Texas’ First Road Win of 2016 Doesn’t Come Easy

 

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One song kept rattling through my head as the fourth quarter slowed to a crawl on Saturday afternoon, Texas clinging to an eight point lead: “It Ain’t Easy,” by David Bowie. Even when Charlie Strong’s Longhorns win this year—the overtime thriller against Notre Dame, the agonizingly slow start but eventual takedown of Iowa State, and last week’s tight finish against Baylor—it’s never easy. It can drive fans to the brink of madness.

Nevertheless, Texas has righted the ship in picking up its second-straight win, taking down Texas Tech 45-37 in Lubbock. It was the Longhorns’ first road win, and it came in a notoriously hostile environment. Tortillas rained down early and often, as they are wont to do when the Horns head west.

But enough about anything else besides the best running back at Texas in more than a decade (with apologies to Jamaal Charles, who, apart from being a D’Onta Foreman evangelist, truly blossomed after he left Texas for the NFL). This was, once again, the D’Onta Foreman show. The junior rushed for 341 yards, 3 TDs (and, as you already know, almost had a fourth), and generally looked like a man among boys as he repeatedly gashed the Tech defense.

It was Foreman’s 10th straight 100-yard rushing game—one more and he ties Earl Campbell’s Texas record—and the first time a Texas player has rushed for 200 yards twice in a season since Vince Young in 2005. Foreman has, despite a middling 5-4 Texas record, thrust himself into Texas lore, and, now that Foreman’s 1,446 rushing yards are second in the nation, likely punched his ticket to the NFL. It’s an odd balance to have for Texas fans, to cheer relentlessly for the Texas City native while simultaneously lamenting his impending departure from Austin. If I have one recommendation, it’s to make sure you watch the remaining Texas football games this season, if only to witness one of the most dynamic rushers ever to tote the ball for Texas. He’s that good.

Despite Foreman’s transcendent performance, and a 15-point lead with 10 minutes to play, stalled Texas drives let Tech have multiple chances to get back into the game. Fans criticized OC Sterlin Gilbert’s usage of the 18-wheeler package in short yardage situations near the end of games, especially with an (overlooked) Heisman candidate at his disposal. On 3rd and 2 and again on 4th and 1, with a chance to ice the game, Tyrone Swoopes was stuffed, giving Tech one last chance as Foreman held his helmet on the sideline. Tech QB Patrick Mahomes was eventually picked off by Kris Boyd, sealing the win, but the sequence gave Horns fans a good scare.

It’s easy to play armchair quarterback, and to second-guess Gilbert when a play doesn’t work. What if Swoopes barreled ahead for five when he only needed one, as he has done so many times the last two years? What if Foreman’s 33 carries was enough of a workload for Texas’ workhorse back, especially after backup freshman Kyle Porter’s costly fumble just minutes beforehand? Obviously Gilbert was confident in his senior backup QB to pick up two yards in two tries, even if some of the Longhorn faithful weren’t so sure.

Either way, Texas won. Sometimes it ain’t easy, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be sweet.

 

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