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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly from the pivotal Texas win over Texas Tech

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It was a survive and advance type of win in Lubbock.

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

While it wasn’t the prettiest of wins, the Texas Longhorns left Lubbock with a win under their belt this time around. Thanks to another game-winning drive led by Sam Ehlinger and a dominating performance from Lil’Jordan Humphrey, the Horns avoided three straight losses to keep themselves in the Big 12 title hunt. Humphrey’s Michael Crabtree-esque catch along the right sideline lifted the Texas Longhorns to a 41-34 victory over the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

On a night in which the offense played a near-perfect game, Texas almost found a way to blow a three-possession lead, similar to the game against Oklahoma. In-game injuries were a major cause on the defensive side of the ball. With Caden Sterns and Davante Davis out in the secondary, Texas Tech eased its way through the air to get back into the game.

Luckily, there was enough time left in regulation for Ehlinger to bail out the defense. Ehlinger came through with a cold-blooded game-winning touchdown drive to rip the hearts out of the few Red Raider fans still in attendance.

Future tip to opposing fan bases: Stay for the whole game no matter what. Texas is the king of college football at keeping games super entertaining until the clock hits zero. Lubbock wasn’t much of a road game with 33-percent of the stands full at the end of regulation.

The Good

The Trio of wide receivers — Duvernay, Humphrey, Heard

Lil’Jordan Humphrey was a man amongst boys out there against Texas Tech’s defenders. Humphrey put on a clinic, hauling in eight receptions for 159 yards and two touchdowns. The coverage against him was pretty good, too. Humphrey made multiple leaping grabs, willing his way over the defender. This was the kind of performance that will pop out to NFL scouts when they watch the tape.

Aside from his game-winning touchdown, his most impressive play came at the start of the second half. Facing a 3rd-and-3, Ehlinger threw one up for Humphrey, who made a spectacular one-handed grab for 21 yards. Texas ultimately scored on this opening drive.

In the absence of Collin Johnson, senior Jerrod Heard got his chance to shine and made the most of it. Heard was a sure-handed target all night long. During the game-winning drive, Heard came up with a huge 11-yard catch against near perfect coverage facing 2nd and 8 to position themselves into Red Raider territory. With all the work that he’s put in over the years, Heard deserved this kind of game.

Devin Duvernay made a big impact in this one, as well. The stocky receiver turned four catches into a career-high two touchdowns. On his second touchdown, Duvernay beat the corner on a double move and made the necessary adjustment on the ball to complete a beautiful pitch-and-catch.

Ehlinger’s clutch gene

The difference between freshman and sophomore Sam Ehlinger in late-game situations is quite amazing.

For the second time this season, Ehlinger was the security blanket for a football team that blew a three-possession lead. With 1:45 to go, Ehlinger marched the troops down the field in less than a minute and a half to push the Longhorns in the win column.

This wasn’t your typical Red Raiders secondary either. Their defensive backs were in good position and had solid coverage on receivers throughout the game. The narrative of better offense beats good defense was the tale for Texas offensively. Ehlinger made some NFL-like throws in tight spaces and windows all game long.

Just as Tom Herman said after the game, “Nobody on the team wants anybody other than No. 11 behind center in situations like that...he was aggressive, but not reckless.”

Forcing turnovers

Texas failed to win the turnover battle in losses to Oklahoma State and West Virginia. Simply because they didn’t force any turnover in those games. Last night’s game was a whole different story.

With the help from Texas Tech quarterback Jett Dufey’s decision-making, who turned the ball over three times in the red zone, Texas’ bend-don’t-break style of play did just enough. Davante Davis and Kris Boyd both ripped the ball loose from Dufey and recovered their own forced fumbles.

As usual, Ehlinger and the offense were efficient at playing mistake-free and protecting the football.

Special teams

It feels good to have a reliable kicker that can hit crucial field goals on the road like Cameron Dicker did last night — not to mention, long field goals against a wicked wind. He hit a career-long 52-yard along with a 46-yarder. Dicker may be a Lou Groza finalist before his time at Texas is over. He’s that good.

Punter Ryan Bujcevski did a nice job at not allowing any big returns in the punt game.

The Bad

Dropped passes

If there’s one flaw to Humphrey’s game it’s his slight struggle with drops. Sometimes he’s so open that he gets ahead of himself and looks up-field before making the catch. This will happen considering how well of a receiver he is after the catch.

Tight end Andrew Beck had a tough time catching the pigskin, too. He dropped two passes on the night.

Ehlinger could have had a 26-for-34 (76.5 percent) completion game if it weren’t for these simple drops.

Injuries

Multiple injuries to starters on the defense ended up being costly. Without Davis, Sterns, and Brandon Jones in the secondary, the air-raid attack threaded the Horns secondary. Sterns was playing at a high-level before he left the game with a head injury.

Anthony Cook stepped in for Davis and had to cover the 6’6 T.J. Vasher. Tech exploited this mismatch and Vasher delivered by drawing a pass interference penalty on Cook. Later on the same drive, he scored a touchdown against Cook.

The depleted defense looked out-of-position and struggled against an up-tempo paced offense. Let’s hope these injured starters can get healthy before Saturday’s game against Iowa State.

Sacks allowed

Credit Texas Tech’s defensive coordinator David Gibbs for dialing up the pressure at the right times. Tech’s defense totaled five sacks on the night. The offensive line played well for the most part in pass protection. There was just nothing they could do against some of those blitz stunts. At times, Ehlinger held onto the ball too long and lost major yardage because of it.

The Ugly

Blowing a 17-point 4th quarter lead

Up until the fourth quarter, Texas’ defense was playing pretty solid. They played loose and aggressive around the ball and in coverage. That was not the case in the fourth quarter. The coverage got really soft and they failed to put any pressure on Duffey. It’s understandable to play more conservative defensively but you can’t go completely away from the gameplan. Todd Orlando has struggled to coach up his defense against these complex offenses the past three games. The past three opponents averaged a whopping 558.3 total yards against the Longhorns defense.

Since the TCU game, Texas has had a consistent problem closing out games. Inconsistency and the inability to put together a complete 60-minute game is something that separates the good football teams from the greats. This continuous problem almost ruined the Horns season in Lubbock. It’s a four-quarter game, this group needs to show up from start to finish.

Discipline (offside penalties)

There were multiple times when Tech was able to get Texas’ defensive ends to jump early, which gave Duffey the chance to take shots down the field on the free play. While it’s not the reason Boyd got beat for a touchdown, this struggling defense cannot afford to give offenses free plays like that.

Big 12 officiating

Nowadays, officials can spend five minutes per targeting call but can’t review near interceptions and controversial sideline catches? Foster’s near interception did indeed hit the ground but it was at least worthy of a review. Vasher’s sideline catch with Tech driving for the tie sure looked to be incomplete.

The officiating continues to be the laughingstock of this conference and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.