It was an upset on the cusp.
Texas cornerback Carrington Byndom had just blocked a field goal and left the Longhorns with a two-possession lead with only five minutes remaining against then No. 18 Texas Tech last Saturday. Now, all the offense had to do was wind down the clock for the Longhorns first win over a ranked team in 27 games.
And with a power rushing style rarely seen from the speed oriented Texas offense, the group delivered a five minute display of dominance on the ground.
“We were able to run the clock out on the road and we’re probably going to be asked to do that again,” offensive lineman Mason Walters said. “Knowing that we can do it is a good feeling.”
Walters went on to say that the Longhorns success on the final drive came on almost the exact same play every time, a run up the middle by freshman Johnathan Gray.
The freshman back took the closer’s role by pounding the Tech defense for six and seven yard gains to eat up clock. The offensive line was opening up holes in the right spots and Gray was waiting patiently to take what was available.
The runs up the middle were a bit different than the outside rushes Gray is usually asked to provide to utilize his breakaway speed, but he showed no hesitation to enter the land of giants in between the tackles.
“Whatever the role is given to him by the game plan, he’s taken as much advantage as possible,” Walters said. “He’s been called on a little bit more, and he’s stepped up and been doing a great job.”
However, for Texas, the winding down of the clock was a total team effort. Not just the result of a dominant performance by the offensive line and the backs. Actually, the players on offense credited the defense and the blocked field goal for fueling the final drive.
“We just got our energy from our last field goal block,” offensive lineman Trey Hopkins said. “That’s what really gave us life on the last drive.”
Hopkins went on to say that it was the first time all season in which the team had a total overall effort, with both sides of the ball working in succession to motivate and respond to the other.
“It was the offense and defense working together, finally having a total game,” Hopkins said. “It was just us feeding each other ... playing for each other like it’s supposed to be played.”
For much of the year it had been the offense leading the defense. But on Saturday it was the opposite. The defense pitched its best performance in conference play against the 12th-ranked offense in the country, limiting the Red Raiders to 22 points, 16 under their season average.
And it was the defenses’ outstanding play that almost forced the Texas offense to respond.
“We start to get that feeling of urgency, like, Hey our defense is laying it all out there; we’ve got to go lay it on the line,’” Walters said. “Being able to run the clock out is something to where we able to get our juice back and say ‘Hey we got you D.’”
The offense played well the entire game, except for a poor stretch in the third quarter, but the most encouraging moment was at the end of the game.
It’s an area the offense has come up huge the past three weeks. First, when they wound down the clock in the final minutes against Baylor. Then, on their game-winning drive in Lawrence, which allowed Texas to sneak out of Kansas with a victory. Most recently, the Longhorns’ showing in Lubbock; the team’s best overall fourth quarter presentation of the year.
It’s been three games, but Texas’ tough fourth quarter mentality is something it plans to build upon to help finish the season.