Texas walked into the Coliseum with a true freshman QB making his 2nd career start. I never thought the moment seemed too big for Sam Ehlinger. Ehlinger finished the night with 21 completions on 40 attempts for 298 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also tossed 2 interceptions, with one pick coming after a no-call facemask penalty that by the rulebook, should have been called. Despite the offensive struggles and playing behind a suspect offensive line, the freshman still led the Longhorns on a 91-yard drive late in the 4th quarter that gave Texas the lead. There is no doubt that Ehlinger brings intangibles to the quarterback position that many Longhorn fans have not seen in a long time.
Unfortunately, Ehlinger also had the ball stripped inside the 5-yard line in double OT that ultimately led to USC kicking the game winning field goal. There were a couple deep balls that were overthrown, but overall Ehlinger gave Texas a chance to win the game, and that’s about all the fans and coaches could have asked for.
Jerrod Heard saw some action out of the wildcat package, but it is just too predictable that it is going to be an off tackle run when he enters the game. Tim Beck needs to add a counter play or something that can keep the defense honest.
The game plan seemed to play out similar to week 1 against Maryland. Tom Herman and Tim Beck chose to abandon the run game early. Chris Warren and Kyle Porter combined for 9 carries with 24 yards. It’s hard to blame the running backs for their performance with the offensive line play and play calling. After Connor Williams exited with a knee injury, Texas had zero success running the ball outside of reverses and jet sweeps. Kyle Porter continues to struggle to break tackles and get into the second level. A lot of fans voiced their displeasure for the lack of carries at RB, specifically for Warren, but Texas faced a lot of 7 and 8 man boxes. USC wanted to force Sam Ehlinger to beat them with his arm. Texas has to find a way to establish a running game between the tackles because outside of 60 minutes against San Jose State, the running game has been non-existent.
Both running backs did a solid job in pass protection. Once Connor Williams exited the game, the running backs were forced to help block edge rushers. Kyle Porter is the superior blocker and is not afraid to take on a dude 75 pounds heavier than him. He threw a huge block on Sam Ehlinger’s 4th and 1 run late in the 4th quarter. Chris Warren also contributed a few good blocks and had a key 11-yard reception.
One last note that I was thinking as I was reviewing the game. I would like to see Toneil Carter get meaningful snaps. I understand the reluctance from the coaching staff to throw him into the fire – especially in pass protection – but the running game needs to get going and I think Carter could provide a spark.
Texas fans better enjoy Collin Johnson for the next 2 years because the sophomore has played like an NFL receiver the first 3 games of the season, including last night. Johnson hauled in 7 passes for 191 yards and was a focal point for the Texas offense in the second half. On Texas’ final drive of the 4th quarter Ehlinger targeted Johnson several times, including a huge catch down the Texas sideline that set up a touchdown pass to Armanti Foreman. Foreman also had a huge game. The senior hauled in a key 4th down pass to go along with his touchdown catch, finishing the day with 5 catches for 38 yards.
Out of the slot, Reggie Hemphill-Mapps had 2 catches for 13 yards, and also added 14 yards rushing. Lil’ Jordan Humphrey and Lorenzo Joe combined for 4 catches for 39 yards. The passing game was bogged down for most of the first half, but when Texas needed them the most the receiving group stepped up and delivered.
Texas played with a lot of 11 personnel packages again. Kendall Moore played the majority of the game and had an alright game blocking wise. When Texas brought in Cade Brewer, there was a noticeable drop off in blocking, but the freshman hauled in his first career touchdown in the first overtime on a beautifully designed play that Brewer sold perfectly. Tom Herman will continue to trot out a tight end regardless of the talent at the position, but they may be asked to block more than ever with how the offensive line is performing. Overall, the tight ends are what they are. There is nobody at the position opposing defenses will worry about, but Texas will continue to try to gain an advantage in the running game by using Kendall Moore and Cade Brewer as an extra blocker.
As soon as Connor Williams left the game, I knew the offense could be in big trouble. Tristan Nickelson was forced to slide over to left tackle and Denzel Okafor was inserted at right tackle. Tim Beck discovered quickly that running off tackle was not going to work. Running between the tackles was not much better. Jake McMillon and Patrick Vahe were slightly better than the tackles, but not by much. Zach Shackelford spent much of the first half trying to figure out how to hit the quarterback in the chest with the snap, and twice snapped the ball when Ehlinger was not ready.
Offensive line coach Derek Warehime has to be frustrated about the number of penalties from an experienced and veteran unit. The entire offensive line as a whole struggled mightily in pass protection, including a sequence late in the first half where sacks took Texas out of field goal range. In the second half there was some improvement in pass protection, but it is obvious that Ehlinger is having to scramble around more than he would like. It is a very real possibility that Texas will be without Connor Williams for the remainder of the season, and depth is already razor thin on the offensive line. The offensive coaching staff will need to start finding ways to cover up what is becoming a glaring weakness.
Run Blocking Grade: F
Pass Blocking Grade: D+
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