Entering Saturday’s game against Texas Tech at 3-5, the Longhorns knew what a loss would mean for their hopes of attaining bowl eligibility. But their quest for win number four started with an early score, and the Longhorns shut out the Red Raiders in the second half to help secure the victory. Here are a few key observations from the win:
Longhorns run well
Entering the season, many pegged senior running back Malcolm Brown as a player with the potential to rush for over 1,000 yards in 2014. The feat would make him the first Longhorn to run for quadruple digits since Jamaal Charles in 2007.
He nearly accomplished that feat last year, despite barely getting any carries through the first five games of the season and splitting carries with junior running back Johnathan Gray before Gray’s season-ending Achilles injury.
Through eight games this season, though Brown has struggled behind a depleted offensive line and most recently only carried the ball six times in a shutout loss to Kansas State.
Twenty-two carries later against Texas Tech, Brown turned in Texas’ first 100-yard rushing performance of the season, running for 116 yards and two scores.
Gray also looked his best since his injury nearly a year ago, running for 77 yards on 17 carries, including a score from 17 yards out. In all, the Longhorns ran for a season-high 241 yards behind an inexperienced offensive line that is improving every week.
“The thing about it, our offensive line played well,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “They can get on people, get in the way, and let those backs take the ball and just run behind their pack.”
Defense forces turnovers
Following the loss to Kansas State, several Longhorn defensive players said, despite the unit playing fairly well, they needed to force some turnovers to put the offense in position to score.
They did just that by forcing two turnovers against Tech. The first occurred in the second quarter when senior cornerback Quandre Diggs simultaneously knocked the ball out of freshman quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ hands and knocked the young quarterback out of the game.
“It was just a good hit,” Diggs said. “Came in, saw he was running, did what I was supposed to do to get my team fired up. That’s plays I need to make each and every week to get the guys going and do what I do.”
The ensuing fumble was recovered by junior defensive end Shiro Davis, and the Longhorns scored five plays later to regain the lead at 10-6.
Following Mahomes’ injury, walk-on freshman quarterback Vincent Testaverde took over behind center for Tech and threw the games’ lone interception to senior safety Mykkele Thompson in the fourth quarter.
The defense broke up 10 passes throughout the game but only intercepted one.
Harris continues big year
Senior wide receiver John Harris posted a career-high 165 receiving yards, catching five balls for his third 100-yard performance of the season and of his career. Harris’ career-long, 68-yard grab in the second quarter helped put the Longhorns in control of the game.
“The way we run it in practice, that ball goes to Shipley, so I was kind of in shock when he threw it,” Harris said. “But he was expecting me to go make a play, and those guys on defense were expecting me to make a play, so that’s what I gotta go do.”
Harris has now caught 48 passes for 814 yards and six scores this season. Before 2014, Harris had just 9 catches for 190 yards and three touchdowns in his entire career.