Following a 34-29 loss to Maryland, it’s time to take a look back at the good, the bad and the ugly from a wild afternoon at FedEx field:
It was a good debut for several freshmen who were seeing their first action at the collegiate level. Caden Sterns started at safety and finished the afternoon with 4 tackles. BJ Foster played major snaps and showed he wasn’t afraid to defend the run. After Devante Davis exited the game with a neck injury, redshirt freshman Kobe Boyce entered in his place. Boyce played adequately in pass support and made no mistakes defending the run.
On the offensive side of the ball, Texas received a huge spark from Keaontay Ingram. The freshman out of Carthage flashed the same ability that made him the top running back recruit in the state a season ago. Ingram finished the game with 6 carries for 37 yards and a touchdown. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be seeing at least 15 touches every game. Redshirt freshman Sam Cosmi took over at right tackle a couple series into the game and played well, minus a few plays where he got beat on the edge.
The addition of Calvin Anderson and Herb Hand have already helped a unit that struggled to keep the quarterback upright in 2017. Sam Ehlinger was sacked only once on the afternoon, but the offensive line unit as a whole looked improved in pass protection. All 5 linemen did a much better job of picking up blitzes and all 3 running backs showed a willingness to take on blitzing linebackers one on one. If Texas can develop an offensive identity, it will go a long way in taking advantage of the type of offensive line play that was absent a year ago.
Major props to Devin Duvernay, who had a disappointing 2017 season. The junior hauled in the first touchdown of the season on beautiful 39-yard diving catch. Duvernay is somebody who benefit greatly from improved pass protection, which allowed Texas to push the ball down the field more.
Everyone remembers Jashaun Jacob’s second touchdown, a 65-yarder after BJ Foster and Devante Davis ran into each other, but the play before Kris Boyd dropped one of the easiest interceptions he will have in his career. Saturday’s loss was full of missed opportunities where Texas had a chance to turn the tide of the game and run away with it.
Following the weather delay, Texas trailed 31-29 and received the ensuing kickoff. The next 4 drives went like this: punt, interception, fumble and interception. The Longhorns had 4 opportunities to drive down the field and take the lead, and couldn’t take advantage. Unfortunately, missed opportunities seem to be a theme for Texas over the past 2 years. The Longhorns have been unable to make the big play when it’s needed most.
Late Turnovers, Again
Sam Ehlinger had moments where he looked to be an improved version of his 2017 self. He stood in the pocket, stepped up and delivered nice balls. But when the game mattered most, Ehlinger threw two costly interceptions —squashing any hopes of a comeback victory. Ehlinger’s explanation for his second interception centered around the fact that he didn’t want to throw the ball away and face a 4th and 10. While it was an understandable explanation, Ehlinger didn’t need to abandon the pocket when he did. Maryland was rushing 2, spying 1 and dropping 8 into coverage. The sophomore still needs to learn when not to escape the pocket and take a shot downfield. It comes with experience, but learning experiences are not something Texas can afford to have this year.
The End Result
There’s no way around it — this was a very bad loss for Texas. All the momentum gained from the bowl win to end 2017 is erased and now Texas is forced take a long look in the mirror. The Longhorns will be underdogs in 3 of their next 4 games and have a very real chance of being 1-4 heading into the Red River Showdown in Dallas. The worst possible scenario played out for Texas, and now the Longhorns face an uphill battle to reach the 8 or 9 win mark, which is what many expected in year 2 under Tom Herman.
Texas experienced some individual improvements on offense, but the unit as a whole still lacks an identity, which leads to inconsistency. The offensive staff had a tough time deciding what was working and sticking to it. The one drive Texas went up-tempo, they practically walked into the end zone, then never went up-tempo again. For the Longhorns to be successful in the Big 12, they must figure who they want to be on offense. They found success in a variety of areas, but ability to put together complete gameplans with sustained success could be the difference between another 6 win season or 7-8 victories.
Texas was one of the most penalized teams in the country a season ago and 2018 appears to be trending in the same direction. The Longhorns were penalized 10 times for 102 yards, including an equipment violation by Collin Johnson on Texas’ first offensive play from scrimmage. The Longhorns are not at a point where they can overcome boneheaded penalties and expect to win games. There were 2 roughing the passer penalties that were textbook calls. Gary Johnson was ejected for targeting after lowering his head on a sliding Kasim Hill on a play that was already getting called back for a holding penalty that would have put Maryland in a 3rd and 20 situation.
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