The ball found its way into Texas defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway’s hands.
Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph cocked his arm to throw but lost the ball before he could fire a pass. Ridgeway scooped it into his hands. He delivered a stiff arm, fought his way out of Rudolph’s arms and ran 34 yards for a touchdown.
“I wasn’t about to go down,” Ridgeway said.
His touchdown against Oklahoma State was a breakout moment. The 6-foot-3, 314 pound junior entered 2015 with high hopes after recording 43 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and six sacks during his sophomore season. But a back injury kept him out of fall practice. He was able to play against Notre Dame and has slowly worked his way back to the starting spot.
“[Ridgeway] has been working hard,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “You look at the California game — he played really well — and what happened the first two [weeks] is just during the preseason camp he was just working back getting into shape and had a couple of nagging injuries. But then you watch him go out there and play this past week against Oklahoma State and had just a great game.”
Ridgeway has begun to find his edge in 2015. Although he’s only amassed 16 total tackles and one sack this season, Strong has admired his ability to control the line of scrimmage. Strong said he was glad to see him step up against the Cowboys and score a touchdown.His teammates are also glad to see Ridgeway return to form. Sophomore defensive end Naashon Hughes said when Ridgeway is playing well, the defense is at its peak.
“When Hassan plays the way he does, he sets the edge for the defense,” Hughes said. “He stops the offense from doing whatever they want do up the middle because he’s that much of a dominant force. Whenever he plays like that it just shows how dominant we can be as a defense.”
As Texas prepares for its toughest challenge against No. 4 TCU, the Longhorns will need Ridgeway at his best. Texas enters Fort Worth with a 1-3 record, its worst start since 1956. Senior running back Johnathan Gray said Ridgeway needed a break, and now he has confidence that can help him and the team against the Horned Frogs.
“He’s a big part of our defense,” Gray said. “He plays like that every snap, every game. The sky is the limit for him and our defense … He’s a big threat and we keep needing him to do that.”
While his teammates and coaches have bragged on him, Ridgeway isn’t satisfied with his touchdown against the Cowboys. He said he’d rather win than make the big play.
“It doesn’t feel good coming out like that,” Ridgeway said. “It would have felt good winning. That’s the only thing that would have felt good.”
Although Ridgeway isn’t satisfied with his touchdown or losing, Gray said Ridgeway’s gradual improvement can go a long way for him.
“The sky is the limit for that kid,” Gray said.