AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — After a 1-2 start, Texas coach Mack Brown was mocked for suggesting the Longhorns could win for a Big 12 title.
Nearly three months later, the league crown is still out there for the taking if Texas can get one more win and some help from an old rival.
Case McCoy passed for two touchdowns and ran for another and Texas kept its Big 12 title hopes alive Thursday night with a 41-16 win over Texas Tech.
Joe Bergeron ran for 102 yards and a touchdown for the Longhorns (8-3, 7-1 Big 12), who end their regular season on Dec. 7 at No. 9 Baylor. If Texas wins that game and No. 7 Oklahoma State loses to No. 20 Oklahoma, the Longhorns would claim their first league championship since 2009.
“Our focus was to put ourselves in position for that game to have meaning. We did that,” McCoy said. “As crazy as this season has gone, we have a chance to do that.”
Any chance of a Big 12 title seemed remote when Texas dropped consecutive blowout losses to BYU and Ole Miss in early September. With his national title hopes dashed, Brown turned his team’s focus to winning the Big 12.
The Longhorns reeled off six straight wins before they stumbled with a 38-13 home loss to Oklahoma State on Nov. 16. That defeat rekindled speculation that Brown’s job is in jeopardy and whether Thursday night could be his last home game after 16 seasons.
Texas responded to the 25-point home loss — the worst of Brown’s tenure — with a 25-point win that sets up at least the potential for a title and a Bowl Championship Series berth.
“They’ve got a lot of pride,” Brown said. “We’ve got to regroup to give it one more shot.”
Thursday night also was the final home game for a senior class that signed with Texas just a month after the Longhorns lost to Alabama in the 2009 season championship game.
That group likely expected to contend for Big 12 and national championships every year, but instead has gone 30-19 overall with an 18-16 mark in the Big 12. If they don’t win the Big 12 title, they will be first Texas senior class since 1989 to not win or share a conference or division championship.
“It’s big,” Texas senior defensive Jackson Jeffcoat said after getting three of the Longhorns’ nine sacks on the night. “We had to win this one. We have to win the next one.”
Texas Tech (7-5, 4-5) ended its regular season with its fifth consecutive loss under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury.
“We’re making too many mistakes against good teams,” Kingsbury said. “We got away with it earlier in the year against teams that weren’t as good.”
The Red Raiders came in with the nation’s top passing offense, but allowed the Longhorns to chase freshman quarterback Baker Mayfield the entire game. Mayfield passed for 237 yards, but the Red Raiders’ biggest play came on a 51-yard touchdown on a fake punt by Ryan Erxleben in the first quarter.
Mike Davis caught touchdowns of 47 and 7 yards for Texas and Malcolm Brown rushed for 128 yards. Anthony Fera kicked field goals of 37 and 49 yards, tying the Texas record by making 15 in a row this season.
The fake punt gave Texas Tech an early 7-0 lead before the Longhorns responded with Fera’s first field goal and McCoy’s long touchdown pass to Davis in the first quarter.
“I just threw it as far as I could,” McCoy said.
Texas pushed the lead to 20-7 when Bergeron rumbled 12 yards for a touchdown, a play set up by a 43-yard completion from Jaxon Shipley to Davis on a double-reverse pass.
McCoy’s second career rushing touchdown came in the third quarter. His second scoring pass to Davis made it 34-10 and put the game out of reach. McCoy had three turnovers in Texas’ loss to Oklahoma State, but was mistake-free against the Red Raiders.
“It hasn’t been exactly what we wanted,” McCoy said of the Texas seniors. “But now that it’s our year … we want to be playing for a Big 12 championships. It’s what we’re supposed to do.”
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