Dusty Mangum's Texas Tech Game Turning Point

turning point - n. The point at which a very significant change occurs; a decisive moment.

The Texas Tech Red Raiders strolled in to Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium with the No. 1 offense in the nation and a No. 7 BCS ranking, only to leave in a daze, wondering what happened to their rankings and their undefeated season. I do not know what is more demoralizing for a team, getting 52 points put on you or getting hit by flying tortillas from the Texas Student section. I do know that week after week, the Longhorns continue to rise to the occasion and prove that they are a national championship caliber team. Saturday was no different.

But it was a rocky start for Vince Young and the Longhorn offense. It took a couple of drives (and a couple of interceptions) before the offense got into its rhythm on its way to racking up 444 yards of total O. The rushing attack was outstanding once again, with Selvin Young, Vince Young and Jamaal Charles leading the stampede.

The turning point in this one, though, came just before the half, courtesy of defense and then the passing game. After the Horns took a still-too-close-for-comfort 24-10 lead on a Young-to-Billy Pittman TD toss with a little over six-and-a-half minutes to go till the half, Tech responded with a length-of-the-field drive that set up the Raiders with a first-and-goal at the Texas four. But on first down, the Longhorn defense swarmed, herding Tech RB Taurean Henderson out of bounds after a three-yard loss. Forced to go back to the air on second-and-goal from the seven, Tech QB Cody Hodges dropped back to pass, letting it fly over the middle, only to have it tipped at the line by Aaron Harris, allowing an alert Tim Crowder to snagged the ball out of the air for the critical change of possession. Crowder's pick gave the Horns the ball back with just under three minutes till the half and 88 yards of real estate to cover for another, near-clinching TD. Jamaal Charles chunked off 18 yards on second-and-10, which was followed by another huge play in the passing game. Pittman ran a slant pattern, and VY delivered a pass that was slightly ahead of the receiver. The sophomore wideout, in full stride, stuck out a hand, tipped the ball into the air to himself for a circus catch and then eluded multiple defenders before getting tackled deep in Texas Tech territory after a 48-yard gain (his only catch that did not go for points). One play later, a 15-yard Red Raider penalty set the Horns up at the seven, where Selvin Young took the hand off, found his hole, cut left, hurdled a defender and jogged into the end-zone. After the David Pino PAT, the Longhorns enjoyed a 21-point lead.

With the turnover and then the quick-strike drive for a TD for a 14-point swing, the Horns deflated the Red Raiders just before the half. And UT had another advantage, knowing they were going to start off the second half by getting the ball on offense first. On that first drive after the break, VY fired another pass to Billy Pittman on a blown coverage by the Texas Tech safety, and it was off to the races. He took it 75 yards to the hizzy. Pittman, who totaled 138 yards on just three catches, two of which went for touchdowns, continues to step up game after game.

The defense was also relentless, holding Texas Tech to only 17 points on the day. The scoreboard should have read 59 for the Horns after a missed call by the Seven Blind Mice, ruling Cody Hodges down after what was a blatantly obvious fumble. Tim Crowder picked up the loose ball, ripped out by Brian Robison, and rumbled into the end zone for what everyone thought was a touchdown, only to have the player ruled down. But the Texas defenders would not let the officials get them down as they allowed no points over the final 23 minutes of play.

Texas heads to Stillwater this week to face the Cowboys. Hopefully the boys stay focused and continue to dominate all facets of the game. Texas received a pleasant surprise Monday afternoon when the newest BCS rankings came out. The computer polls favored the Horns, placing them No. 1 in 5 of the 6, which was enough to overtake USC as the No. 1 BCS team. Congratulations gentlemen. Keep up the good work.

Dusty Mangum played for Texas from 2001-2004 and holds several Longhorn kicking marks. His final kick in the Orange and White, a 37-yarder in the 2005 Rose Bowl, provided the ultimate turning point in the Horns' first-ever BCS win. His Turning Point column appears on Sunday after each game during football season here on InsideTexas.com.

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