Oakland Raiders

Texas Tech sophomore Stephen Smith, left, and freshman shortstop Joe Baker have to be separated in a contentious match Sunday.
Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Late in the ninth inning Sunday, Texas Tech sophomore Stephen Smith slid hard into freshman shortstop Joe Baker. As the two barked at each other, the Texas bench ran on to the field in a rare sign of emotion for the Longhorns.

“It’s just baseball,” sophomore catcher Tres Barrera said. “We’re just sticking up for our teammate. We saw a guy went in hard. You just got to back up your guy at all times, no matter what the score is.”

The move, about protection, was equally the result of raw emotion spilling onto the field as the Texas season hung in the balance. In a must-win game, Texas faltered to Texas Tech, 5–1, in a decisive series finale, just as it has done most of this season. The Red Raiders took the series with a 2-1 advantage. 

“It’s like going to the same movie over and over again,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “We continue not to take quality at-bats with runners in scoring position. When we have opportunities to score runs, we fail offensively to take our walks and sustain the rally that we need.”

Garrido said the team entered the weekend with the hope of sneaking into the NCAA Tournament. But the Longhorns flew off the radar in front of 6,284 faithful fans Sunday as a two-run home run by Texas Tech freshman shortstop Orlando Garcia sailed over the left-field wall in the fifth inning.

Despite recording eight hits, the Longhorns failed to produce any run-scoring drives as their only run came across on a walk. Texas played 24 innings of scoreless baseball over the weekend. It plated three runs in the fifth inning of Friday’s 3–0 win and one run in each of its losses.

“We haven’t capitalized when we needed to,” Barrera said. “We haven’t been able to put timely at-bats and timely hitting when we have runners in scoring position. That’s just the way it’s been.”

Texas has a .500 record and has failed to win back-to-back Big 12 games since late March. The team also dropped three mid-week games this season against UT-Arlington, Texas A&M–Corpus Christi and Sam Houston State. The Longhorns’ struggles started in early March when the team dropped a doubleheader against San Diego.  

“We had a lot of success, a lot of fight and a lot of expectations,” Garrido said. “I think when we lost the first three-game weekend, we started to feel differently about their ability to come back and win the game. We’ve had problem with RBIs.”

The Longhorns offense started off hot but quelled as the season grew. Texas put plenty of runners on base — as it did against the Red Raiders — but failed to bring home many runs. The biggest issue that hurt the Longhorns was their focus on their batting average, Garrido said.

“We became one dimensional; we only had one goal,” Garrido said. “Anybody who’s been around baseball for a long time … they know that the biggest demon of all the ones that are around is batting average.”

With four games left in the regular season, the team’s postseason hopes likely ride on winning the Big 12 Championship, a shock considering Garrido called this team as good as the 2005 national championship team earlier this season. 

Despite all the negativity surrounding this season, the players still believe a comeback is possible, according to freshman pitcher Connor Mayes.

“[The batters] are staying with it and going through the process that coach talks about, and that’s all we can do,” Mayes said. “We might be unlucky, but we just got to stay with it.” 

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

71-30: Texas’ record in the ninth game of the season — a win percentage of 70.3 percent. The Longhorns are 1-1 when entering with a 3-5 record, which includes a 1997 loss to Texas Tech at home.

48-15: All-time record of the Texas versus Texas Tech rivalry, in the Longhorns’ favor. Texas has claimed 76.2 percent of the contests and is 18-10 in Lubbock — a win percentage of 64.2 percent. The Longhorns have won the past two on the road versus the Red Raiders but have not three straight in Lubbock since 1966.

5: Number of consecutive meetings the Longhorns have won against the Red Raiders entering this weekend, tied for their longest win streak over Texas Tech since 1966.

30-17: The average score of the series, in the Longhorns’ favor. The average score at Lubbock is 28-22, in favor of Texas.

