It was there for the taking.
Last year, when Texas made mistakes, Texas Tech capitalized and grew a huge lead. But this year, Tech didn’t capitalize and eventually fell to the No. 2 team in the nation, 34-24.
Tech squandered first half opportunities when Texas QB Colt McCoy couldn’t hit his receivers and the Tech defense held the powerful Longhorn offense to three points.
Tech special teams allowed a punt return for a TD, but the offense failed to score a touchdown until the third quarter, allowing Texas to maintain the lead.
Tech outgained the Longhorns but also had more penalties. Tech held on to the ball longer but had more turnovers.
Tech’s QB Taylor Potts even outplayed Heisman candidate McCoy in every statistical category but still lost.
Truth be told, even with a QB starting his first road game in his career in front of an opposing crowd of 101,297 people, Potts and Tech could have walked out of Austin with a win on Saturday night.
Tech started the game with a nice, sharp-looking drive but settled for a field goal when the upstairs booth called for a review of a Jacoby Franks catch. This disrupted the tempo and timing the Air Raid had on that drive.
After that, the Raider offense wasn’t able to put any more points on the board until a TD pass from Potts to WR Lyle Leong in the middle of the third quarter. That seemed to uplift the offense, going for 21 points in the second half on three TD passes from Potts.
The defense was able to keep McCoy off balance with pressure in the first half, resulting in two sacks and a 56 percent completion rate. Tech cornerback LaRon Moore was also able to pick off a McCoy pass in the second quarter.
What ultimately hurt Tech from taking advantage in the first half was three false starts and 35 penalty yards accumulated before halftime.
Two key penalties came on third downs. A false start put the Raiders offense back five on a 3rd-and-2, and the other penalty was a personal foul face mask, making a 3rd-and-3 a 3rd-and-18.
Texas went into halftime with only a 10-3 lead on the Red Raiders.
The Longhorns came out in the second half running the ball on a depleted and exhausted Tech defense.
Tech lost starters DE Rajon Henley and FS Franklin Mitchem to injuries during the week, and Tech was also without the help two other of DEs, as both Ryan Haliburton (injury) and Brandon Sharpe (suspension) were not available for the game.
Tech was forced to move DL Richard Jones and ILB Bront Bird to the end positions to help out starting DE Daniel Howard. In fact, Bird and Howard played all 75 snaps on defense.
McCoy threw for a TD pass, and RBs Tre’ Newton and Cody Johnson were able to run the ball in for separate scores, giving the Longhorns 24 points in the second half.
The Air Raid offense finally got on track, scoring with the Longhorns in the second half. Potts had two TD passes to Leong and one to WR Tramain Swindall late in the fourth quarter to cut the Texas lead to seven points.
However, Tech’s defense wasn’t able to hold the Longhorns offense, and McCoy led Texas to a field goal and put them up 10 with just 3:49 remaining in the game.
Potts failed to start anything on the last drive, although there was a questionable offensive pass interference call on Franks that negated a first down. Eventually Tech surrendered the ball and the game to Texas.
Tech proved something Saturday night.
They were able to go to Austin and stay with Texas blow for blow, something Mike Leach has never done in his 10-year career with the Raiders.
Tech will need to play this well next week in Houston and continue this level of play throughout the Big 12 slate if they want to go to a better bowl game this year. Leach proved that he has the players to do it but will need to prove he can win instead of compete.
Tech proved that this year isn’t rebuilding year, but rather reloading one.
Moral victories don’t get you to a better bowl game, though.