Texas had just completed a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to take a 17-13 lead with 5:13 remaining. Big Mo was heavily in Bevo’s favor.
But then, with the quickness of a light switch, it wasn’t.
On the ensuing drive the Longhorns stayed with their up-tempo offense but were unable to gain a first down. Exactly 1 minute and 17 seconds from the time that drive started, UCLA had regained the lead for good.
First of all you’ve got to give a ton of credit to Steve Edmond for the play he made on the fumble recovery.
Texas was in its nickel set with four receivers split out for UCLA. Jordan Hicks lined up three yards outside Caleb Bluiett and blitzed, which left Edmond as the only Longhorn in the middle of the field before the first down marker.
If he didn’t avoid a rather lackadaisical block from a Bruins offensive lineman and strip Jordon James with his right hand, James would have easily picked up the first down inside the Texas 25.
Now on to the drive in question, which Texas started with 4:17 remaining. The consensus of UT’s staff prior to the drive was to continue in its up-tempo packaging because that’s what succeeded on the TD drive.
"The decision we made as a staff was what was our best option to play in," Watson said. "How were our guys moving the football? What was our rhythm? Our rhythm was playing in the no huddle aspect of it. We were hoping to get ourselves moved down the field where we could eat up and then get into a four-minute mode.”
The Longhorns begin with a handoff to Malcolm Brown behind the left side of the line that went for 5 yards. No issues there. The game clock continued to move.
But Texas snapped the ball on second down with 25 seconds left on the play clock. Twenty-five.
“You have to really be careful jumping into it too soon,” Watson continued. “We chose to stay in our speed because that's what was working for us. Then we had plans to later on in that drive to pick up a couple of first downs and get into it."
It looked like UT called a counter but it never developed as Texas left guard Sedrick Flowers pulled to the right side, which left the Bruins defensive tackle lined up over him free to get into the backfield and stop Brown for a five-yard loss.
It wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened there for Texas. Positive yards and a first down were the obvious goal but, at the very least, the clock was running.
So here Texas was facing a third-and-9 from just outside its own 25. Swoopes, lined up in shotgun, snapped the ball with 18 seconds left on the play clock.
The game clock stopped at 3:25.
"We had been moving the ball, and that is how we had been getting the energy," Charlie Strong said. "We were moving it. We just thought that was a way we could move the football. We had established that the drive before that. We had went down and scored. And you think about it, first run we hand off and we get positive yards, five or six, or so, and we end up getting hit. Then you missed a throw. That's the way we were moving the football."
Remember, the Longhorns started this drive with 4:17 on the clock. At the very least it could have run over a minute off the clock between second and third downs but instead snapped the ball on those downs with a combine 43 seconds left on the play clock.
It’s easy to second guess given the outcome. Had the Longhorns hung on and won this wouldn’t be that big of an issue.
You never know what kind of pressure the Bruins, with a young quarterback, would have felt had there been well under three minutes left by the time they got the ball instead of getting it back with 3:06 left.
“We stayed with it,” Watson said of the hurry-up. “It's what took us down the field for the touchdown, so we just went ahead and rode that. At the time, that's what was there, that's what he was comfortable in, and we were moving it."