42.5: Amount of points the Red Raiders are allowing opponents to score this season — most in the Big 12 and 126th nationally. Entering last weekend’s 82-point debacle, they were allowing over 36 points per game — still the most in the Big 12. The Longhorn offense enters this weekend averaging only 20.8 points per game — ninth in the conference.

506.3: Yards of offense allowed by the Texas Tech defense per game, most in the Big 12 and 122nd nationally. Despite the Longhorn offense being ninth in the Big 12 in yards of offense per game with 348.3, the Red Raiders should find success against the porous defense.

0: Texas’ turnover margin for the season. Its margin is +6 on the season in wins compared to -6 in losses. Tech’s total margin on the year is -12, which is worst in the conference and is tied for 125th nationally.

26.9: The average number of first downs the Red Raiders surrender per game — 125th in the nation and most in the conference. Texas has struggled in that department, picking up only 18.6 first downs per game, which is ninth in the Big 12 and tied for 105th nationally.

26: The number of sacks recorded by the Texas defense this season, which is the most in the Big 12 despite only recording six over the past three games. Texas Tech’s defense has only allowed seven sacks in eight games so far this season — second fewest in the conference.

52: The number of plays the Texas offense ran in Saturday’s shutout loss to Kansas State — the program’s fewest count since running only 50 plays in its 28-10 victory over Oklahoma in 2006.

196: Yards of total offense the Longhorns accumulated in Saturday’s loss to Kansas State, their fewest total since only gaining 158 yards in their 63-14 loss to Oklahoma in 2000.

0: The number of times the Longhorns have defeated the Red Raiders on Nov. 1. They are 0-3 against Texas Tech the day after Halloween, and all three losses have been on the road.

Interim Kansas head coach Clint Bowen will be tasked with trying to turn the ship around for the Jawhawks, as Charlie Weis was fired after a little more than two years on the job. During his time in Lawrence, Kansas, Weis compiled a 5-22 record — the lowest winning percentage of any coach in Kansas history. While they did have a decent 2-2 record so far this year, the Jawhawks lost both games against tougher FBS teams — Duke and Texas — by a combined score of 64-3. Weis will collect the remaining $7 million on his contract with Kansas while still receiving the reported $19 million from his contract with Notre Dame, where he was fired from in 2009.

Texas Tech QB Webb a game-time Decision

Texas Tech’s sophomore quarterback Davis Webb will be a game-time decision for the Red Raiders against Kansas State, after injuring his non-throwing shoulder against Oklahoma State on Sept. 25. After taking a hard sack in the fourth quarter, Davis appeared to injure his left shoulder. After a visit to the locker room, he seemed ready to come back into the game, but head coach Kliff Kingsbury kept him out. Davis underwent an MRI last Saturday, but the results have not been made public. If Webb is unable to play, freshman Patrick Mahomes will likely get the start. Mahomes was 2-of-5 for 20 yards with a touchdown pass and an interception against Oklahoma State.

Garman, Hicks, Lockett take home Big 12 honors

After a breakout performance against Texas Tech last week, Oklahoma State junior Daxx Garman was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week for the first time in his collegiate career. Garman was 17-of-31 in the 45-35 win over the Red Raiders and passed for 370 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions and also added a rushing touchdown. His five total touchdowns were the most scores by a Cowboy quarterback in a Big 12 game since 2011.

Texas senior linebacker Jordan Hicks took home the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors after recording 15 tackles, a tackle for loss and an interception in the Longhorns’ 23-0 win over Kansas. Hicks was part of the Texas defense that posted its first road shutout since 2005.

Kansas State senior punt returner Tyler Lockett rounded out the Big 12 awards with the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week honor following his performance in the Wildcats’ win over UTEP. Lockett had 143 punt return yards, including a 58-yard return for a touchdown, putting him second in school history for most single-game punt return yardage. Lockett finished with 256 all-purpose yards in the 58-28 win over the Miners.

Sophomore left fielder Ben Johnson has emerged as a legitimate power threat for the Longhorns’ offense and currently leads the team with three home runs on the season. He is also tied for second on the team with a .304 batting average.

