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Game Preview: Texas Longhorns vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane

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Photo: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Longhorns (0-1) will host the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the team’s home opener at 7:00 PM on Saturday at Darrel K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium.  Texas is reeling from a 34-29 season-opening loss to the Terrapins and desperately needs a resounding win to quell a raucous fanbase.  Tulsa (1-0), which won just two games last season, defeated #15 FCS ranked Central Arkansas 38-27 and racked up 493 yards of offense in their home opener last week.

Saturday’s contest marks the first time the two teams will meet on the gridiron.

The Coaches

TULSA GOLDEN HURRICANE

Head Coach:  Philip Montgomery
Head Coaching Experience: 4th year as a head coach
Years as Head Coach at Tulsa:  4
Career Record:  19-20
Career Record at Tulsa:  19-20

TEXAS LONGHORNS

Head Coach:  Tom Herman
Head Coaching Experience: 4th year as a head coach
Years as Head Coach at Texas:  2
Career Record:  29-11
Career Record at Texas:  7-7

Will Texas Rebound?

The Longhorns have won 17 of their last 18 home openers and look to continue their winning ways against the Golden Hurricane. After Maryland spoiled Tom Herman’s head coaching debut in Austin last season, the Longhorns answered with a 56-0 thrashing of visiting team San Jose State.  The Texas offense racked up 623 yards, and Todd Orlando’s defense limited the Spartans to just 171 yards of offense. Texas looks for a similar performance against Tulsa on Saturday, but a host of questions about the team’s capacities still linger.

The Texas offense made critical errors late in the Maryland game, which arguably cost the Longhorns a win. Sam Ehlinger’s two interceptions and Tre Watson’s fumble derailed any chances Texas had at making a comeback on the Terrapins.  Despite Ehlinger’s turnovers, he finished with decent offensive production, throwing for 263 yards and rushing for 30.  His performance was good enough for head Coach Tom Herman, who ruled out the possibility of pulling Ehlinger and starting junior Shane Buechele:

“I don’t think, certainly Sam didn’t play perfect, but nobody did, and his errors weren’t egregious enough to merit just dumping him on the depth chart.”

Central Arkansas rushed 32 times for 82 yards last week against Philip Mongomery’s team, averaging just 2.6 yards per carry. Expect the Longhorns to try to establish a steady running game which will incorporate more of true freshman Keaontay Ingram, who had 6 carries for 37 yards against Maryland.

Half of the Tulsa football roster is comprised of players from Texas, including sophmore quarterback Luke Skipper. Skipper, a Forney, Texas native threw just three touchdown passes last season.  He won the starting job for the Golden Hurricane in the preseason and threw for 196 yards and two touchdowns against the Central Arkansas last Saturday. Skipper added 53 yards on the ground.

The Texas defense has the task of stopping a formidable ground game which tallied 297 yards against Central Arkansas.  A pair of sophmore running backs in Shamari Brooks and Corey Taylor II each surpassed the 100-yard mark in last week’s contest.

Tulsa’s defense held UCA to 247 total yards, including just 82 rushing yards.  The Bears failed to convert any third down attempts (0-10).

Texas Injuries

Texas Safety Brandon Jones suffered a high ankle sprain in the Maryland game and was listed as questionable by Tom Herman on Monday. Jones was ruled out by Herman on Thursday evening, leaving the door open for freshman safety B.J. Foster to grab his first start at the position. Starting center Zach Shackleford suffered a foot sprain in practice this week and was also ruled out for Saturday’s game. Elijah Rodriguez will start at center in Shackleford’s absence.  Backup left guard Patrick Hudson suffered a heat-related illness this week in practice and spent time in the hospital.  Hudson will not play against Tulsa. Cornerbacks Kris Boyd (ankle) and Davante Davis (neck) both sustained injuries against the Terrapins but are expected to play against the Golden Hurricane on Saturday, according to Herman.

What’s at Stake?

Every game in a 12-game college football season is important, but this one is paramount for Texas. While it’s hard to fathom an 0-2 start to the season for the Longhorns, it’s easy to see how mistakes, overcompensation and lethargy contribute to precarious situations. The Longhorns, favored by more than three touchdowns, can’t afford to look ahead to USC, or Tulsa could match last season’s win total in Week 2 of 2018.

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Aaron Carrara is the founder and publisher of HornSports and has covered University of Texas athletics since 2011. Aaron is a member of the Football Writer's Association of America and the U.S. Basketball Writer's Association and is a proud father to three boys.

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