The No. 7 Texas Longhorns punched their ticket to Arlington for the Big 12 Championship game on Friday and they did it in dominant fashion in Friday’s 57-7 win over the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Understandably, there was some anxiety heading into this game, but by the way halfway point, Texas was in control of this one and that was without truly maximizing on their offensive snaps.
I am not going to nitpick this team too much tonight, because the fact of that matter is they have exceeded my expectations for the year and still have everything to play for. This team and this staff have overcome some adversity this season and they are now sitting at 11-1 and waiting to see if they will be playing Oklahoma State (if they win, they are in) or if will it be a rematch of the Cotton Bowl with Oklahoma.
This team deserves plenty of kudos for how they finished off the regular season and there are plenty to hand out after this one. Lets dive right on in and discuss the dismantling of the Red Raiders on Friday.
The defense brought their A-game
Here is the negative side of the ledger for the Texas defense on Friday — they allowed a touchdown to Texas Tech quarterback Behren Morton on a short field that was set up by a kick return into plus territory.
End of the negative for the defense.
Now to the fun part — the Texas defense only allowed one points all night long and they accomplished that by inflicting SEVEN negative plays, five tackles for loss and two sacks on the night. The defense had as many negative plays as they had points allowed against Texas Tech.
How about another fun stat for how dominant the Texas defense was on Friday? Morton was held to 88 passing yards on 19 completions out of 36 attempts. That averages out to 2.4 yards per completion. Morton was absolutely peppered and harassed all night long, as Pete Kwitkowski send the hounds after him from bell to bell, turning over the Red Raiders quarterback three times on the night and it could have been more since both Jaylan Ford and Michael Taaffe had shots at interceptions that ended up hitting the turf.
The play of the night? Senior linebacker Jett Bush reeled in a pick six off the foot of Tahj Brooks and took it back to the house. Welcome to Sportscenter, Mr. Bush!
Morton made a business decision on this play and I am not mad at him for it.
On Senior Night, Bush had the play of the game with that pick six and he also notched one of the sacks of Morton.
Have yourself a night, Mr. Bush, the a former walk on who trusted the process to the point where he has carved out himself a role in PK’s defense. He’s made some really nice plays this season.
Holding the Tech passing game in check was one thing, but we can’t get off this without tipping the cap the Texas run defense again. Brooks entered this matchup as one of the leading rushers in the entire country and was getting absolutely fed the rock in recent weeks. Not only did they keep Brooks out of the end zone on Friday, they also kept him under 100 yards rushing on the night (95 yards on 19 carries). Anytime you can hold a productive back like Brooks in check you take it all day long. You combine that with how Texas didn’t allow the Texas Tech passing game get out of neutral, then you get the result we saw on Friday.
Well hello, Jaydon Blue!
Last week it was freshman running back CJ Baxter coming up with a big game on the ground. This week it was sophomore Jaydon Blue.
Keep in mind that is your third-string running back ripping off a 69-yard touchdown run coming out of the first quarter. Blue has showed flashes this year in limited touches, but on Friday we got to see that role expand some after Baxter got dinged up some and Blue did not disappoint, accumulating 121 yards rushing on 10 carries, which was good for 12.1 yards per carry. He also had two catches for 14 yards.
With the run Texas has been on at running back it is easy to forget that Blue was one of the top-rated running backs in the country when he committed to Texas. Don’t look now, but that talent might be starting to blossom and it couldn’t come at a better time.
I know this section was meant to sing Blue’s praises, but I have to shoutout the entire running back room (and the offensive line if we are being real) for their performance tonight. From Baxter to Blue to Savion Red to Tre Wisner. All of them from top to bottom ran the ball hard and well on Friday — the Longhorns ran for 302 yards against the Red Raiders and averaged seven yards a carry on the night. The passing game wasn’t great, but the run game was dominant from bell to bell.
Watching Wisner cap off a 13-play, 91-yard drive with his first collegiate touchdown was a chef’s kiss on an already fantastic performance in the run game.
Former Waco Connally Friday Night standout and Centex Sports Network highlight reel, TreWisner pic.twitter.com/6jjqz6AdE0— Centex Sports Network (@CentexSports) November 25, 2023
If you haven’t watched Wisner fly down on special teams and collect skulls then you are missing out. Happy as hell to see guys like that rewarded with touchdown opportunities.
Oh, and I can’t forget about Keilan Robinson, who scored the first touchdown of the game early and then he did this to open up the second half:
Everybody in Tashard Choice’s position room got a piece of the pie on Friday. And you LOVE to see it.
Texas got banged up some on Saturday
A quick break in handing out praise and game balls. One of the few drawbacks from the game on Friday was watching some key contributors have to come out of the game for varying degrees. We saw cornerback Ryan Watts have to exit the game after the first play from scrimmage. Later on we saw both tight end Ja’tavion Sanders and wide receiver Xavier Worthy both have to leave after getting banged up, but thankfully both of them were able to return to the game. In Worthy’s case, he was still showing some juice as a punt returner and managed to find the end zone after catching a ball from Quinn Ewers.
Texas’ Xavier Worthy does a nice job finding a hole in zone and showing what he can do with the ball in his hands.— Seven Rounds in Heaven (@7RoundsInHeaven) November 25, 2023
Worthy is a potential top-50 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft class. pic.twitter.com/Jhkew9lDTa
This was very encouraging to see after watching Worthy having to have two trainers help him into the locker room. Everyone is nursing bumps and bruises this time of year, but with Texas already being down one of their best players in Jonathon Brooks, they can’t afford to lose anymore key cogs on that side of the ball.
