Ehlinger, Humphrey end Longhorns' slide in win over Texas Tech

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Photo Credit: Elias Huerta

Texas fans have endured many heartaches over the last decade, but one that has been imprinted for years is the moment former Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree famously tiptoed down the sideline for a game-winning touchdown to upset Texas in 2008.

But this past Saturday, on a cold night in Lubbock, Texas wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey helped ease that painful memory for the Longhorn faithful as he elevated above Texas Tech defensive back Damarcus Fields for a two-handed touchdown grab that delivered a knockout punch to the Red Raiders and gave the Longhorns a 41-34 victory.

Humphrey was certain he could make a play to win the game for Texas. But what he wasn’t aware of was that he caught the ball in the same northwest corner of Jones AT&T Stadium that Crabtree did 10 years ago.

“I didn’t (know), honestly, but it's the LJ corner now,” Humphrey said.

Before Humphrey’s game-sealing catch though, Texas allowed the Red Raiders to crawl back into the competition by blowing a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter.

With 6:23 remaining in the final period, Texas Tech kicker Clayton Hatfield knocked through a 36-yard field goal to build some momentum.

Then, third-string quarterback Jett Duffey helped the Red Raiders continue the comeback as the finish line drew near, delivering two touchdown strikes within just over three minutes of each other. The only problem was after Duffey’s game-tying touchdown pass, Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger had nearly two minutes to make something happen.

Ehlinger showed off his veteran confidence, as he had over the first 9 games, by quickly marching the Longhorns down the field. And on the drive’s final play, Ehlinger aired out a pass for Humphrey, having full faith his top target of the night could come down with a catch.

“Oh, I knew he was going to do it,” Ehlinger said. “I have so much confidence in him and he’s one of my best friends and I love seeing him just be so happy because he knows what he’s capable of and we all have so much confidence in him and it’s really just great to see.”

The Ehlinger-Humphrey connection was automatic nearly all night as the junior wideout had a career high of 159 receiving yards on eight catches, breaking his previous high in yardage from one week ago against West Virginia.

“Great play called by coach,” Humphrey said. “Sam believed in me and put it up there for me to go get it and I came down with it.”

This isn’t the first time the Longhorns have played a part in a late-game thriller. In fact, it’s not even the second or the third. Saturday’s win marked the eighth time this season Texas has had a final score with just one possession separating them from the opposing team.

Asked if he ever gets tired of having to will his team back into a game or a deliver a game-clinching throw, Ehlinger said he revels in the opportunity.

“I do love having the game on the line and the ball being in our hands because we just have so much confidence in ourselves and we knew that was going to happen,” Ehlinger said. “I don’t think I was born for it or anything, but I absolutely love it.”

In the midst of the dramatics, Ehlinger broke former West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith’s record of 274 consecutive passing attempts without throwing an interception.

Ehlinger’s continuing streak began at the conclusion of the Longhorns’ season opener against Maryland, when he recorded his only two turnovers of the season. Ehlinger threw for 312 yards and four touchdowns on Saturday.

“My mentor, Greg Davis, taught me a long time ago, that in critical moments of games think players, not plays,” head coach Tom Herman said. “And for us, 11 and 84 are pretty good players and they’re playing pretty good right now.”

With Saturday’s victory, the Longhorns reached their seventh of the season, showing a quantifiable difference in this year’s Texas squad compared to the last. And in the process, the Longhorns avoided a third straight loss to stay alive in the hunt for December’s Big 12 title.

“We just had to make up for the things that we’ve been letting slip away in these last couple of games,” linebacker Gary Johnson said. “That’s something we put more emphasis on this week in practice, to finish, because we let one last week and it really hurt because it was a home game and it came down to the wire.”