For the first time since 2002, Texas walked out of Bill Snyder Family Stadium a winner. The Longhorns used a big first half and hung on for dear life in the second half to escape the purple wizard with 19-14 win. The win moves Texas to 2-0 in conference play and 4-1 overall, setting up a huge game next week at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Tom Herman admitted after the game that it was an ugly win, but the Longhorns now have 4 straight victories for the first time since 2013. