Thoughts from the players and coaches after the big win in Lubbock.
Head coach, on the win...
"I thought it was the best team win that we've had all year. Defense played so hard and so well and came up with the blocked field goal at the end. Offense was unbelievable the first half, and then came back and really got stalled the third quarter, but dominated the fourth quarter physically with the running game. So we're really, really proud of the guys. Got to try to get ready to get number eight against Iowa State."
Offensively, the third quarter was the only blemish on an otherwise outstanding offensive performance, as the first drive stalled after eight plays as a result of a holding penalty -- shades of the Kansas game -- while the second drive stalled when Ash was unable to convert a throw on 3rd and four and the third when Daje Johnson lost three yards on 3rd and three in a bit of an odd call that left short-yardage back Joe Bergeron on the sideline.
During that quarter, the Texas defense was able to hold Tech out of the end zone on their first drive, but the Red Raiders scored a touchdown on the second to narrow the Texas lead to 24-22 after the 2-point conversion failed.
Overall, though, it was perhaps the most satisfying win of the season, coming as it did after the Texas defense had been so completely exposed since the Oklahoma State game.
Brown on junior cornerback Carrington Byndom, who played his best game of the season...
"I thought he played really, really well throughout the game. He nearly gets his hand on another field goal, and then blocks the last one, which was just a game saver. It really put the game out of reach, if we can make a couple of first downs at the end. So he has to be one of the stars of the game. He broke up the two-point conversion. So I thought he played with confidence. I thought he might get an interception because they were throwing it his way a lot today. But he played with a lot of confidence, and he's more healthy, too. He's been banged up all year, but really proud of him. He was happy after the game."
The game started out rather roughly for Byndom, who was consistently dominated physically by Texas Tech wide receiver Eric Ward in the running game, but he survived a bit of a shoulder injury to recover and make some impressive plays in the passing game breaking up throws before the blocked field goal.
Speaking of injuries, though, Byndom hasn't been on any of the injury reports and hasn't appeared to suffer any notable injuries during games, so whatever Brown was referring to was probably of the more nagging variety.
Whatever the case, Byndom was at his best on Saturday, a level he was expected to play at consistently this season, but has been unable to reach as a junior.
Brown on freshman running back Johnathan Gray, who looks like the team's best back by a large margin right now...
"Jonathan showed us what we thought. He's fast. He's tough. He's really a competitor. He's not only a fast guy that can break tackles and make things happen for the long ball, but he ran a lot of power plays there at the end of the game and killed the clock. Really, really proud of him. He also has really good ball security. He's so mature for a true freshman. I'm sure he's proud to have gained over a hundred yards today on his 20 carries at a place where his dad's the second leading rusher in school history. I'm sure the whole family is proud of him today."
As much as James Gray, the former Texas Tech star at running back, probably felt conflicted about his Red Raiders losing at the hands of his son, the predominant feeling had to be pride watching Johnathan ice the game by carrying the ball on six of the final seven plays for the 'Horns before Texas lined up in the victory formation. Those runs went for 36 tough yards and helped take the final five minutes off the clock.
Brown on the defense, which has been receiving more input from him in the last several weeks...
"I didn't do anything to help them. I thought [defensive coordinator] Manny [Diaz] and [assistant head coach] Duane [Akina] did a great job this week. They had a great plan - been really proud of them. They've been under a lot of scrutiny. Stopped the run today, stopped the run in the second half last week. When you stop the run, you have a chance to play. The game plan was to stop the run, stop the screen game. I think their running game was 112 yards. We had 163 yards rushing, and it worked. I thought Manny and the guys did a great job. They've hung in there and gotten better on defense."
Brown saying that he didn't have any input on the defensive gameplan on Saturday doesn't necessarily mean that he didn't actually have any input on a day when Diaz finally abandoned his twisting and stunting on early downs and reaped the benefits on the field, with the longest run by Texas Tech on the day accounting for 25 yards, which may not sound incredible, but represented a significant improvement over past weeks, considering that three Baylor players had runs over 20 yards against Texas, Oklahoma ran for the 95-yard touchdown, and James Sims broke off the 64-yard run last week for Kansas.
