Texas Football: 10 Things We Learned from the Longhorns' Win vs. the Red Raiders
A little bit of the unexpected brought the No. 23 Texas Longhorns (7-2, 4-2) to their seventh win of the season by way of a 31-22 battle in Lubbock.
The Longhorns topped the No. 18 Texas Tech Red Raiders (6-3, 3-3) with a strong offensive showing that had Mike Davis explode for a career high. But it was the Horns defense that kept a potent Tech offense under wraps.
A much prettier showing this time around, Texas was able to utilize some timely plays to beat Texas Tech in a way in which no other team has done this season.
With plenty of positives moving forward, here are 10 things we learned from the Horns' win in Lubbock.
David Ash Rebounded Nicely
After one of his worst showings in his career, David Ash rebounded with a vengeance against the Red Raiders, putting in a statistically impressive first half that had the Longhorns take an 11-point advantage into the break.
Ash went 9-of-13 in the first 30 minutes, amassing 228 yards and two touchdowns.
His delivery was crisp and his touch was superb, finding receivers down the field with precision and timing.
Ash's second half was much less impressive, but his ability to manage the offense is still an attribute worth mentioning as he never put the team in danger of losing the game.
The sophomore signal-caller finished with 264 yards and three touchdowns on 11-of-19 passing.
Mike Davis Is a Bad Man
For the second time this season, Mike Davis is setting records.
In his 148-yard performance against Baylor, Davis published a new career high in receiving yards.
Against the Red Raiders, Davis recorded 165 yards and two touchdowns on four catches.
It is worth nothing that the junior did not have a drop, setbacks that have plagued Davis ever since he arrived in Austin.
Saturday, though, Davis looked unstoppable as his downfield speed was too much for the Tech defenders.
Bryan Harsin Can Call a Good Game
Save for a blemishing third quarter, Bryan Harsin called a heck of a game that really opened up the Texas offense.
From the get-go, the Longhorns were able to establish the run with some strong plays to a number of ball-carriers.
With that on lock, Texas began looking deep as Ash was able to find Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis down the field multiple times.
And with a strong effort defensively, the offensive set almost played itself as the game wore on.
In a snapshot, the clinching touchdown that made it 31-22 had Texas run the ball seven times before Ash lofted a ball to Davis in the end zone.
Tackling Issues Run Through the Program
It's been a broken record since the season began, but the tackling issues that have plagued the Longhorns is evident and not limited to just a handful of players.
Youth may get the best for some, but with the number of young players seeing the field defensively, Texas has shown tackling issues all across the board.
At this point, it looks to be a problem that will hardly get fixed before the season is over, but improvements can never be overlooked.
The Offense Will Always Run Through the Running Game
However explosive Mike Davis may be deep down the field, the Longhorns offense is very much run-oriented.
David Ash demonstrated exactly how effective he can be in the passing game, linking up with Davis a couple of times over the secondary.
But a running game with an improving Johnathan Gray, a healthier Malcolm Brown and a strong Joe Bergeron is the first line of attack for a dynamic ground game that branches out into a short passing game.
Davis and Jaxon Shipley do wonders down the field, but it will always start with an effective running game.
Texas Has Yet to Put in 60 Minutes of Good Football
For most of the season, Texas has been a two-faced team.
Slow starts and strong finishes have been a common denominator for the Longhorns, in that they are missing the complement of both together.
The Longhorns got away from themselves in the third quarter against the Red Raiders, allowing Tech to crawl back into the contest.
We've seen good football, and we've seen bad football, but in either case fortunately, we haven't seen it for 60 minutes.
The Losses of Jordan Hicks and Jackson Jeffcoat Look Worse Each Work
Losing Jordan Hicks at linebacker was one thing, putting the position in even dire straits.
But with the season-ending injury to defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, the Longhorns defense lost a big playmaker up front.
Each week that goes by without a couple of star defenders, Texas looks more and more vulnerable across the field, problems that may have been lessened by these two veteran presences.
Texas has been forced to grow up quickly with the introductions to Kendall Thompson, Cedric Reed and Co., but the Horns surely would love to have Hicks and Jeffcoat running the show.
Carrington Byndom Put in the Best Game of His Season
Junior cornerback Carrington Byndom came into the season as an expected producer as one of the top defensive backs in the Big 12.
But through the duration of the campaign, Byndom has fallen well short of a repeat performance of his 2011 production.
However, against the Red Raiders, Byndom recorded four critical pass breakups, single-handedly keeping Tech receiver Eric Ward from earning the extra touches.
The game-clincher, though, was Byndom's blocked kick to prevent Tech from securing its fourth field goal of the day.
Byndom's performance down the stretch is critical, as Texas needs as many good breaks as it can get to survive from its struggles.
Johnathan Gray Is Here to Stay
Many Texas fans knew what kind of talent Johnathan Gray was coming into the season, but with Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron leading the charge, who really knew what kind of impact the star-studded freshman would have?
With Brown's injury, Gray has filled in very nicely.
And in Gray's second consecutive start, he recorded his second straight 100-yard rushing performance, finishing with 106 yards on 20 carries.
How good does Texas' running game look for the future?
Texas Is Capable of Playing Good Defense
Since Manny Diaz arrived at Texas, the Longhorns defense has seemingly adopted a bend-but-don't-break approach, a tool that has been on display since last season.
For most of the 2012 campaign, the Texas defense has looked broken. But against the Red Raiders, the Longhorns came to play.
The 441 total yards allowed looks mild compared to the usual box score, but the most important statistic is the 22 points allowed to a team averaging over 40 points per game.
For the first time in Big 12 play, the Longhorns actually look capable of coming away with a successful defensive performance.
A single showing is one thing, but how the defense comes to play against Iowa State next weekend will be a much better sign of things to come.