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Five plays that changed the game in Texas’ 31-16 win over No. 17 TCU

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Without this handful of key plays, Texas may be 2-2 (0-1) right now, as opposed to 3-1 (1-0).

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Texas Bethany Hocker-USA TODAY Sports

For the second time in as many weeks, Texas is enjoying a double-digit win over a ranked foe, and once again, a few key plays turned the tide in Texas’ favor.

On Saturday, the Longhorns snapped a four-game skid against TCU with a 31-16 win over the No. 17-ranked Horned Frogs, but the final score could have quite easily favored Gary Patterson’s program had it not been for a handful of outcome-altering plays.

Caden Sterns’ interception prevents TCU touchdown on trick play:

Keeping points off the scoreboard can often be equally as impactful as putting them up.

With Texas holding onto a narrow 10-6 edge in the second quarter, TCU attempted its first trick play of the game on a 2nd and 7 near midfield — a double pass that led to KaVontae Turpin heaving a deep attempt to a streaking Jalen Reagor, who had Kris Boyd beat by a couple steps.

Despite the ball being thrown a bit behind Reagor, whom NFL.com ranked as one of the 10 fastest players in college football, the sophomore boasts more than enough speed to have taken the trick play pass to the house had it reached its mark. Rather, Texas’ rangy true freshman safety Caden Sterns swooped in and snagged his second career interception before tip-toeing out of bounds.

Had Sterns been a step too late, Reagor quite likely strolls into the end zone for a 61-yard touchdown strike to take a 13-10 lead. Texas’ offense was unable to capitalize on the interception, but nevertheless, it allowed the Longhorns to maintain their four-point lead for the time being.

Collin Johnson leaps to secure 31-yard touchdown strike:

After failing to cash in on TCU’s first two turnovers, Texas was presented with a third opportunity when Shawn Robinson fumbled at a crucial point in the third quarter. Trailing 16-10, Texas began to martch down the field and pieced together a pair of first downs. However, after the latter, an 11-yard strike to Lil’Jordan Humphrey, placed Texas just outside of the red zone, A holding penalty on Calvin Anderson set Texas back with a 1st and 20 from the 31-yard line.

Rather than allowing it to serve as the kind of drive-killing penalty that’s plagued Texas in the past, the offense responded the very next play as Sam Ehlinger found Collin Johnson downfield. The 6’6 receiver did the rest, leaping and extending for a 31-yard score to recapture the lead, 17-16.

It’s also worth noting that what amounted to arguably the most impressive play of the game was just a split second away from being a sack on Ehlinger, which would have forced Texas into 2nd and a mile from around the TCU 40-yard line.

Caden Sterns’ interception places Texas on the TCU 2-yard line:

Just moments after Johnson’s 31-yard touchdown grab, on the very next play from scrimmage, Sterns snagged his second interception of the afternoon.

This time around, he returned it to the TCU 2-yard line, which opened the door for Ehlinger to walk into the end zone on the very next play to give Texas a 24-16 advantage.

Within a matter of moments, Texas transformed a six-point deficit into an eight-point edge, and Sterns’ second interception of the game may have been the most monumental momentum swing of the entire contest.

Davante Davis’ pass breakup prevents big gain on key 3rd and 9:

Despite Texas’ 14-point swing, TCU responded the following possession, at least to an extent. The Horned Frogs orchestrated at 14-play, 59-yard drive, but it could have amounted to much more, including an opportunity to tie the game.

On 3rd and 9, Robinson targeted Taye Barber for a 20-plus-yard strike which, if completed, would have placed TCU on Texas’ 2-yard line with a fresh set of downs.

Barber appeared open initially, but after Robinson released the ball, Texas cornerback Davante Davis abandoned his coverage on Turpin and recovered inside to swat away the pass just before it found its target.

The difference this effort made?

Rather than TCU needing just two yards to pull within two points, TCU kicker Jonathan Song trotted out for a 41-yard field goal attempt, which sailed right.

Lil’Jordan Humphrey’s 38-yard catch and run touchdown on third down:

Even after Texas’ 14-point swing and Song’s missed field goal attempt, the Longhorns lead was only eight points, 24-16. TCU was still within one score, so a stalled drive could forced Todd Orlando’s defense to take the field with the game on the line.

That wasn’t necessary.

Texas chewed up more than five minutes from the clock and capped a 10-play drive with a 38-yard catch and run from Lil’Jordan Humphrey, which essentially sealed the Horns first win over the Horned Frogs in four tries.