Texas Tech vs. Texas: 10 Things We Learned in the Longhorns' Win
The Texas Longhorns defeated the Texas Tech Red Raiders 41-16 on Thanksgiving, keeping the 'Horns in contention for the Big 12 title.
The Longhorns had a season-high nine sacks and dominated with 281 rushing yards. Malcolm Brown led the way with 127 yards on the ground, while Joe Bergeron pumped in 125 total yards and a touchdown.
Jackson Jeffcoat was the player of the game with a career-high three sacks. The senior was all over the field to lead Texas' relentless defensive effort.
Special teams aside, this was a complete effort from Mack Brown's team.
Jackson Jeffcoat Should Be the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year
In his final game at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Jackson Jeffcoat had a career-high three sacks. How's that for leaving on a high note?
In the first half, it was like there were three Jeffcoats on the field for Texas. In addition to his usual end position, he lined up at linebacker and defensive tackle with equal effectiveness. There was just no solution for him as he picked up all three of his sacks in the first 30 minutes.
On the season, that is 10 sacks and 19 tackles for loss for the senior. That's three sacks and 4.5 TFL fewer than Jadeveon Clowney in 2012, and he still has two more games to go.
If that doesn't earn him distinction as the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, there is something wrong.
Joe Bergeron Loves Playing Texas Tech
For much of the season, Joe Bergeron has been a forgotten man. All he needed to get going was a matchup with Texas Tech.
Wearing the injured Johnathan Gray's No. 32, Bergeron had a season-high 17 carries against the Red Raiders, churning out 92 yards and a touchdown. He was also Texas' second-leading receiver with 37 yards on two catches.
Two years after shredding Tech for 191 yards, Bergeron was Texas' most effective runner in the win. Since Gray went down for the season, he has 27 carries for 141 yards.
Bergeron's not the fastest nor the quickest Texas back, but there is something about him that you have to love. He runs like he has something to prove, and has the guts to just go make a play.
He and Malcolm Brown should continue to split carries and punish opposing defenders in tandem.
Special Teams Is a Problem
It seems every week that Texas finds a way to look dumb on special teams. Why should a prime-time game on Thanksgiving be any different?
On Tech's second drive of the game, punter Ryan Erxleben faked John Harris out of his cleats and ran 51 yards untouched for the score. Then, to close the first half, Caleb Bluiett roughed Erxleben to give the Red Raiders a first down and an eventual field goal.
That is 10 of Texas Tech's 16 points that the special teams just handed over. Instead of being down 20-0 at the half, the Red Raiders had a manageable 20-10 deficit.
Mack Brown's special teamers have been pulling this all year. There have been multiple personal fouls, catch interference calls and blown assignments that have flat out given points away.
Mistakes on special teams are the dictionary definition of sloppy, and they will cost Texas against Baylor.
Quandre Diggs Had His Best Game of the Season
Adjusting to his role as the team's nickel corner, Quandre Diggs has struggled to make his usual impact for the Longhorns. But on Saturday, he found his way.
Diggs blanketed star tight end Jace Amaro from the start all the way until Texas had run away with the game. The 5'10"-in-heels Diggs held the 6'5" Amaro to 33 yards through the first three quarters, allowing the Longhorns to amass a 34-10 lead.
There are still indications that Diggs is better served on the outside, but there is a lot to be said for his work on one of the conference's best. He is a big reason Baker Mayfield completed just 55 percent of his passes.
The Longhorns Still Have Some Fight in Them
How do you respond to a 25-point loss at home? You go out and win by 25 your next time around to keep yourself in the Big 12 conversation.
As bad as Texas looked in its 38-13 loss to Oklahoma State, it looked equally dominant against Texas Tech. The 'Horns proved that they are not quitting on this season and turned in a quality performance on national television.
It's anybody's guess what happens next Saturday in Waco, but Texas still has a shot at a conference title after Thursday's win. Nobody saw that coming back after Week 2.
Texas Tech Was a Fraud
The Thanksgiving loss to Texas makes it five in a row for the Red Raiders since being ranked No. 10 in October. Once again, they cannot hold it together to close the season.
Kliff Kingsbury's squad has been in total free fall, getting outscored by a combined 103 points during its losing streak. Its loss to the Longhorns makes them 1-11 in November since 2010, as well as 4-5 against the Big 12 on the season.
This is no indictment of Kingsbury, who knows it will take a massive culture change to turn around the program. Still, the fall from the Top 10 has been nothing short of stunning.
It Just Isn't the Same Without the Aggies
You can play the game on or around Thanksgiving and call it a rivalry all you want. That doesn't mean it is the rivalry that Texas and Texas A&M was until 2011.
Texas Tech is an in-conference rival all right, but the Red Raiders are just not the Aggies. The emotional investment from players and fans alike just isn't there. Therefore, the national buzz is absent as well.
The differences between the Longhorns playing Tech and playing the Aggies can take up volumes. The lack of tradition, the absence of bad blood, the lacking passion, etc.
But for brevity's sake, Thursday's game was played on cable's Fox Sports 1. If it was Mack Brown's Longhorns going up against Johnny Manziel-led Texas A&M, there is no way it is televised anywhere but network television.
It may not happen next year or even five years from now, but these two programs need to revisit one of the nation's best rivalries.
Unlike Diaz, Robinson Can Make Adjustments
After getting gashed by Oklahoma State's Clint Chelf, it was fair to wonder if the Longhorns were still the team that got trounced by BYU. Greg Robinson proved that was not the case against Texas Tech.
A week after Chelf split the 'Horns for 92 yards and two touchdowns, Robinson gave his defense a makeover. He used more of a 3-4 front, unleashing defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed for three sacks apiece.
He also held the Texas Tech quarterbacks to minus-13 yards on 19 carries. In all, Tech's leading rusher was its punter and Robinson's defense produced as many sacks (nine) as the Red Raiders' offense did points.
This is a far cry from the days of Manny Diaz, when a flaw seemed to follow this unit game after game. The move to Robinson continues to be a difference maker for Texas' season.
Kent Perkins Is Due for a Great Career
On Thanksgiving night, a true freshman made his first start for the 'Horns. No, it wasn't Tyrone Swoopes, but his classmate proved he is ready for great things.
After showing out in practice, Kent Perkins was given the start at right tackle over sophomore Kennedy Estelle and junior Josh Cochran. He ended up splitting snaps with Estelle, helping pave the way for 281 Longhorn rushing yards.
Current left tackle Donald Hawkins graduates after this season, leaving the door wide open for the 6'5" Perkins to claim the blind side until he moves to the next level.
Marcus Johnson Needs to Work on Ball Security
Receiver Marcus Johnson has been having a breakout sophomore season, making big plays all season for Texas. There was bound to be a hiccup.
Johnson lost two fumbles against the Red Raiders, marring his otherwise solid 61-yard offensive effort. The first was debatable, and there was no doubt about the second one as he got too greedy fighting for extra yardage.
The win was hardly in doubt for Texas, so Johnson escapes goat status. Still, losing two fumbles is cause for concern and something Johnson cannot let become habit.