Culpepper: Texas at 5-4

D'Onta Foreman. (Will Gallagher/IT)
D’Onta Foreman. (Will Gallagher/IT)

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This was not an easy win.

Texas Tech was coming off an overtime victory over TCU in Fort Worth and the stadium was full of Red Raider fans. It was only two weeks ago that Tech QB Pat Mahomes and his receivers put up 59 points on Oklahoma before their home crowd. They were facing a Texas secondary that had been torched by Oklahoma State and California that had run similar offensive schemes. The tailgate crowds were full of optimism, after all the Texas football team had been a wreck of mistakes on every one of its road games. The Longhorns never seemed ready to play their best for whatever reason. Head coach Charlie Strong had to take over the Texas defense and his job was and is on the line or so it seems.

It took less than four minutes for Tech to score but it showed the UT defense had made changes to attempt to stop Mahomes and his receivers. For most of this game the Longhorns would use a 3-man defensive line and 2-safeties deep to protect the long pass. Tech would have to win throwing underneath and running the football as far as its offensive attack.

Poona Ford in the middle of that 3-man line was never better. The programs list him at 5-foot-11, 303 pounds, but I guess his height is more like 5-foot-9. Makes no difference because his heart was full of fight this overcast, cool morning. From the first Tech possession until the last, he was at his best.

Right away you could see that Malik Jefferson was “on-spy” of Mahomes making sure he couldn’t run with the freedom that Seth Russell from Baylor had in Austin.

The key would be solid tackling by the Texas secondary after the crossword underneath patterns by the very good Tech receivers, not giving up the deep bombs by Mahomes, limit his scrambling and stick a knife in the Tech receivers after their catches.

Mahomes would throw 59 times for 367 yards and the one most important was a deep bomb into the end zone to get within a 2-point play to win or an extra point to tie at game’s end but with :28 seconds on the scoreboard. It came down in a nest of white jerseys and was intercepted by Kris Boyd.

The story of this football game is the Texas offensive line and the running back that wears “33”. Blockers like Connor Williams, Patrick Vahe, freshman Zach Shackleford at center, Tristan Nickleson, and Kent Perkins opened holes that allowed Texas to hammer the ball 50 times on the ground for 414 yards — meaning lots of first downs and time off the clock which kept the football from Tech.

Credit goes to the Longhorn OL coach, Matt Mattox for the work of that Texas heavy duty group. They also protect QB Shane Buechele with his quick strike passes after faking to “33”.

What a warrior D’Onta Foreman is. He hammers for the 3-4 yard gains until a hole breaks open and then has enough speed to go for 38- and 74-yard scores.

As far as I can tell he is a true team man doing whatever he can to help Texas win. I still believe had he not been knocked into the stadium wall after crossing the goal line at Oklahoma State which soon after forced him to the sidelines, Texas could have won that game.

For sure in offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert’s spread out system the defense gets stretched most of the time, sideline to sideline, and if the defensive interior and linebackers can’t jam up UT’s OL, Foreman punishes them. A Lot!! I don’t think the 3-man defensive line can stop Foreman — we will see this Saturday in Austin against West Virginia.

Buechele kept Tech off balance with his quick throws. I met his father during halftime and told him how much I appreciated his son, how intelligent Shane was not only about football, but how he handled his success and hoping for continued progress on his son’s part.

Zach Shackelford. (Will Gallagher/IT)
Zach Shackelford. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Twice Buechele threw touchdown passes to 6-foot-6, 212-pound freshman Collin Johnson both in the first half. It seems Johnnie Johnson’s son is always opposite the multiple receiver side of the Texas alignment and most of the time is to Buechele’s left. That’s important because it’s one on one and Buechele seems to have a stronger throw going in that direction.

I was impressed again by Kyle Porter at running back. He ran again hard, no tip-toeing. Perhaps putting Tyrone Swoopes at running back to rest Foreman gave him lots of motivation?

The Texas kicking game has become a huge plus. Michael Dickson flips the field, time and time again, with his punting which believe me makes a difference for the Horns’ defense. Trent Domingue hit field goals from 29 and 26 yards. After his winning kick versus Baylor, he becomes a weapon of considerable importance for the 5-4 Longhorn football team.

Once again the failure of the “18 Wheeler Package” in the fourth quarter is a concern. I would load up with tight ends, blocking backs, and give the ball to “33” to make those key fourth downs, but until Gilbert decides otherwise, it won’t change. It did work earlier in the game and even a pass from Swoopes was successful but unfortunately there was a holding call on the play.

So now the Mountaineers come to Austin. It is THE game of the week in the Big 12 without a doubt. QB Skyler Howard has proven he is right behind Baker Mayfield as a playmaker in the conference and except for a 20-37 upset at Stillwater, would be undefeated.

I expect a huge Longhorn crowd at their loudest supporting coach Strong and his team. No doubt his players got rid of the away-game losing streak at Tech. Now they can regain respect in the Big 12. They have defended DKR in solid, even inspirational fashion this season. I plan to be on hand — nothing I can do to help out but I will support Charlie Strong 100%. His coaching staff and every player wearing burnt orange this Saturday deserve it.