In the semifinals of the College Football Playoffs, the third-ranked Longhorns lost to the second-ranked Washington Huskies, 37-31, after a fourth-down pass into the end zone was deflected.After Grady Gross’ 27-yard field goal, quarterback Quinn Ewers and the Longhorns set up shop at their 25-yard line with 2:34 left in the fourth quarter, down 37-28. After an 8-yard scramble and a 10-yard holding penalty against the Husky defense, Ewers led four straight plays that produced a first down and advanced Texas into the red zone.
After the drive stalled three plays later, junior kicker Bert Auburn converted a 25-yard field goal with 1:09 left on the clock for his 29th field goal of the season, tying him with Texas A&M’s Randy Bullock (2011) for the Big 12 Conference’s second most. The Longhorns (12-2) were unable to recover an onside kick opportunity, but the Texas defense, led by linebacker Jaylen Ford, who finished with a game-high 10 tackles, and Byron Murphy II, who became the first defensive lineman in bowl history to score a rushing touchdown on a 1-yard run to tie the game at 14-14 early in the second quarter, forced Washington to punt for a third time.
Jordan Whittington caught Jack McCallister’s 28-yard punt deep. Texas’ starting field possession moved from the 16-yard line to the Longhorn 31 after Whittington was interfered with.
In front of 68,791 fans at the Caesars Superdome, Texas’ offense trotted back out onto the field with no timeouts and 71 yards to play in its first national championship game since 2009.
Ewers and Whittington connected on a 41-yard third-down pass to move the offense down to the Washington 28-yard line after back-to-back incompletions for Ja’Tavion Sanders, who passed David Thomas (2002-05) for the most tight end receptions in program history on Monday night.
Ewers found Jaydon Blue, who scored Texas’ first touchdown with a 5-yard run midway through the first quarter, along the right sideline for a 16-yard connection with 20 seconds left.
After a Washington timeout with 15 seconds left, Blue caught another Ewers pass for a 1-yard loss but got out of bounds to stop the clock. Next, Ewers threw to Adonai Mitchell, who had caught a 1-yard pass from him seven minutes earlier in the quarter in the end zone. But it sailed harmlessly out of bounds.
Ewers, who had his sixth 300-yard passing game (318) of the season, attempted a pass to Blue on the right sideline with five seconds left. Mishael Powell’s defense forced Southlake’s early throw.
In the dying moments of a high-stakes football showdown, the state of Texas found itself on the precipice of glory or heartbreak. The clock was ticking down, and the outcome of the game hinged on a single play that would etch itself into the annals of Texas football history.
The protagonist of this nail-biting scenario was Mitchell, a towering 6-foot-4 receiver from Missouri City, a beacon of hope for Texas fans. Lined up to the right of the formation, he stood as the embodiment of the state’s aspirations. On the opposing side, Washington safety Makell Esteen was tasked with the formidable challenge of thwarting Texas’ dreams.
As the tension reached its zenith, all eyes were on the quarterback, Ewers, who scanned the field with a steely gaze. Mitchell, with his imposing frame, emerged as a prime target. The fate of Texas football rested on the connection between these two players in the crucial seconds that remained.
The ball soared through the air, a jump-ball destined for Mitchell in the back-right corner of the end zone. The spectators collectively held their breath, their hopes and fears encapsulated in that suspended moment. Esteen, however, had other plans. In a display of athleticism and determination, he leaped into action, deflecting the ball away with a skillful maneuver.
The echoes of the collision between the ball and Esteen’s outstretched hands marked the end of a chapter for Texas football. The dreams of a triumphant season were extinguished in that heart-stopping instant. The collective sighs of disappointment and disbelief reverberated through the stadium as the reality set in.
No. 3 Football loses to No. 2 Washington in CFP.
Yet, amidst the agony of defeat, an intriguing twist emerged. A sliver of hope, an extra second on the clock, provided a tantalizing what-if scenario. Due to an early throw, Texas was afforded one more precious second – a second that could have rewritten the narrative, resurrecting the team’s aspirations from the ashes of despair.
The hypotheticals and alternate realities will be endlessly debated by fans and analysts alike. The “what if” moment will become a defining aspect of Texas’ football lore, a tantalizing glimpse into a parallel universe where that additional second led to a different outcome, where Mitchell’s hands cradled the ball in the end zone, and where Texas’ best football season continued its victorious march.
In the end, the football gods had spoken, and the finality of Esteen’s deflection concluded Texas’ journey, leaving fans to ponder the fragility of success and the relentless nature of the game they hold dear.