LUBBOCK — The goal posts came down at Texas Tech's Jones AT&T Stadium on Saturday night. Just not in the manner the Red Raiders had planned.
Moments after No. 5 Texas finished off its improbable comeback, snatching a stirring 35-31 victory from the jaws of what looked to be unavoidable defeat, Tech maintenance workers stormed the field and unceremoniously lowered the goal posts to the ground.
Red Raiders fans, who moments earlier seemed poised to celebrate what could have been the biggest upset the stadium had seen, had nothing to do with it.
The Longhorns, behind a rough-and-tumble performance from quarterback Colt McCoy and a beleaguered defense that finally made stops when it had to, came back from a 21-0 first-quarter deficit to cancel the Red Raiders' victory party.
The victory left UT (8-1, 5-0 Big 12) alone atop the conference's South standings.
"It's the heart of this team and the determination of this team that put us over the top," said McCoy, who overcame an early interception to pass for 256 yards and four touchdowns. "If we don't have heart tonight, we don't win."
There was no upset to be had Saturday, much to the chagrin of most of the stadium-record crowd of 56,158.
Just another come-from-behind victory from a come-from-behind team. Another hold-on-for-dear-life triumph demonstrating that when it comes to heart, the Longhorns have more of it than a cardiac hospital.
The Longhorns will wake up this morning still alive in the national championship race, especially with No. 3 USC unable to complete its own rally against Oregon State.
"The confidence of this football team," UT coach Mack Brown said.
Down 21-0 in the first quarter? No problem.
McCoy threw three TD passes in the first half to help UT cut that to 31-21 at half.
Unable to stop Tech (5-4, 2-3) at all in the first half? No sweat.
The UT defense, which gave up more passing yards and more points in the first half than it had all year, held Tech scoreless in the second.
Things slipping away in the fourth quarter? No worries.
After McCoy's fourth TD pass — a 28-yarder to Quan Cosby — gave UT its first lead with 13:24 left, the Longhorns twice stopped Tech on downs deep in their own territory.
The second of those stands, which essentially iced the game, was a testament to UT's intestinal fortitude. Jamaal Charles had just coughed up a fumble at the UT 24, with the Longhorns trying to mount a last drive and kill the clock. Moments later, Drew Kelson stuffed Tech quarterback Graham Harrell on a fourth-and-1 sneak at the UT 15, returning the ball to UT with 4:14 to play.
And that's what it came down to for Tech.
After spending 54 minutes piling up yards at will — getting career-best 518 of them alone off the arm of Harrell — Tech lost because of its inability to gain a couple of inches.
"We played a better game than most wins we have had," Tech coach Mike Leach said. "There are some things we would have liked different. The ball rolls funny."
And if that ball had rolled differently? If Tech had been able to finish what it started?
Maybe the goal posts would have come down for real.
Notebook: The comeback was the second-largest in UT history, trailing only the 28-point rally the Longhorns posted to beat Oklahoma State in 2004. ... For Tech, it was only the third loss under Leach when leading at halftime.