Texas no longer controls its destiny in the Big 12 title race but needs to win out to give itself a chance. That makes its game against Texas Tech on Thursday a must-win.
The Longhorns (7-3, 6-1 Big 12) are Thanksgiving veterans, having played 85 times on the holiday, but they are facing their third different Turkey Day opponent in as many years in the Red Raiders (7-4, 4-4), who are playing on Thanksgiving for the first time in school history.
“It was interesting last year. We didn’t play very well,” Texas coach Mack Brown said, reflecting on his team’s 20-13 loss to TCU. “If you want to have an exclusive game on Thanksgiving night, you have to make it something that everyone in the country is excited about.”
Texas Tech enters this week having lost its last four games, but it can end its regular season by dashing Texas’ Big 12 title hopes on Senior Night the way TCU did last season.
On Kliff Kingsbury’s Senior Day in 2002, he led Texas Tech to a 42-38 victory over Texas by throwing for 473 yards and six touchdowns. Now he’s trying to lead the Red Raiders past the Longhorns as a first-year head coach.
“The seniors wanted to go out with a victory. So to spend that day getting that done with that group of guys was special,” Kingsbury said. “It’s a cool atmosphere, great stadium, great fan support down there [in Austin]. So I think it will be fun.”
Never before has Texas lost its final home game four years in a row. But the Longhorns will do just that if they fall Thursday night. For a group of seniors that has already underachieved relative to past Texas senior classes, that’s something it wants to avoid.
“We make opinions of people a little based on how it turns out instead of every step along the way,” senior offensive guard Mason Walters said. “It could end two very different ways, depending on how these next couple weeks go.”
Texas was crushed by Oklahoma State 38-13 in its last game, marking the worst home loss in 16 years under Brown. With the Cowboys pounding previously unbeaten Baylor last week, the Longhorns still need some help to win the Big 12, but they can clinch at least a share of the conference title by beating Texas Tech and Baylor.
To do that, the Longhorns need better quarterback play than they got against Oklahoma State. Case McCoy was picked off three times and did not hesitate to place the blame for the loss squarely on himself.
“It’s the quarteback’s fault. That’s part of the deal,” co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said. “You won’t understand it unless you have played it, and that’s just part of it. You’ve got to revel in that kind of pressure.”
Texas Tech leads the nation with 400.2 yards passing per game but has allowed nearly 300 rushing yards a game the past four games — all losses. If Texas can also have its way running the ball against the Red Raiders, there’s a good chance it will pick up its first win on Thanksgiving since a thrilling 27-25 victory over Texas A&M in 2011.
For some, though, Thanksgiving is special regardless of whom Texas is facing.
“I kind of feel like I’m following in the footsteps of my dad,” said senior Jackson Jeffcoat, whose father, Jim, won two Super Bowls in 12 years playing for the Dallas Cowboys. “It’s a great feeling to have that. We’re one of the only football games on TV, so all eyes are on us.”
Texas vs. Texas Tech
6:30 p.m. Thursday, Darrell K Royal — Texas Memorial Stadium
Head to head
|Points per game||32.3||37.5|
|3rd down conv.||45%||45.9%|
|Def. 3rd down conv.||38.4%||34.7%|