Texas finished off the 2017 season with a 33-16 win over Missouri in the Texas Bowl. The win gave the Longhorns a winning season and some momentum heading into 2018. Let’s take a look at how the offense graded out:
The dreaded two quarterback rotation took center stage during the first half, with Shane Buechele getting the start and tossing a touchdown pass on the opening drive of the game. Buechele was later replaced by Sam Ehlinger, who tossed a touchdown of his own to give Texas a 14-0 lead. Buechele re-entered the game during the second quarter, but ultimately exited the game with an injury. Ehlinger took over and delivered a mixed bag of results during the second half.
#11 finished the night 11 of 15 passing for 112 yards. The most important thing he did was not turn the ball over. Both quarterbacks will need to work on their pocket awareness during the off-season. Ehlinger seems to have a knack of escaping the pocket and does a good job of keeping his eyes downfield, but the freshman will need to learn that throwing the ball away is not the worst thing in the world. The stats were not all that impressive, but the quarterback position did not hinder the offense.
Looking ahead to 2018, it is pretty obvious that there will be a spirited quarterback competition that will most likely drag out all the way up until the season opener at Maryland. Neither quarterback did enough to win the job outright this season, but adequate performances like the one last night may be all the Longhorns need if improvements are made in other areas of the offense.
Tim Beck and Tom Herman only had 2 running back available last night who had played this season. Daniel Young received the start, and finished the night as the team’s leading rusher (48 yards on 12 carries) and receiver (64 yards on 3 receptions). Young played an excellent all around game and has some great momentum heading into next season. The steal of the 2017 recruiting class will only get better with additional coaching from Stan Drayton. Kyle Porter added 11 carries for 30 yards and 1 reception for 10 yards. Porter lacks the vision and burst that Young has, but he served as a reliable pass blocker and got a couple of key first downs in the 4th quarter when Texas was burning the clock. Although the two backs only combined for a pedestrian 78 yards, the all around play was good and a major contributor in Texas moving the ball well on their scoring drives.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
The most active the Texas receivers were all night was on the opening drive of the game. Armanti Foreman drew only the 4th defensive pass interference penalty in the Longhorns favor on the season, which was followed by defensive holding penalty against Collin Johnson that set up the first touchdown of the game. In a season filled with head scratching receiver rotations and questionable effort at times, it was refreshing to see two Longhorn receivers using their football IQ and taking advantage of an over aggressive Missouri defense. Johnson finished the night with 3 catches for 40 yards, with Foreman adding on 4 catches for 19 yards and a 18 yard rushing touchdown on a reverse. Tom Herman was the happiest person in NRG when his senior receiver crossed the goal line. Junior John Burt added a 7 yard touchdown reception where he did a nice job of keeping his feet inbounds. Texas will need more from him in 2018.
While Johnson and Foreman both had solid games, the rest of the receivers group left a lot to be desired. Texas struggled finding guys who could get open and operate underneath in space. Reggie Hemphill Mapps finished with only 1 catch and it looked like not having Lil Jordan Humphrey hurt the Longhorns passing game.
Kendall Moore exited the game in the second half with injury, but played very well in the first half. Moore opened up several holes in the run game and added a reception for 13 yards.
All the ups and downs from the offensive line over the course of the season played out at different times last night. Zach Shackelford followed his routine of holding the point of attack well in the middle of the line, but snapped the ball at the Quarterbacks ankles several times. Jake McMillon and Patrick Vahe played well at the guard positions. Derek Kerstetter struggled at times, especially in pass protection, but played well for a freshman who should have been in sweatpants and a jersey on the sideline enjoying the game as a redshirt.
Elijah Rodriguez was given the almost impossible task of filling in for Connor Williams at Left Tackle after missing the entire regular season with an ankle injury. Rodriguez is a plus run blocker who was only playing LT because of the dire needs along the offensive line. His pass blocking left a lot to be desired, but he showed enough to make me confident he can start at RT or any interior OL spot next season.
Pass Blocking: C-
Run Blocking: C
Offensive Play Calling
Texas fans can rest easy for the next 9 months knowing they will not have to see another QB sweep or run up the middle during short yardage situations. All joking aside, it was a pleasant surprise to see some offensive adjustments that were made during the month off after Texas Tech. Texas showed some different wrinkles in the run game and what looked like some different passing concepts to the naked eye. Despite the changes, the play calling in general still lacks any rhythm and rarely ever flows together. The win was big and the offense had several good moments, but there is still a lot to be desired in terms of offensive production.