It seemed as though Texas Tech was finally going to get out of its own way long enough to create an indelible moment in its tortured history against Texas.
But in front of a school-record crowd at Jones AT&T Stadium on Saturday, there was always one more mistake, negative play or missed opportunity to be had for the Red Raiders.
The end result was a 31-22 defeat at the hands of the Longhorns, who won their fourth straight game in the rivalry and have a 47-15 edge in the series. Tech’s seniors will end their careers without a win against Texas to their credit.
“It hurts to know that the goals you were after and you set for your team going into the season kind of went out the door with this loss,” Tech quarterback Seth Doege said.
The pain was largely self-inflicted.
Tech (6-3, 3-3) scorched the turf on offense between the 20s — Tech outgained Texas, 441-427 — but its red-zone inefficiencies were crippling.
Six trips into that territory yielded only two touchdowns. Four separate first-and-10 situations at the 16-, 15-, 17- and 10-yard lines netted only field-goal attempts — three successful, one blocked by Carrington Byndom with five minutes left in the gamer, sealing the win for Texas (7-2, 4-2).
“We just shot ourselves in the foot,” Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. “Made too many mistakes against a good football team. The last two weeks, we’ve done that.”
The Red Raiders committed nine penalties for 85 yards, almost all of them in devastating fashion.
Tech trailed 31-22 with six minutes left when Kenny Williams ran into the end zone from 2 yards out. But center Deveric Gallington was called for holding. The drive stalled after that, and Tech elected to attempt a field goal in hopes of extending the game.
But Byndom, who made a number of huge plays for the Texas defense, flew around the right edge to block the kick, allowing Texas to run out the clock.
“It was a game-saver,” Texas coach Mack Brown said of Byndom’s block.
More accurately, it was the final blow in an afternoon-long buffet of kidney shots suffered by the Red Raiders.
In the second quarter, with Tech trailing 21-10 — two deep passes from quarterback David Ash to wide receiver Mike Davis helped Texas jump to an early lead — the Red Raiders quickly moved into scoring range with a first down at the Texas 15.
On the next play, though, a 15-yard chop-block penalty on guard Le’Raven Clark wiped out a big gain on a screen pass, and Tech settled for a field goal that cut the lead to 21-13. Texas converted a field goal of its own on the ensuing drive for a 24-13 halftime lead.
“Penalties,” said Doege, who threw for 329 yards and a touchdown. “I don’t think I have to explain much of it. It’s hard for me to remember every time we were in the red zone, but I know when we were in the red zone, every time we didn’t get points, the majority of the time it was penalties that kept us from it.”
Tuberville was seen berating the officials on several occasions, but he wouldn’t comment on the flags after the game.
He also didn’t address a couple of key decisions made by the coaching staff. Tuberville started his press conference quickly after the game and exited before several media members who regularly cover the team arrived.
Tech made only linebacker Will Smith and Doege available to the media, and an interview request for offensive coordinator Neal Brown was denied.
“No, you never get anything out of that,” Tuberville said of his conversations with officials. “Then we get the hold on the 1-yard line (on Tech’s final drive). We got one last year about the same spot, same team, so I better not comment on those.”
With less than two minutes left in the third quarter, Doege connected with Eric Stephens on a screen for a 10-yard touchdown pass to cut the Texas lead to 24-22. Tuberville elected to go for two, but a fade pass from Doege to Marcus Kennard was broken up by Byndom.
The lost point came back to haunt Tech when Ash’s second touchdown pass of the day to Mike Davis — who had four catches for 165 yards — with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter put Texas up, 31-22, leaving Tech to chase two scores instead of one.
“It’s one of the reasons that we don’t go for the two-point play early,” Brown said, “and I’m not second-guessing Tommy, because they had full momentum at that time. But great play by (Byndom).”
Despite all the setbacks, Tech was still in position to steal a marquee win as the fourth quarter began. The Red Raiders held Texas to a 3-and-out following the missed two-point conversion and got the ball back at its own 27, trailing by just two.
But after Doege completed a 9-yard pass to Tyson Williams on first down, Kenny Williams was dropped for a 1-yard loss. Tech then threw incomplete on third down and was forced to punt, squandering the momentum that had surged in its favor during a strong third quarter.
Ash, who threw for 264 yards and three scores, then marched the Longhorns on an eight-play, 59-yard drive — ending in a 25-yard strike to Davis — to give the Longhorns their winning margin, as Tech once again failed to capitalize on scoring chances.
Doege said he had never experienced a loss more disappointing than the one Tech suffered Saturday.
“I mean, it’s our last chance at UT,” he said. “It’s our last chance to really try to do something special here that nobody has done before and give us the opportunity to do that. So that’s out of it, too.”
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