LUBBOCK, Texas — With three minutes remaining in Texas Tech’s duel with No. 8 Texas Saturday, the Red Raiders seemed to have a certain victory wrapped up.
SaRodorick Thompson had just run in a 75-yard touchdown to give Texas Tech a 56-41 lead that somehow wouldn’t hold.
Sam Ehlinger led two flawless Texas touchdown drives with a successful onside kick sandwiched in between, and threw a two-point conversion to tie the game at with 40 seconds left.
In overtime, Ehlinger did it again. Texas got the ball first and scored, and Alan Bowman was intercepted on Texas Tech’s drive. Texas won 63-56, dropping the Red Raiders to 1-1 on the season.
Texas Tech showed incredible fight, trailing for nearly 40 minutes before taking its first lead at the end of the third quarter. Players up and down the roster made game-changing plays on both sides of the ball. But it wasn’t enough.
“The sidelines were into it. Our players were into it. Great college football game. Unfortunately, we didn’t win and there’s no moral victory at all in that for us,” Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells said.
Texas Tech’s secondary, solid for most of the night, turned into swiss cheese with three minutes left. There was no resistance as Ehlinger marched into the end zone three times in a row.
“We let some seam routes run wide smokin’ open,” Wells said.
The game had all the ingredients of a college football upset, of which there were plenty on a wild Saturday.
The Red Raiders made monstrous plays — particularly on special teams — throughout the game. However they had trouble capitalizing on them.
Texas Tech’s first special teams boon came in the second quarter, after KeSean Carter’s second touchdown of the day cut Texas’ lead to 17-14. On the ensuing kickoff, Trey Wolff tapped a dribbler 10 yards past the tee and scooped it up in front of the unsuspecting Longhorns, giving the Red Raiders possession on an onside kick and a shot to take the lead.
But on the next play, Texas safety Chris Brown glided over to a Bowman deep ball and picked it off with ease, setting up a UT touchdown.
With Texas Tech down three points again late in the second quarter, Red Raider special teams ace Jacob Morgenstern blocked a punt and Texas Tech took over on the Longhorns’ 17-yard line.
From there, disaster struck again. Bowman had to fall on a bad snap on the first play of the drive, and Texas’ Chris Adimora undercut his throw on the second, returning the interception deep into Red Raider territory, leading to another Texas touchdown.
After a discouraging Texas Tech three-and-out to start the third quarter, Texas muffed a punt and TTU’s Xavier Martin recovered the ball in the end zone. But Texas matched that with special teams magic of their own, blocking a punt for a touchdown less than two minutes later.
At the end of the third quarter, Texas Tech finally took its first lead of the game. Alex Hogan jumped in front of a Sam Ehlinger pass for an interception and Thompson scored on the next play. Suddenly, the Red Raiders led 42-38 with 15 minutes left.
Texas got the ball back and marched down the field, but the Red Raider defense held firm. Thomas Leggett knocked away a third down pass, forcing Texas to settle for a field goal that kept the Longhorns behind by one point.
Texas got the ball back with a chance to go ahead, but Tyree Wilson sacked Sam Ehlinger on third down, forcing a punt.
The ball was back in Bowman’s hands, and he ushered Texas Tech into the end zone for sixth time, hitting a sprawling T.J. Vasher in the end zone for a touchdown.
Bowman’s two early picks were costly, and they overshadowed some promising aspects of his performance. With a sputtering run game for most of the day, the Texas Tech signal caller repeatedly hit Erik Ezukanma and KeSean Carter to extend drives.
Carter produced his second straight huge game against Longhorns. Last season, Carter had a breakout performance against Texas in the Red Raiders’ final game, catching 11 passes for 150 yards.
The junior wideout didn’t miss a beat in Saturday’s meeting, catching Texas Tech’s first two touchdowns of the day and gaining 77 yards.
While he wreaked havoc from the slot, Erik Ezukanma and T.J. Vasher were effective on the outside. Ezukanma’s solid route running freed himself up to catch balls, and finished his runs strong, picking up valuable yards after the catch.
His best play of his day came when he leapt high to snag Bowman’s third touchdown pass of the day on a free play.
Vasher hauled in two touchdowns himself, a 29-yard catch-and-run and the diving grab on the sideline to give the Red Raiders a 49-41 lead.
“In our receiver room we pride ourselves on making plays,” Vasher said. “So when the ball touches our hands, we’re not looking to go down. We’re looking to stretch the field and go score every time we touch the ball.”
The Longhorns gained their edge on the ground. Ehlinger and Keoantay Ingram had lots of success running the ball against the Red Raiders, while Thompson struggled to get going.
Thompson’s line looks solid at the end of the day, but take away the 75-yard rumble and he had just 29 yards on 15 carries. Meanwhile, Ehlinger and Ingram both cracked 70 yards for the Longhorns. As a team, Texas rushed for 214 in total, including negative yardage from sacks.
The Red Raider secondary played better up until the end of the game. Ehlinger’s 262 passing yards were a far cry from the 567 that Houston Baptist’s Bailey Zappe threw for two weeks ago. Yet when it mattered most, Texas Tech could not get a stop.
“We get a stop or turnover, we win this game,” linebacker Riko Jeffers said. “We have to have that determination and that grit to finish out the whole game.”
Texas Tech was minutes away from taking down the Longhorns in Lubbock for the first time since Michael Crabtree’s famous catch in 2008, but the Red Raiders pulled defeat from the jaws of victory, leaving hearts broken across the South Plains.