For the first time since 2009, Texas won on Senior Night.
More importantly, the Longhorns kept alive their chances of winning their first Big 12 title since that same season.
Texas (8-3, 7-1) had to overcome some early special teams miscues but Case McCoy’s three touchdowns and a furious Longhorns pass rush allowed them to earn a much-needed 41-16 win over Texas Tech (7-5, 4-5) on Thursday night at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
“It feels great,” said senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, who had three sacks. “We’re still in the race. We had to win this one, like I said earlier in the week. It’s a must-win. Now we have to win the next one.”
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Texas, which has won 10 of its past 11 meetings with Texas Tech, notched a season-high nine sacks and forced three turnovers. The Longhorns can clinch a share of the Big 12 title with a win over Baylor in their regular-season finale next Saturday.
“It means a lot. These last couple years we haven’t treated our seniors the right way,” McCoy said. “That game had meaning. We fully assume that Baylor we’ll win. It’ll be a game that, as a senior class, we want to have a chance to put numbers on these walls and win a Big 12 championship.”
Playing on Thanksgiving Day for the first time in school history, the Red Raiders ended the regular season on a five-game losing streak after starting 7-0.
They got a 51-yard touchdown run by Ryan Erxleben on a fake punt to take a 7-0 first-quarter lead, but Texas dominated the rest of the way.
A pair of field goals from Anthony Fera and a 47-yard touchdown pass from McCoy to Mike Davis put Texas on top, 13-7, in the second quarter. But it was a pass by McCoy’s roommate, wide receiver Jaxon Shipley, that put the game away.
On a reverse, Shipley dropped back and laid a perfect pass over two Texas Tech defenders into the hands of Davis for a 43-yard gain.
Joe Bergeron scored on a 12-yard touchdown run five plays later to give the Longhorns a commanding 20-7 advantage.
“It was probably the best ball thrown all night,” co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said while smiling at McCoy.
A roughing the kicker penalty on Caleb Blueitt following a Red Raiders punt and a roughing the passer penalty committed by Cedric Reed later in the drive allowed Texas Tech to tack on a field goal as time expired in the first half, trimming Texas’ lead to 20-10.
But the Longhorns kept the Red Raiders from making it a close game in the second half.
On a third-and-7 from the Texas Tech 19-yard line, McCoy ran for 16 yards, the second-longest run of his career, behind only his 25-yard scramble that set up a game-winning field goal by Justin Tucker in a 27-25 win over Texas A&M two Thanksgivings ago.
McCoy ran it in from 1 yard two plays later to give Texas a 27-10 advantage. On the first play of the fourth quarter, McCoy put the finishing touches on the lopsided victory with a 7-yard touchdown strike to Davis.
Facing a Red Raiders team that has allowed nearly 300 rushing yards per game in their past five games, all losses, both Malcolm Brown (128 yards) and Bergeron (107 yards) topped the 100-yard mark for Texas, which, with a win over Baylor and a bowl victory, could win 10 games in a season for the first time since 2009.