This game is without a doubt mine and most everyone else's favorite game in Texas Tech history. We all know the sights, sounds, and the heroics of Crabtree, but lost in all the emotion is that it was a very well played game by both teams. Let's find out exactly how the best college football game of all time was won. Here's the full game if you have the three hours to burn.
We first find ourselves on the Texas 2-yard line after an incredible punt. I think everyone knows what play is coming up first, but this play didn't happen how we think it happened.
Texas is lined up in the I-Formation with a tight end on the right side and the wide receivers split to either side. The Red Raiders are lined up in a simple balanced 4-3 look in order to counter the balanced formation from the Longhorns. From the very beginning this is a zone blocking scheme, designed for the running back to make a cut upon receiving the ball. The issue for Texas is that he doesn't make the right one. Colby Whitlock, who played a hero's game against a very good offensive line, is instantly filling the A-gap, which is right where Ogbonnaya is heading. Ogbonnaya mysteriously does not make a cut to the outside, where the left side of our defense is being adequately blocked by the strong side of Texas's offense. It makes even less sense when Whitlock comes in virtually untouched. Ogbonnaya has to see the defensive tackle filling that gap and at least attempt to bounce it outside. I'm not trying to take away from Whitlock's play here, his takeoff and gap plugging abilities are untouchable on this play. But it's arguable that he doesn't make this play if Ogbonnaya doesn't run right into his waiting arms. He attempts a little bit of a juke and hesitates, but Texas is in their own end zone. This is Danger Close, he has to get outside now, not later.
Next we have a play from the very beginning of the game that we will see many more times: The Texas defensive line being unbelievably good and Graham Harrell extending the play for positive yardage.
Texas Tech is lined up in their traditional doubles formation in the Mike Leach Air Raid with those massive splits. Texas is in a variant of a 4-2-5, which they will stay in the entire night. Sergio Kindle, the Monstar wearing a Texas jersey, will be stood up and moved all over the formation throughout the night, but ultimately they want him rushing the passer opposite Brian Orakpo as opposed to playing linebacker tonight. I think we should take this time and show a little impartial appreciation for how stinking good this Texas defensive line is. On the field right now we have: Sergio Kindle, 2nd round draft pick, Roy Miller, 3rd round draft pick, Lamarr Houston, 2nd round draft pick, and Brian Orakpo, 1st round draft pick. To spell the starters they will roll in Henry Melton, 4th round draft pick and Sam Acho, 4th round draft pick. That is an absolutely insane amount of talent, and it's no surprise that even with our stellar offensive line, they get to Harrell consistently throughout the night. On this play, if not for an unquestionable uncalled hold on Orakpo and maybe a hold on Kindle, Harrell is dead in the pocket. However, no flag, no penalty, and the play moves on. Detron Lewis sees his quarterback in a huge pickle, and makes his way to the same sideline to give him an outlet pass. Harrell hits him, and despite the quality of the Texas defensive line, we turn the play into a ~15 yard gain. This is going to be a common occurrence over the next 3 hours of film.
After the Red Raiders punch in a field goal to make the score 5-0, we find the Texas Tech defense putting the Texas offense in a dire 3rd and 15 situation. This is not a spot you want to be in against a team as dangerous as ours that year, especially on the road.
Texas is lined up in an "empty" set, with 5 wide receivers in the formation. We respond by utilizing a virtually new 3-3-5 formation, rolling Charbonnet down into the flat to go ahead and declare him as the strong safety for the play. There's nothing schematically amazing about this play, except for the screaming of the Texas Tech fans interrupting the telepathic roommate connection of Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley, causing Shipley to drop a perfect pass in the open field. We can tell many jokes about how roommatey they were, but the fact of the matter is that Shipley doesn't drop this pass often. It shows that while we don't have Texas on the ropes yet, we have them shaken. If we can score on this next drive, we're going to really have them in a bad spot. They haven't been able to move the ball, and we're still moving the ball despite the monstrous amount of pressure that they're putting on Harrell.
