Texas finds bowl hopes on line against Texas Tech

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Freshman linebacker Malik Jefferson stares across the line of scrimmage. Jefferson and the Longhorns currently sit at 4-6 prior to their matchup with Texas Tech on Thursday night. Texas will look to stop a Red Raiders attack that ranks as the nation's No. 3 passing offense.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns’ backs are against the wall.

At 4-6, Texas likely needs to win both of its remaining games to fend off elimination from the postseason. The Longhorns know that several fans and pundits are already counting them out, but they are driven to prove those doubters wrong.

“We’ve got two games left,” junior safety Dylan Haines said. “I know everyone’s kind of wrote us out for not making a bowl, and the season’s over, … but that shouldn’t be the mentality. If there’s an opportunity [where] you can make a bowl, then why not go for that?”

Texas’ postseason aspirations continue against a high-powered Texas Tech team on Thanksgiving night. The Red Raiders haven’t beaten the Longhorns in Austin since 1997 and have yet to beat Texas under head coach Kliff Kingsbury. However, they will test Texas with one of the nation’s top offenses.

“They’re a big-play team,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “What they can do is they can throw the ball out in the flat. … They can make people miss, and they can take the ball the distance. We’ve got to corral the ball, and when we go hit it, we’ve got to get it on the ground, and there’s got to be enough people running to
the football.”

Led by sophomore quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Red Raiders boast the No. 3 passing offense in the nation. However, Strong said Texas Tech is most dangerous for its ability to sustain drives. The Red Raiders rank No. 1 in the country in third-down efficiency and No. 7 in plays per game. Their third-down success looks to cause problems for the Longhorns’ defense, which ranks No. 114 in opponent third-down efficiency.

“Tech’s offense is a high potent offense,” redshirt freshman cornerback John Bonney said. “They’re high-scoring, and they like to throw the ball. So us in the secondary, we’re going to have to really be focused and do our job well and be where we’re supposed to be.”

Texas hopes to counter Texas Tech’s high-octane offense with a strong ground game. The Longhorns rank No. 25 in rushing while churning out 214 yards per game on the ground through 10 games. Thursday’s contest also marks senior night for 18 Longhorns, who look to finish their career at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium with a victory. Additionally, the younger players and coaches emphasized the need to get their seniors to a bowl game. In order to do this, they must get a win against Texas Tech on Saturday.

“When a young man gets to his senior year, you just want to make sure that they go out the right way,” Strong said. “You would like to have a winning season for them, and that’s still in place for us if we go out and get these next two.”