AUSTIN — An inability to convert a lot of yards into points gave Texas Tech trouble all season. It’s something that will have Tech coaches pondering solutions all off-season and spring.
In that regard, Tech’s loss to Texas in the regular-season finale Thursday night was another exercise in futility. In the first three quarters alone, the Red Raiders moved into Longhorns territory five times and managed only a field goal.
Tech had first downs at the Texas 24, 43, 12, 47 and 30 only to be foiled nearly every time.
“We’ve got to improve in the run game and up front in general,” Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “I think you saw that tonight. When you get down there, the windows get tighter. You’ve got to be accurate, and you’ve got make quicker decisions. You can’t take all those sacks.”
Part of the problem was the Red Raiders’ inability to consistently form a secure pocket around Baker Mayfield, and Mayfield’s struggle to find open receivers. The Longhorns piled up nine sacks, with Jackson Jeffcoat — one of 20 seniors playing his final home game — leading the way.
Jeffcoat, normally a defensive end, spent much of the night lined up over the Red Raiders’ guards — one of them true freshman Baylen Brown — and wreaking havoc. The Longhorns had six sacks in the first half, three by Jeffcoat. Five of the six were on third downs, contributing to the Red Raiders inability to convert good opportunities.
“That was something they had for tonight, which is smart,” Kingsbury said of the Longhorns’ lining up Jeffcoat inside. “I thought Jackson did a good job being disruptive and making a lot of plays for them.”
Kingsbury has said more than once this season the Red Raiders needed touchdowns, not field goals to win games in the Big 12. On Thanksgiving night, touchdowns were not to be found and even reliable kicker Ryan Bustin wasn’t perfect — he missed a 40-yard field goal, only his fourth miss in 25 attempts this season.
That came in the first quarter, and the pattern of futility continued.
The Red Raiders made it to the UT 43, but two incomplete passes and a sack took them out of field-goal range. Just before the first half ended, Tech was at the UT 12 after two personal-foul penalties and a long pass play to running back DeAndre Washington. On first down, Mayfield ran it to the 8, fumbled and a teammate recovered.
The Longhorns had Eric Ward covered on a throw into the end zone on second down, then Jeffcoat sacked Mayfield and the Red Raiders settled for a field goal that made the score 20-10 at halftime.
Tech had a good chance to get right back into it early in the third quarter after recovering a fumble at the UT 47. Kingsbury tried a trick play with Mayfield throwing a backward pass to flanker Reginald Davis, who in turn tried a backward pass back to Mayfield. Davis lost his grip in his throwing motion, however, and Longhorns safety Josh Turner jumped on the loose ball around midfield, ending the threat.
Later in the third quarter, Tech moved to a first down at the UT 30, but defensive end Cedric Reed sacked Mayfield on fourth down from the 28.
“I think they came out and really confused us, coming in (with) what we wanted to do,” center Jared Kaster said. “They came out with what they were going to do and they did it.”
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