Later on, we find Texas in a 3rd down again, but this isn't a 3rd and long this time. This is a 3rd and short.
Texas has a "trips" formation towards the big side of the field on the left, one receiver to the right, and McCoy and Ogbonnaya in the shotgun. Tech is back in their 4-3 look, putting more hands in the ground as they expect the run game coming. For a split second after the ball is snapped, this play looks like a pass. The receivers fire off of the line like they are running routes and the linemen "kick" back a couple of steps like Texas is running a short pass. Texas Tech, knowing Texas's tendency to run in these situations, isn't fooled by the appearances and stays at home. Absolutely zero of the Texas Tech defensive linemen shoot up the field, and the McCoy quarterback draw is foiled before it ever starts. McCoy attempts to take the ball up the middle to no avail, as the linemen are holding the line of scrimmage. As of this point, Texas is 0-3 on third downs, partially due to shooting themselves in the foot, partially due to Ruffin McNeill's coaching job on the defensive side of the ball. If you take the entire half into consideration, Tech really came to play schematically. We were ready for just about anything Texas was going to throw at us.
This next play shows the coaching acumen of Will Muschamp, whose defense is performing very admirably despite the extreme circumstances they find themselves in.
Texas Tech this year was a very screen oriented team. We threw more screen passes, especially to Lewis and Crabtree, than anyone else in the country. So it comes as no surprise when Mike Leach attempts to use something that we are known for to his advantage. Texas is lined up in a 3-3-5, and Tech in a trips-right formation. The beginning of the play looks a lot like a typical Tech wide receiver screen to the outside. Texas has it covered fairly well, but as is common for this game, plays wisely and does not over pursue and leave home. It worked out well in the Longhorns favor, as Harrell comes across his body for a screen to Baron Batch on the other side of the field. #4 for Texas is well prepared. He sniffs out the fake almost immediately, blowing up the play in the backfield for a huge loss. At this point in the game, the defenses are dominating the line of scrimmage and the mental chess match between the coordinators.
Let's take a look at one of the other defenders for the Red Raiders that stood out during this game, Daniel Charbonnet.
Texas apparently has had enough with not being able to run the ball, and have brought a tight end into the mix to help block. The play is a running play to the outside, involving two pulling linemen. Whitlock comes roaring through the line to take out one of the pulling linemen, leaving only one to block everyone else out in space. Unfortunately for Texas Tech, whose defensive end and linebacker fought through their blocks and are hot in pursuit, Ogbonnaya is already about to turn the edge with a pulling lineman in front of him to come back and block the linebacker in pursuit. Luckily for Texas Tech, Charbonnet takes charge of the situation, engaging a man more than likely over 100 lbs heavier than him so that the linebacker can finish pursuing and make the play. To Charbonnet's credit, he does not simply engage the lineman, he beats him, and helps make the tackle. It isn't the first time Charbonnet played well that night, and it certainly won't be the last.
Here we once again find Texas in a 3rd and long, this time a 3rd and 25.
The Longhorns are once again bringing a tight end into the formation with "twins" to the left. Jordan Shipley is in the slot. Tech is in their 3-3-5 with Charbonnet rolled down into the flat again. It seems like a pretty straightforward play, Shipley runs to the sticks while Williams goes deep. Tech is in "quarters" coverage, putting 4 men deep. Unfortunately for them, it ends up not mattering, as Williams makes an amazing catch. This may seem like an innocuous play, but this speaks volumes to me. Texas is losing yards at such a rapid rate that they are having to throw into nearly blanket coverage in order to convert a first down. Despite Williams making the play, it doesn't matter, because they'll have to do it again in order to make a first down. This is a very good thing. We're up 22-3 and they're desperate.