Photo Credit: Jenna Von Hofe | Daily Texan Staff

When eighth-ranked Texas hosts Baylor this weekend, one team will shed its .500 conference record.

The Longhorns (23-7, 3-3 Big 12) will battle the Bears (15-13, 4-4 Big 12) in their first home games in almost two weeks — a span that saw them win three out of four games. Texas won two of three games against Texas Tech last weekend, pushing its conference record to .500 before it defeated Rice 5-2 on Tuesday night.

The offense continued to scorch opposing pitching away from home, scoring 25 runs in the past four games. Freshman catcher Tres Barrera has erupted in the last few games. He notched eight total hits in the last four games, including two three-hit games against the Red Raiders.

Barrera’s average has creeped up to .297, placing him just under the Longhorns’ top three hitters, who are all hitting over .300. Against Texas Tech, Barrera hit Texas’ seventh home run of the season.

Sophomore left fielder Ben Johnson continued his torrid pace against Tech, tallying two homers of his own that put his team-leading total at three for the season. Johnson has recorded at least one hit in each of Texas’ last eight games and is tied for second on the team with a .304 batting average. 

The Longhorns will face a Bears team this weekend that is coming off two wins against Incarnate World. Baylor has posted a combined batting average of just .226 this season and hasn’t scored more than seven runs in a game since March 18 against Houston Baptist.

Texas’ pitching staff still boasts a combined 1.98 ERA and holds its opponents to a combined .218 batting average, despite giving up eight runs in the second game of series against the Red Raiders. Baylor will be forced to rely on its starting rotation, which has carried the pitching staff with a combined ERA of 2.43 this season. 

Texas and Baylor both sit at .500 in the Big 12 heading into this weekend, with Texas primed to stake its claim as a conference force. 

Free agency is always fun, especially the fantasy implications that come with it. If you don’t realize that it has fantasy implications, let me refresh your memory.

Last year, here is what we saw:

  • Stephen Jackson signed with the Atlanta Falcons (fantasy bust)
  • Mike Wallace signed with the Miami Dolphins. (solid fantasy year)
  • Danny Amendola signed with the New England Patriots (fantasy bust)
  • Wes Welker signed with the Denver Broncos (fantasy stud)
  • Martellus Bennett signed with the Chicago Bears (fantasy sleeper)
  • Reggie Bush signed with the Detroit Lions (fantasy sleeper)
  • Rashard Mendenhall signed with the Arizona Cardinals (bust)
  • Percy Harvin signed with the Seattle Seahawks (injuries made him a total bust)

See what I mean? Clearly, free agency impacts our fantasy squads. That was last year, though. So let’s take a look at just some of the many moves thus far for 2014, as many teams wasted no time signing big names.

Knownshon Moreno

(Denver Broncos -> Miami Dolphins)

From Super Bowl contender to a locker room full of bullies, Moreno is joining the tandem of Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas in South Beach. This is not promising for Moreno’s fantasy value. With Peyton Manning, he finished fifth last year in total yards and topped it off with 13 touchdowns. Now, he goes to a Dolphins team with two other running backs that will get significant playing time, limiting his rush attempts. However, this could give Montee Ball a boost in Denver and make him a sleeper in 2014.

Maurice Jones-Drew

(Jacksonville Jaguars -> Oakland Raiders)

Jones-Drew will join Darren McFadden, an all-time fantasy bust, in the Raiders backfield. It looks nice on paper, but Jones-Drew is not the same running back he once was. In Oakland, he will likely enter the season as the starter and be solid. He won’t be the Jones-Drew we used to know, but he should improve over his past two years.

Emmanuel Sanders

(Pittsburgh Steelers -> Denver Broncos)

It doesn’t get much better than catching balls from Peyton Manning. Sanders’ fantasy value is definitely up, and I expect a big year out of him. He will replace Eric Decker, who left for the New York Jets.

