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Inside the Numbers: Texas dominant on the ground, yet again

When the chips were down, the Longhorns leaned on what has made them successful all year.

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Texas Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 7 Texas Longhorns didn’t need to worry about tiebreakers after making a statement against the Texas Tech Red Raiders to close out their final regular season in the Big 12.

Texas needed to make a statement and a 50-point win to close out the season, playing the same style they did all year turned out to be just what they needed in every sense of the word. It was honestly business as usual for the Longhorns, playing dominating defense on the ground and on money downs, while a relatively new name came out for the Longhorns on the ground.

Total defense: 198 total yards (110 rushing, 88 passing yards. 3.09 ypp)

It seems fitting that in a “win and you’re in” game, the Texas defense played its most complete game of the season.

This marks the best per-play total from the Texas defense this year — the lowest total since North Texas in 2014 — and is just 22 yards shy of the opener against Rice. The Owls, who are on their way to their second-consecutive bowl game for the first time since 2013-14, managed to score more points than the Red Raiders did against Texas. Coincidentally, the day Rice scored 10 against Texas was the same day Texas Tech dropped their opener against Wyoming, turning in the only worse rushing performance of the season.

Texas neutralized the Red Raiders’ biggest offensive weapon, running back Tahj Brooks, who is the No. 3 rusher in the country and was averaging 140.5 yards per game in the four games leading up to the Texas matchup. He was held under 100 yards for the first time since his 98-yard performance against Kansas State in the second week of October and held without a touchdown for the first time since September against West Virginia.

Historically, this closes out one of the best regular seasons by a run defense in school history, turning in the lowest yards-per-carry total since 2009 and sitting just outside the bottom 10 in school history for rushing touchdowns with seven. The catch, six of those 10 teams only played 10 games in the regular season, while three played 11.

On Friday, the Red Raiders were somehow worse on the ground, with 88 total passing yards — the Longhorns’ defense’s best performance since the OU massacre a year ago, while it was the worst performance by Tech since getting shut out by Oklahoma State two years ago.

Third-down defense: 3/13 (23.1 percent)

Of all of the aspects of the Texas defense, their ability to put teams behind the chains and then strangle them on the money down is unparalleled nationally. Texas is now in sole possession of the top spot in the country, separating themselves from the Georgia Bulldogs.

Against the Red Raiders, the Longhorns were once again killers on third downs, thanks in part to their ability to keep Texas Tech from finding favorable field positions. Eight of the Red Raiders’ attempts were longer than five yards, including three that were nine or longer, with an average distance to go of 7.4 yards. Contributing to that trend was the Longhorns’ ability to put the Red Raiders behind the chains on first downs, averaging just 4.1 yards allowed on first downs.

The Red Raiders couldn’t find solutions either through the air or on the ground, averaging just 2.1 yards gained on third downs, with 0.3 yards per dropback and rushing just once for four yards.

Over the last five weeks, Texas has allowed just 14 conversions on 52 attempts, with 19 of those 51 attempts forcing opponents to go nine yards or more.

Jaydon Blue: 10 attempts, 121 yards (12.1 ypc), TD

The injury bug continues to nag the Texas running back room, which is unfortunate, but allows the Longhorns to show off the legacy of Stan Drayton and the coaching of Tashard Choice.

When CJ Baxter struggled with injuries against Texas Tech, the work fell to sophomore Jaydon Blue, who has spent most of the year as RB3 or worse on the depth chart. He announced his presence on his second carry of the day, bursting past defenders and running faster than pursuit angles en route to a 69-yard touchdown, the longest run of the season by the Longhorns.

Normally a play like that skews the performance for a running back, but even if you remove that explosive play, Blue was just as effective of a runner as the previous two guys he replaced. Blue had just one carry shorter than three yards on the day, and averaged 5.78 yards per carry without the 69-yarder floating it.

His outing, following Baxter last week and Jonathon Brooks two weeks ago, gives Texas its third-consecutive game with a new 100-yard runner for the first time since the 2015 season.