AUSTIN, Texas (AP)—Texas fans will call it revenge. The Longhorns were more likely to describe it as relief.
Colt McCoy threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Dan Buckner in the fourth quarter that gave the Longhorns some room and No. 2 Texas beat feisty Texas Tech and their prolific new passer 34-24 Saturday night.
The pass to Buckner with nine minutes left put Texas ahead 31-17, but it was an otherwise shaky outing for last season’s runner-up for the Heisman Trophy.
McCoy finished with 205 yards and two interceptions on 24 of 34 passing for the Longhorns (3-0, 1-0 Big 12). After the game, the senior revealed he missed practice on Tuesday because of flu-like symptoms that he was dealing with most of the week.
“We had to keep fighting as a team. Not everything is going to go our way,” said McCoy, who completed 15 of 18 in the second half, but also threw an interception in the red zone.
After Texas Tech (2-1, 0-1) spoiled the Longhorns’ national title hopes with a 39-33 win in Lubbock last season—on a touchdown with 1 second to play—a record crowd of 101,297 was looking to whoop it up for a 4-hour blowout behind McCoy & Co.
What they got was a hard-hitting first half in which neither team scored an offensive touchdown. When the fireworks finally cranked up in the second half, they watched as Red Raiders quarterback Taylor Potts would not let the Longhorns pull away.
“Survival,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “I’m proud of the way our guys grew up, the way they worked, and fought and hit.”
Potts’, the latest gunslinging quarterback to guide Texas Tech’s passing wizardry, finished with 420 yards and three touchdowns. But he also had two fourth quarter turnovers, including a fumble on a sack by Sergio Kindle to set up McCoy’s TD pass.
“I just speed rushed him,” Kindle said. “I timed up the snap well and the quarterback was there for the taking.”
Even after the big hit, Potts’ led a touchdown drive to keep the Red Raiders in the game.
“He’s really tough, and he didn’t let the hit affect him,” Texas Tech coach Mike Leach said. “Not many QBs can get hit really hard and come in the next series and not flinch.”
McCoy took his share of lumps too. On one of his first runs of a game, a defender met him at the line of scrimmage and knocked his helmet off. The drive stalled when he was sacked on the next play.
“It was one of the harder hitting games I’ve been around,” Brown said.
Jordan Shipley’s 46-yard punt return in the first quarter for Texas was the only time either team reached the end zone in the first half that ended 10-3.
Shipley caught the ball in the middle of the field, dashed straight ahead, then broke to his right and outran punter Donnie Carona to the corner. His momentum took him all the way to the massive live Longhorn mascot Bevo and he startled the big fella.
“Bevo surprised me. I looked up and there he was,” Shipley said. “I’m going to try to avoid Bevo from now on.”
The offenses got going in the third quarter.
Texas scored the first offensive touchdown on the first drive of the second half. McCoy converted three third downs with passes before Tre’ Newton scooted 19 yards up the middle for a 17-3 Texas lead.
“There was no panic. No one got nervous,” Newton said.
The Red Raiders immediately answered with Potts’ throwing the first of two touchdowns to Lyle Leong, who was wide open after beating cornerback Chykie Brown on a fake for a 14-yarder.
Leach tried to catch the Longhorns off guard with an onside kick, but Texas recovered at the Red Raiders’ 47. Given the short field, McCoy found Buckner with a completion across the middle to the Texas Tech 1 before Cody Johnson punched it in for the touchdown.
Potts was getting better as the game wore on. The Red Raiders marched right down the field to get back within a touchdown on Potts’ 10-yard TD pass to Leong again.
“Texas Tech is always going to have a good quarterback and receivers that catch everything,” Texas safety Earl Thomas said. “It’s not surprising they gave us a good game.”
After picking apart the Texas defense, Potts gave up two turnovers in the fourth that swung the game.
The first came when Kindle pressured Potts in the end zone and forced a bad pass across the middle that went right to Texas safety Earl Thomas. The drive didn’t end up hurting the Red Raiders when McCoy threw his second interception.
Potts lamented those mistakes and Texas Tech’s 14 penalties.
“We’d get on a roll offensively and then get a penalty and go right back where we started,” Potts said. “We tried to beat Texas and ourselves in the first half. In the second half, we just tried to beat Texas.”