Tied at second in the Big 12, Texas has much to be thankful for this week, especially after starting its season 1-2 in non-conference play.
“Everyone has counted us out but us,” senior quarterback Case McCoy said in a press conference on Monday. “We understand that if we win two more ballgames, we’re putting numbers on the wall and we’re still sharing a Big 12 title.”
Oklahoma State is alone in first place after its victory over Baylor last week, and the Bears and Longhorns are tied in second.
With wins over Texas Tech this week and Baylor the next, Texas could garner half of the Big 12 title.
For now, the Longhorns are focused on the Red Raiders and are looking to right their wrongs after suffering their first conference loss of the season to Oklahoma State, 38-13, two weeks ago.
“They were very disappointed,” head coach Mack Brown said of his team after the game. “We were disappointed as coaches. We felt like we hung in there and did some great things. Three turnovers, two of them for touchdowns, you miss two interceptions, it could be a 14-point swing … They understand we missed a great opportunity. It’s something that you don’t forget, but you got to move forward. From what I’ve seen the practice last weekend, yesterday, I think we’ve moved forward and are going to play well Thursday night.”
Brown, now in his 16th season at the helm in Austin, was in his fifth season when Kliff Kingsbury passed for 473 yards and six touchdowns in a 42-38 Red Raider victory in 2002.
“It looks like the same offense,” Brown said of Texas Tech. “I go back to 2002 when Kliff beat us 42-38 right in the end. All those teams where Mike (Leach) has, they come in and throw it, they throw it. You learn you better have some fresh legs rushing the passer at the end of the game. They may throw it 75 times; they don’t care … They’re risk-takers. They’re gun-slingers. What Kliff is doing is what we’ve come to know at Texas Tech. He’s a perfect fit for them.”
Behind a duo of freshman quarterbacks, Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield, Texas Tech leads the nation in passing offense, averaging 400.2 yards per game.
Three Red Raider receivers, junior Jace Amaro, senior Eric Ward and sophomore Jakeem Grant, are all in the top six in the conference with more than 70 receiving yards per game.
“We know we need to play well in the back end,” senior cornerback Carrington Byndom said. “That only helps the team and the defense up front, so we know the job we have of covering these high powered offenses in the Big 12. It’s another challenge for us and one we’re accepting.”
Kingsbury has not named a starting quarterback for Thursday’s game, but Brown says his team is prepared for whoever trots out on the field.
“They’re all three good,” Brown said. “They’re all three the same. They’re very accurate. Kliff is a great teacher. I think he’s the perfect guy for Tech. The future is bright for them. He’ll do what Mike did, he’s going to bring in great receivers and throw the ball as well as anyone in the country.”
Two of the three Tech quarterbacks, Mayfield and sophomore Michael Brewer, attended high school in Austin at Lake Travis.
Tech senior defensive lineman Kerry Hyder also calls Austin home.
McCoy graduated from high school in Graham, and many of his friends attend Tech.
“That’s where my whole high school goes,” McCoy said. “It’s a fun game for me to play against those guys. I know a lot of those guys. It’s a bragging right game for me for the rest of my life. I’ll be prepared. I’ll be fired up.”
McCoy enters Thursday’s game 157-of-259 for eight touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis lead Texas on the outside with 65 and 57 receiving yards per game, respectively.
However, the brunt of the Longhorns’ offense comes on the ground, averaging 192.7 yards per game.
Texas’ top running back, sophomore Johnathan Gray, is out for the year after suffering an Achilles injury three weeks ago.
Injuries have piled up this season for the Longhorns.
Junior linebacker Jordan Hicks also suffered a season-ending Achilles injury, and senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley is out for the year with a knee injury.
McCoy took over as starting quarterback for junior David Ash, who has missed the last six games due to injury; Ash will not return this season but is applying for a medical redshirt.
Junior offensive lineman Josh Cochran has also missed the last six games for Texas after injuring his shoulder but is day-to-day as far as his status for Thursday.
Any other minor ailments Texas faced the past couple of weeks had an opportunity to heal up over the bye week last week.
Since Brown took over at Texas, his team is a combined 21-5 following regular-season bye weeks.
The Longhorns have won the last seven games against Tech in Austin and have won the last four overall.
Besides being the only college football game on national television Thanksgiving evening, Thursday is Texas’ senior day.
Brown’s teams are 12-3 on senior day.
“What we’ve told them is ‘Mama’s going to cry, but make sure they cry at the end of the game because they’re happy and not at the beginning of the game because you can start games poorly because you’re so emotional that you’re thinking about all these things instead of winning the game,’” Brown said. “Our job will be to get them to focus on the game from start to finish, then afterwards they can enjoy the moment.”
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