Eric Decker

(Denver Broncos -> New York Jets)

Decker is now the number one option for the Jets, and he is going to have a solid fantasy year. However, his value is definitely down from last year. Simply put, Decker just left Peyton Manning for Geno Smith and Michael Vick.

Ben Tate

(Houston Texans -> Cleveland Browns)

Tate’s value has skyrocketed. I am a fan of what Tate did in Houston when he got his carries, averaging 4.7 yards per touch over his career. He will be the starting running back, and I am boldly predicting he’ll finish as a top-12 fantasy back.

Hakeem Nicks

(New York Giants -> Indianapolis Colts)

Nicks signed a one-year deal, meaning he will have to prove he can still be a stud wide receiver after a disappointing year last year. Nicks, who failed to score a touchdown last season, is going to be playing with Andrew Luck and I expect his fantasy value will increase as a result.

Steve Smith

(Carolina Panthers -> Baltimore Ravens)

It is going to be weird not seeing him in a Panthers uniform, but Smith should step into a starting role with the Ravens and do what he does. Count on Smith, and don’t be afraid to draft him.

Darren Sproles

(New Orleans Saints -> Philadelphia Eagles)

The combination of Chip Kelly and Darren Sproles is a fantasy football dream. I expect Sproles to explode this year. I suspect Chip Kelly to use him in a variety of ways and gain a ton of yards with some scores here and there.

LeGarrette Blount

(New England Patriots -> Pittsburgh Steelers)

This is the perfect type of running back for the Steelers. A guy that can ground and pound the football, Blount is going to be a factor on the Steelers. Blount will be a goal-line back at the least, and he will be among the league leaders in touchdowns.

Golden Tate

(Seattle Seahawks -> Detroit Lions)

This definitely helps Tate because the Lions aren’t afraid to throw the ball, and Calvin Johnson will take away a lot of the coverage. If Matthew Stafford looks to his left, Tate should be open. His stock is up.

James Jones

(Green Bay Packers -> Oakland Raiders)

Jones is in a similar situation to Decker, except worse. Not only does he not have Aaron Rodgers anymore, he is going to the Raiders who haven’t had a successful passing season in a long time. His stock is down.

Junior running back Joe Bergeron has stepped up since an Achilles injury sidelined sophomore running back Johnathan Gray. Bergeron wore Gray's jersey in Thursday's game to honor the injured back.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

In its second game without the Aggies on Thanksgiving, Texas was able to run past Texas Tech 41-16 in the final home game of the season. With a game against conference-leading Baylor remaining, here are four key aspects to take from Thursday’s game:

Defensive front

Texas has had its struggles on defense this year, but, since defensive coordinator Greg Robinson has taken over the play calling duties from Manny Diaz, much has improved on the defensive front. So far this season, the Longhorns have recorded 35 sacks with nine of those coming against the Red Raiders. All of Texas’ sacks this season have come in its eight wins.

Senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, who played more of a linebacker role Thursday, recorded a career-high three sacks in the game. Junior Cedric Reed added to the pass rush with two of his own, while also adding five tackles.

Case McCoy

Senior quarterback Case McCoy played in his last home game of his career Thursday coming off his worst performance of the season against Oklahoma State. McCoy tallied three interceptions with no touchdowns against the Cowboys, while Oklahoma State broke Texas’ six game winning streak.

McCoy threw for 180 yards against Texas Tech as he passed for two touchdowns and ran for another. The Graham native completed 10 of his 19 passes for an average of 7.3 yards a play.

“I understand I didn’t give my team a chance to win last week,” McCoy said. “Your job is to take care of the ball and manage the game, like I said I did tonight. It’s good in this stadium to bounce back and have a game like that.”

Texas still strong without Johnathan Gray

Junior running back Joe Bergeron wore No. 32 Thursday night in honor of injured sophomore running back Johnathan Gray, but, instead of just taking his number, he also took his identity. Bergeron, who has had limited playing time this year with fumbling issues, ran for 102 yards and a touchdown against the Red Raiders.