Speaking of Worthy. I am sure people have plenty of things to say about him given how some things have gone during his time at Texas. But that dude is tough and plays through pain when his team needs him out there. I didn’t think we would see him back out there on Friday when he had to be helped into the locker room. But he was right back out there contributing both on offense and special teams after getting tended to. Tough kid who is putting it all out there in a year Texas is trying to make a postseason run.
The red-zone offense is still on the struggle bus
I am officially in beating a dead horse territory on this one, so I will keep it short and even try to be optimistic on it. Texas blew out its opponent on Friday despite leaving a lot of points of the field due to shortcomings in the red zone. This is officially now an issue that has plagued the Texas offense all year long and at this point I am not really sure how it gets rectified heading into the Big 12 Championship game.
Fortunately, Texas has a kicker who is on an absolute heater right now and thankfully the Texas defense was absolutely suffocating. Those two things made the red zone offensive struggles a moot point and that’s a good thing. But the level of competition will only get harder from here on it and the Longhorns going to have to be able to cash in on opportunities in the red zone or it will get them beat.
Texas stepped on their opponent’s throat
This was the kind of performance everyone has been waiting on from Texas all year. Several times this year we watched this Longhorns team allow opponents to get back into the game after sprinting out to early leads. That was not the case on Friday against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders were lucky that the Horns sputtered in the red zone otherwise they may have had 70 put on them in Austin.
Texas was in command of this game from start to finish and constantly kept applying pressure to Texas Tech and never let them up off the mat once they got them there. Texas Tech got within three points in the first quarter and then watched as Texas ran off 47 consecutive points and never allowed the Red Raiders to break serve.
For the first time in awhile, we saw Texas empty the bench in the third quarter, which allowed them to get underclassmen and reserves a lot of snaps against a live opponent. Those kinds of reps are extremely valuable down the road and it was great to see this team on both sides of the ball take pride in playing from bell to bell and never letting their opponent gain their footing. The fact that the backup offense marched off a 13-play, 91-yard drive should get fans incredibly excited — That was a small taste of the future that is coming for the Texas program.
BONUS: Give Bert Auburn his flowers again
MF’ing Sideshow Bert was STUNTING on them during pre-game with the Christmas fit!
SHUT IT DOWN.— Longhorn Network (@LonghornNetwork) November 24, 2023
BERT AUBURN STOLE THE SENIORS SPOTLIGHT pic.twitter.com/GxpnpZhR5D
Bert might be my favorite player on the team after this.
After stealing the show pre-game, Auburn lowkey stole the show during the game as he continued his stellar play. Auburn tied the school record with FIVE field goals in a single game, including a new career long of 54 yards.
Bert Auburn ties the school record with 5 FG made in a single game.— Longhorn Network (@LonghornNetwork) November 25, 2023
The 54 yarder is the longest of Big Bad Bert’s career. pic.twitter.com/SMLQNNj1EY
Auburn also tied and broke the Texas record for consecutive field goals made.
Auburn has been incredibly clutch for this team and performing at a very high level. He deserves all kinds of props and recognition for the run he is on right now. Texas likely doesn’t get this far without his leg.
Bert Auburn's 54-yd 3Q FG is a career-long, tying UT record for FGs in a game with 5 (last done by Justin Tucker, 2010). He also extended his UT-record streak to 19-straight FGs & school season best to 28 FGs. He now has 18 pts tonight, breaking that school-record (by a PK) too— John Bianco (@UT_Bianco) November 25, 2023
DOUBLE BONUS BAYYYBEEE: We got an Arch sighting!
We finally got to see Arch Manning under center on Friday and hearing the ovation when he got in the game was absolutely something.
Arch Manning's Texas debut included a couple nice scrambles, a flash of that 5-star arm talent on his first college completion, and at least a couple ovations from the DKR faithful.#Longhorns whip Texas Tech 57-7 to earn a spot in the Big 12 Championship. #HookEm TV: ABC pic.twitter.com/HKTDDrIC7p— Dennis de la Pena (@dennisonfox7) November 25, 2023
While it was mostly handing the ball off, we did get to see Manning let it rip a few times. He definitely flashes the arm talent you would expect being a kid with the last name Manning, but it was the athleticism and comfort on the move that has my full attention. That is something we knew about Arch from his time as a recruit, but seeing it translate to live action is something that should get fans excited.
We know neither of his uncles ever showed that kind of athleticism from their times in college or NFL, so I am very intrigued about Arch’s development arc as he continues to mature and get more reps under center. Seeing him under the bright lights of DKR was a nice way to close out the regular season. He was also the quarterback in the game when the Longhorns marched off that late touchdown drive of 91 yards. A possible glimpse into the future? Only time will tell.
The ticket to Arlington is officially punched. Every single game has a little extra on it from here on it. This team started the season with the goal of getting to Arlington and playing for a championship. It is right there for them. This has been a hell of a season, but the job ain’t done yet.
At the time of me writing this, we don’t know who will be opposing Texas in the Big 12 Championship game. You get a little extra time to celebrate this one since the game is on Friday. But come Sunday? You know the drill. 24-hour rule will be in effect and then it is right back to business. It is time to put a damn ring on it.