Every week this season, Texas Tech receiver Alex Torres worked on the route that netted him the winning touchdown Saturday at TCU. There’s more to the play, though, than just getting open.
Sure, everyone saw Seth Doege and Torres connect on an 8-yard pass that lifted Tech to a 56-53 win in triple overtime. But for the play-action pass to work, Torres has to sucker a linebacker into thinking it’s a run.
That takes practice. In weekday workouts, when the Red Raiders have a special-teams drill that doesn’t involve Torres, he and a few others might be off to the side with offensive coordinator Neal Brown.
“It’s coach Brown, quarterbacks and I, we’re down there working that same sell over and over and over whenever we can,” Torres said.
So Saturday, with Tech trailing 53-50 and facing second-and-goal at the 8, the Red Raiders set a trap for TCU senior Kenny Cain, one of the most highly regarded linebackers in the Big 12. Doege faked to running back Eric Stephens, who headed between right guard and right tackle. Fullback Omar Ontiveros sealed off the left flank, foiling TCU safety Sam Carter’s run at Doege.
Torres had lined up as a slot receiver left and located at Cain at inside linebacker. All day, Cain had watched Torres slant inside to block him on running plays.
“So I take a hard angle inside at this (middle linebacker),” Torres said, “and as soon as he bites up and sees the run fake, I sneak right behind him. Doege throws it while his back’s turned, and it’s a ball only I should be able to catch.”
That’s how they draw it up. Torres runs toward the linebacker and breaks down to show block. This time it was harder. Cain was stationed far enough inside, Torres had a long run to reach him. Before Torres could fake the run block, Cain was redirecting.
But he had been fooled just long enough.
“It was probably a 10-yard sell,” Torres said. “On our inside run, that’s what we’re doing. We’re fast and flat right at that (middle) linebacker, to scoop him out for one of our backs. He had been seeing that same stem from me all game.
“Every run we had, that’s what he sees, so it definitely made him think run at first. But then as soon as I got to him and he saw Doege pulling up, he started to turn back around.”
Back-side safety Chris Hackett, also a split-second late in reacting, was trying to get over, too.
That allowed the quarterback less leeway. Now he had a smaller window to fit the pass.
“Usually, that linebacker comes in and fills that run hard,” Doege said. “It’s almost like a pitch and catch back there. But as soon as he saw Torres sell run, he kind of realized this wasn’t a run play. He took off after Torres, I did the play fake and put it in the spot where Torres could get it.”
Seeing Doege step back to throw, Cain shifted his eyes to Torres, but had not yet picked up the flight of the ball. The Red Raiders needed it to come down in a hurry and for Torres to maintain his concentration.
“I could tell it was coming and was going to fall right before that linebacker had time to make a play on it,” Torres said. “One thing going through my mind is, ‘I’m not going to drop this ball.’ I even caught it like a basket, and I was holding it on the floor until I realized they called a touchdown.”
It was the 16th career touchdown for the Tech senior, his 170th catch.
All that was left was the celebration — and the need for Torres to protect himself. Big receiver Darrin Moore body bumped him and 320-pound center Deveric Gallington pancaked him. Beau Carpenter, a 295-pound guard, squashed Torres, too.
Small price to pay for applying a happy finish to a long game.
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