The Longhorns had two 100-yard backs on the night as junior running back Malcolm Brown recorded 128 yards himself. Texas’ running game took a shot when Gray got injured against West Virginia earlier this month. The remaining backs for the Longhorns have been able to fill the hole in the ground game without Gray, as Bergeron and Brown have held up their end of the work.

Big 12 title hope remains intact

After Texas started the season 1-2 for the first time since 1998, many laughed at head coach Mack Brown when he said a hope for a Big 12 title still remained. Eight games later, that faith is still intact. The Longhorns no longer control their own destiny after losing to Oklahoma State two weeks ago, but their rout of Texas Tech brought back some hope.

Texas needs to beat Baylor on Saturday for at least a share of the conference championship, and, if Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State, the Longhorns have a chance for the outright title. Look for Texas fans to root for their Red River rivals this weekend as they watch the Longhorns take on the Bears in their last game at Floyd Casey Stadium.

Photo Credit: Joe Capraro | Daily Texan Staff

In its second game without the Aggies on Thanksgiving, Texas is off to a promising start against Texas Tech. On Senior Night, the Longhorns lead the Red Raiders 20-10 at halftime.

Jackson Jeffcoat highlighted the defense in the first 30 minutes with three of Texas’ six sacks on the night so far. The Longhorns have held Texas Tech to just 59 rushing yards and a total of 215 yards of offense.

Senior quarterback Case McCoy has completed five of his 11 passes and has tallied 77 yards of passing with one touchdown. On the ground, junior Joe Bergeron is leading Texas with 75 yards rushing, tallying a touchdown of his own in the second quarter.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Texas’ six-game winning streak was impressive. Even if, with the exception of Oklahoma, the Longhorns feasted on the weakest of the Big 12 teams to put that streak together.

Were the Longhorns exposed in a 38-13 loss to Oklahoma State two weekends ago? Or was it a temporary setback Texas can bounce back from this Thanksgiving?

Texas Tech is the perfect team to roll into town to prove that the latter is true. A game against the Red Raiders is exactly what the Longhorns need to get back in the Big 12 title race. Simply put, Texas has Texas Tech’s number and that’s not about to change.

The Longhorns are 9-1 against the Red Raiders over the last 10 years, the lone loss coming in an unmentionable but unforgettable defeat in Lubbock five seasons ago. During that span, the Longhorns have beaten the Red Raiders by an average score of 41-27.

Even in 2010, when Texas turned in its worst season since 1997, it managed to take down Texas Tech in a 24-14 victory during the third game of the year.

Expect another shootout. Texas Tech is the only team that is averaging at least 400 passing yards per game but the Red Raiders are also struggling on defense, allowing more than 275 rushing yards and at least three rushing touchdowns in each of its last four games – all losses.

Case McCoy was picked off three times in the Longhorns’ last contest, the worst home defeat in the Mack Brown era, but still has a solid pair of tailbacks in Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron. Texas will miss Johnathan Gray (Achilles) and Daje Johnson (suspension) but is more than capable of taking advantage of a porous Texas Tech run defense.

The first game of a three-game regular season-ending gauntlet for the Longhorns did not go well at all. Texas lost the turnover battle, couldn’t establish a running attack like it’s used to and has now allowed a combined 78 points over its last two games.

But that’s nothing compared to the way Texas Tech is limping into this Thursday night’s contest. The Red Raiders have lost four in a row by an average of 19.5 points per game after starting
their first season under Ryan Gosling doppleganger and former Red Raiders gunslinger Kliff Kingsubry 7-0. 

This is going to be a fast-paced game. Texas Tech has thrown more passes than anyone in the country except for a Washington State team led by Mike Leach, the man who brought the Air Raid to Lubbock, where he once coached Kingsbury. As much as Texas runs the ball, it likes to go up-tempo enough to make this week’s game a classic Longhorns-Red Raiders shootout.

Beating Baylor and getting lucky enough to have Oklahoma upset Oklahoma State in Stillwater next weekend – the two other things Texas needs to have happen to win the Big 12 – probably won’t happen. But there’s no way the Longhorns lose to Texas Tech.