We pick the game back up with a huge mistake by the Red Raiders: slacking off on covering Jordan Shipley
This is how you let teams back in games. We have Texas down 22-6, and should be up by more. We give them a short field, and are jogging down the field to cover the punt. I don't wanna be the "harp on effort guy", because the Film Room should be about X's and O's, but we really let this one slip through our fingers due to poor effort. Luckily for us, we were about to strike back just as quickly.
This next play might have been the best play in Daniel Charbonnet's career in my opinion.
Tech is lined up in a 4-3, but the only true linebacker in the formation is Marlon Williams. Charbonnet is lined up over the right side, and another safety, Rowland, is lined up over the middle. This is very obviously to counter the empty formation that Texas has now put on the field. Once again, Texas is in a bad situation, sitting on our goal line in 2nd and 22. The coverage from the linebackers on the right side (i.e. the safeties in the linebacker slot) is man. They're running with their men all the way. The actual safeties backpedal off to discourage any deep throws. Charbonnet has okay coverage on his man from what we can see, but that's not what McCoy is looking at. He's looking directly at Shipley, who has beaten his man, and is sitting in the soft spot of the defense between the man coverage and the deep zone from the safeties. McCoy's mistake was making it too obvious that he is gunning for Shipley. Charbonnet sees this, and starts setting himself up to make a play on the ball. Before the ball leaves Colt McCoy's hands, it's all over. Charbonnet has read this play perfectly, and is going to at least bat the ball down, if not outright intercept it. After that, everything's all gravy. Charbonnet's teammates see that he's secured the interception and begin blocking for him. It's just a matter of time before he finds his way into the end zone. This is easily my favorite defensive play of the night, it's a testament to how well McNeill prepared his players. Charbonnet knew that McCoy was going to go to Shipley based on his body movements and eye contact with his receivers, and he played the pass perfectly.
Next, we have the Texas offense finally waking up and playing the man coverage we've been giving their slanting receivers in the flats.
Texas is again in their empty formation, and Tech is in their 4-3 with Charbonnet at a linebacker position. Every single receiver slants to the right. Naturally, unless Tech has 5 DBs directly lined up over these receivers, someone will be open. Even if they are covered, someone should be able to break free. Williams is the uncovered receiver, and he makes us pay for this mistake. He breaks a couple of arm tackles to put Texas right back in the game. Texas would miss the 2-point conversion due to another fantastic play by Charbonnet, but the Longhorns are now within reasonable striking distance.
This next play is where any other team would've fallen apart. But not this team.
This is a pretty innocuous play at the start. Texas has been throwing a substantial amount of short passes, so naturally the safeties are creeping up a little bit. I don't know if this play was called or if McCoy audibled into it, but it happened nonetheless. Texas hits a huge pass to Williams after a McCoy pump fake brings the safeties in close. Mere minutes ago we had a comfortable three-possession lead, and now it's been cut down to less than a touchdown.
Texas drives the field, and gets the ball to our 5 before executing a near perfect goal line running play
For any other team, this would be a dagger. It seems that Texas has finally figured out a way to block us on this drive, and it shows on this play. There's a hole in the middle of the defense where Colby Whitlock has been dominating all day that you could drive a car through. Everyone on our defense gets touched in some way, and Texas finds a way to put points on the board. Give them the respect they deserve, this is a great team who figured out how to execute at the perfect time. Unfortunately, we were just a little bit better.
This is a Blake Gideon appreciation gif, nothing more.
This is the moment we've all been waiting for. The play.
We're in a doubles formation against Texas's 4-2-5 look. What amazes me about this play is that by conventional wisdom, it is a poor football decision to throw the football to Crabtree right here. He's close to the sideline, yes, but right now a field goal wins the game, and we are well within field goal range. He's being covered relatively well, and if Earl Thomas doesn't overrun him, he might have been tackled in bounds, further putting the dwindling clock in jeopardy. Let me reiterate: this is a questionable football decision that turned into one of the most iconic moments in the history of college sports. It's absolutely unreal how this turned out.
If y'all have the time, I just would like to say that the best way to watch this video is all the way through. It really captures the emotion of everything that happened.