick Rose hit a 32-yard field goal in the opening moments of the second quarter.
But the lead did not last long.
The Red Raiders responded with two-play, 65-yard drive capped off by a 54-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes II to Jakeem Grant a mere 28 seconds later.
With 8 minutes, 25 seconds remaining in the half, Clayton Hatfield added to Texas Tech’s advantage with a 51-yard field, increasing the cushion to 10-3.
Then, Warren, who started in place of the injured Johnathan Gray and D’Onta Foreman, made school history by breaking numerous tackles en route to a 91-yard touchdown – the longest ever by a Longhorns freshman.
Two possessions later, however, Texas lost a fumble at its own 34-yard line, and the Red Raiders needed just five plays to reach the end zone as Mahomes punched in a 1-yard touchdown, giving Texas Tech a 17-10 lead that it would take into halftime.
The loss guarantees Texas will have a losing season for the second consecutive year, but Strong believes the future remains bright.
“We are looking at a young group,” he said. “Now that they’ve seen it, I think they’ll bounce back, and it is only going to make them stronger.”