For only the 10th time in program history, Texas started a true freshman at quarterback on Saturday. Austin native Sam Ehlinger had a solid debut, completing 15 of 27 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown. Ehlinger also added 7 rushing attempts for 48 yards. It was obvious that Tim Beck put together a game plan that kept things simple and emphasized the running game to help out a quarterback making his first career start. Ehlinger showed poise and looked comfortable in the pocket, scrambling and getting the yards that the defense was giving him. He forced the ball into coverage a couple of times, including squeezing a ball into Collin Johnson that was nearly picked off, but overall threw the ball better as the game progressed.
Regardless of whether Shane Buechele or Sam Ehlinger starts against USC, the coaching staff will need to continue to find ways to get Jerrod Heard snaps at quarterback. The junior carried the ball 8 times for 39 yards and 2 touchdowns. Heard’s ability to use his legs and his threat as a passer forces defenses to adjust when he enters a game. While he may not have the build and physicality of Tyrone Swoopes, Heard has the capability of having the same type of effect when it comes to the quarterback run game.
A week after being virtually non-existent against Maryland, the running back group exploded for 321 yards. Chris Warren turned 16 carries into 166 yards and 2 touchdowns. Warren looked like he did his freshman year, getting behind his pads and being physical. The wildcat package with Warren taking direct snaps and running downhill is a package that needs to be utilized more going forward. Kyle Porter scored the first touchdown of his career, but looks to be turning into more of the number 2 option behind Warren. Porter and Warren both had no breakdowns in pass protection, helping keep a clean pocket for Ehlinger most of the game. Freshmen Toneil Carter and Daniel Young both looked good in 4th quarter action, with Carter getting his first touchdown and displaying good burst on a 39-yard run.
Warren also had several positive contributions catching the ball out of the backfield, including a 13-yard reception where he was flipped trying to hurdle a defender and a key 4th down reception for a first down.
For the second week in a row, Collin Johnson found himself double teamed for most of the game. The sophomore still contributed with 2 catches for 50 yards, but will need his fellow receivers to step up a bit more. Armanti Foreman found the endzone for the 2nd time in 2 weeks, and Lorenzo Joe made his presence felt with a beautiful 39-yard reception down the sideline to go along with his usual consistent blocking in the run game.
Reggie Hemphill-Mapps caught 3 passes for 47 yards in a half of play after serving a 2 quarter suspension. Ehlinger looked very comfortable throwing to Mapps in the short passing game and on screens. Lil’ Jordan Humphrey played often, but did not record a catch. The wildcat package involving Humphrey in week 1 may have been replaced in favor of the wildcat packages involving Chris Warren and Jerrod Heard. Devin Duvernay was absent from the box score, and the inability to push the ball down the field may limit his production. Overall, the wide receivers had an okay game. They dropped a few catchable balls that could have made life a little easier for Ehlinger, but they made the plays they needed to and there were no liabilities at the position.
The offensive staff did a much better job this week of using the tight ends properly. Grad transfer Kendall Moore saw his first extended action and was far and away the best blocking tight end on the field. Texas went to 2 tight end personnel sets often, and the group responded by doing what they were asked. Garrett Gray left the game with an injury, but the play of Moore and the ability of Cade Brewer to hold his own in the run game helped Texas tremendously on offense.
The offensive line did what every Texas fan was hoping they would do against a bad San Jose State front: they dominated. The problems that arose in week 1 did not rear their head on Saturday. The unit paved the way for 406 rushing yards and allowed no sacks. Guards Jake McMillon and Patrick Vahe were both maulers in the run game and had several key blocks on rushing touchdowns. Zach Shackelford played an excellent game at center. Connor Williams was back to his normal self and his name was not mentioned the entire game, which is a good thing. I paid particularly close attention to Denzel Okafor and Tristan Nickelson for most of the game, and both played pretty well. Nickelson has a tendency to dominate in these types of games where he can run block primarily and not have to worry about a high caliber speed rusher off the edge. Okafor looked strong in the run game and handled the pass rushers on his side with ease. With 2 games of film to look off of, it would not be surprising to see this rotation start becoming more one sided as Derek Warehime tries to establish cohesiveness heading into Los Angeles and into conference play.