There were several former Texas Longhorn players who took part in the NFL action last week, mostly on the defensive side of the ball. Here’s how they did.

Brian Orakpo (Washington Redskins linebacker)

Orakpo recorded three tackles, two for a loss, along with a sack and two quarterback hits. In desperate need of a win to keep pace in the NFC East, the Redskins held a 24-14 halftime lead in Minnesota against the Vikings. But they went on to lose the game 34-27, falling to 3-6 in the season.

Lamaar Houston (Oakland Raiders defensive end)

Houston played a good game for the upset-minded Raiders. His six tackles — one for a loss — and one quarterback hit had the Raiders trailing the New York Giants at MetLife 21-20 going into the fourth quarter. As usual, Giants quarterback Eli Manning made a few clutch throws in the final frame to help the Giants to a 24-20 win.

Michael Griffin (Tennessee Titans safety)

Griffin’s six tackles weren’t good enough for the Titans to avoid the embarrassment of being the Jacksonville Jaguars’ first win of the year. Despite two interceptions by Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne, the Jags pulled this game out in Tennessee 29-27. Ouch.

Aaron Williams (Buffalo Bills safety/cornerback)

Williams tallied five tackles — one for a loss — and a pass deflection against Ben Roethlisberger’s Steelers in Pittsburgh. He and the Bills defense made things tough for the Steelers, as they only gained 300 total yards. Still, Pittsburgh won at home 23-10, handing the Bills a season-ending loss.

Kenny Vaccaro (New Orleans Saints safety)

Vaccaro’s three tackles and a pass breakup led to one of Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo’s toughest career days. The Dallas passing game was totally shut down, producing a pathetic 104 yards. That, combined with the Saints 625 total yards, led to New Orleans steamrolling the Cowboys at the Superdome 49-17.

Last week I circled both the Washington Redskins-Oakland Raiders and the Buffalo Bills-Baltimore Ravens games as the two to watch if you were interested in following some former Longhorn greats. Both of these contests lived up to the hype I put on them in my blog last Friday. Contrary to my predictions, the Redskins earned their first victory of the season, while the Bills upset the Ravens at home. Here’s a look at how some key former Longhorns performed for both teams, and other standout Texas performances from the week.

Brian Orakpo (Redskins defensive end)

I guess Orakpo heard me loud and clear last week. He had to play well and set an aggressive defensive tone for his team if the Redskins wanted to pick up their first win of the season. He did just that by providing suffocating pressure on Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn. Orakpo finished the game with four tackles with two for a loss, and two sacks. He spearheaded the Redskins’ defensive attack as they would tally a whopping seven sacks in the game. Overall his defensive did a nice job of limiting the Raiders to just 298 total yards and 14 points. That’s a nice way to set up a win.

Aaron Williams (Bills defensive back)

This is Williams’ second fantastic defensive week of the season. Quarterback Joe Flacco had possibly the worst game of his career and Williams and the Bills’ defense played no small part in his embarrassing afternoon. The Ravens’ defense forced five — that’s not a typo — five interceptions and from Flacco. Williams claimed two of these picks, while also finishing with two tackles and four pass breakups. Buffalo’s defense is starting to become a stingy unit. Williams has been, and will continue to be a major factor in its success as the season progresses.

Earl Thomas (Seahawks safety)

In typical fashion, Thomas brought energy and swagger to the Seahawks’ heroic defensive efforts in what was a potential Super Bowl preview against the Houston Texans. The defining play of the game was cornerback Richard Sherman’s pick six against quarterback Matt Schaub late in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 20. Thomas contributed on defense all throughout the game prior to that play. He pitched in seven tackles and two critical pass breakups from Matt Schaub. The result: The Seahawks remained unbeaten even after one of their toughest tests of the season. Quarterback Russell Wilson and the offense played poorly and still managed to win this game. That speaks volumes about the quality of Seattle’s defense.