Brown with more on the defense, which held Texas Tech to two touchdowns in six redzone trips...
" I thought it was huge. Even [against] Baylor, we gave up so many points. From what we've told them, we're going to quit worrying about how many points you get or give up. We're going to try to get one more than the other team. Any time in this league you can force them to take a field goal if you're scoring touchdowns, it's a win-win."
It has been a topic of discussion for weeks, but in a league where nearly every team can score in the 40s against most opponents, redzone stops are of paramount importance. It's not even necessarily about decreasing expectations for a poor Texas defense, it's about the nature of the offenses the Longhorns have to go against every week.
The ways that defenses used to be evaluated, in total yards and raw metrics like that, are no longer so useful when the only thing that matters is whether opponents score touchdowns or have to kick field goals. The Texas defense rose up when it mattered and was the difference in the game, because if Texas Tech had scored a couple of touchowns instead of settling for field goals, the result of the game would have been different.
Senior defensive end Alex Okafor, on finally having some success against the run...
"We stopped the run this game. It's going to help us in the future, because we finally did what we wanted to up front, and it showed."
After allowing multiple players to have their best running games of the season, Texas did finally stop the run, holding a Texas Tech team that was pretty stubborn about wanting to run the ball to four yards per carry and 112 yards overall, both below the season averages for the Red Raiders. Credit the base defense and better play from the linebackers.
Sophomore linebacker Steve Edmond, on his growth as a player...
"Early in the season, I was just nervous because I came from a small town. I played 2A football, so I had the mindset that everyone was just better than me.Then, I got over that fear and just started playing. I'm attacking the line of scrimmage now, and I didn't do that earlier in the season."
The Daingerfield native was so productive in high school that it's a bit surprising to hear him talk about that lack of confidence. An unassuming kid who loves to fish in his free time and a player who is known for being quiet, Edmond has clearly grown in recent weeks and made one of the plays of the game late when he dropped into coverage, followed the eyes of Tech quarterback Seth Doege, and elevated to get one of his big hands on a pass that would have been for a big completion had it not been for his athleticism.
Sophomore quarterback David Ash, on his own improvement...
"Personally, I didn't think I played well against Oklahoma.I didn't think I played well against Baylor. And I for sure didn't play well against Kansas. You're either getting better or you're getting worse. And I felt like for the last three weeks, I wasn't improving. This week, we did improve as a team. The thing I enjoyed so much was my teammates always believing in me and encouraging me. And if we continue to believe in each other and work as hard as we can, good things are going to happen."
Ash is clearly as hard on himself as anyone possible could be, going back to his assertion that he didn't throw a great ball to junior wide receiver Mike Davis on what was essentially the game-winning play against Oklahoma State.
However, he was certainly correct that his performance against Baylor wasn't his best, as he left some throws on the field, as he definitely did against Kansas.
But to start the game against Texas Tech, he was nearly perfect in the first half throwing the football and throughout the game was more decisive running the football, gaining 25 big yards on scrambles to help keep Texas ahead of the chains.
His accuracy on the deep passes to Mike Davis was as good or better than it has been all season, he avoided costly mistakes and interceptions, managed the playclock better with the exception of whatever happened coming out of halftime, and showed excellent touch on the first touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Jaxon Shipley on the type of throw that he has missed on at times last season and this year.
After the Kansas game, he was always going to be under intense scrutiny in Lubbock, especially from the segment of the fanbase that still prefers back up Case McCoy. Ash allowed no room for that by hitting on those long passes and making the plays that Texas needed to win the game.
So much for a quarterback controversy.
Senior safety Kenny Vaccaro, on the victory after a tough season...
"Everyone's been against us. We're 7-2 and I've felt like we lost every game this whole year. So it was a big win for us, and we'll keep moving forward."
Onwards to Iowa State.