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Post-game thoughts — Texas 63, Texas Tech 56 (OT)

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Texas escapes near disaster, 2-0 for first time under Tom Herman.

NCAA Football: Texas at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Whew, this game had the feel of a culmination of every single Texas-Texas Tech game in Lubbock from the past decade. Wacky offense, bad defense, and poor special teams play with Tim Brando and Spencer Tillman on the call to top it all off.

Caden Sterns described it best to head coach Tom Herman after the game, “If 2020 was a football game, that was it.”

Simply put, on all phases of the game, this was yet another shaky performance for the Texas Longhorns and Herman within the first two weeks of a season. They played down to the level of competition against an inferior conference opponent once again. Yet somehow, someway, this team managed to pull off a gutty comeback to escape Lubbock with a victory in a game they absolutely could not afford to lose. Sometimes you need a little luck to win games.

Winning isn’t easy. A win is a win, but that’s also the bare minimum of what’s expected in Austin. This team has a lot to improve on.

Offense

After being highly efficient and moving the ball with ease on their first three drives of the game, Ehlinger and the Texas offense averaged just 23.5 yards per drive the rest of the way. Facing a defense that gave up nearly 8.0 yards per play against Houston Baptist last week, it was surprising to see Tech clamp up receivers and give Ehlinger problems after the hot start. The offense looked sharp for the most part in the first half. But it was a whole different story following the break.

Keaontay Ingram accounted for one-third (64 yards) of the team’s total yards in the second half. And that was on just five touches. Texas failed to establish the run and didn’t control the line of scrimmage like they needed to in the second half.

Penalties (10 for 100 yards) and injuries to receivers Jake Smith (hamstring) and Jordan Whittington (knee) sure didn’t help, but there’s not much of an excuse to struggle against a Tech-coached defense. Ehlinger was a bit off today, and so were his receivers. It looked like Tarik Black got dinged up on a hit. Brennan Eagles stepped up big in replacement for him by hauling in a touchdown and the two-point conversion attempt to force overtime.

Defense

Aside from a strong finish in overtime and an outstanding performance from Spur Chris Adimora, Chris Ash’s defense struggled for the majority of the game against the Bowman-led Red Raiders offense.

The defensive struggles stemmed from the back-end play. Bowman was able to get into a rhythm through the short passing game which opened the rest of their offense and pushed the tempo. Five to 10 yard in-routes were open all game long for Tech’s wide receivers, Texas’ cornerbacks consistently got burned off the inside break. Tech running back SaRodorick Thompson gave defenders tackling problems, particularly on two plays — a 25-yard dump pass and what should have been the game-sealing 75-yard touchdown to go up 56-41.

In the end, not a good overall performance on defense. One stop in overtime was all it took, though. Ash got his first taste of Big 12 football. Let’s see how this unit responds moving forward.

Special teams

Today’s game was full proof that special teams play can ultimately decide which team comes out on top. This game had everything. All that was missing was a return touchdown or a missed extra point.

Aside from Dicker’s last-gasp onside kick, the lone highlight for Texas on special teams was redshirt freshman Tyler Owens blocking a punt and true freshman Jahdae Barron recovering it for a touchdown.

Ryan Bujcevski, D’Shawn Jamison, and the rest of the punt return and coverage units had a game to forget. Championship teams don’t make those kinds of mistakes over and over again. After that performance, special teams play will surely be the No. 1 focal point for the Longhorns at practice this week.

Injuries

Several players including Keondre Coburn, Tarik Black, and Bijan Robinson left the game at one point. Coburn and Black were able to return, but Robinson left with a strained back.

Opponent

Props to Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells for pulling out all the tricks early on. Along with the double pass trick play, they caught Texas off guard and converted an onside kick attempt to shift the momentum in their favor late in the second quarter. That’s when the Longhorns started to look like they were vulnerable. Tech certainly took advantage.

Player of Game: Spur Chris Adimora

Adimora was the ultimate difference maker on defense today. Tasked with covering Tech’s slot receivers, he totaled five tackles, two pass breakups, and an interception.

With Tech driving down 24-21 right before halftime, Adimora made what ended up being the play of the game by intercepting a pass and returning it 71 yards inside Tech’s 20-yard-line. Texas punched it in the end zone five plays later to go up 31-21. That felt like a 14-point swing in Texas’ favor right before half.

Overall

The Longhorns made this game a lot harder for themselves than it should have been. Woeful special teams play kept the Red Raiders within striking distance and shifted the momentum against the Longhorns before halftime. While Tech picked apart the Horns soft defensive coverage, Texas’ offense surprisingly stalled in the second half against Tech’s sub-par defense. It was all but over after Thompson’s 75-yard touchdown run. Then the improbable happened. Ehlinger and the offense caught fire and Dicker’s last-gasp onside kick attempt was successful.

Fortunately, the football gods were on the Longhorns side this weekend. The team battled back and fought until the clock hit 0:00 to pull off the program’s largest comeback victory in over 13 years.

Looking back on it, if Thompson slides in bounds instead of scoring the touchdown, Tech could have easily ran out the clock. But that’s beyond the situation at the time.

This Texas team looked too much like last year’s team with the problems they had today. Lots of penalties, inconsistent offensive play calling, missed tackles, and poor coverage for the most part.

There’s a lot to clean up on both sides of the ball, but thankfully the outcome wasn’t a loss and this program is finally off to a 2-0 start under Tom Herman. Previous Herman-led Texas teams would probably have thrown in the towel.

Oh, and it’s __:__ and Oklahoma still sucks. TCU on the clock.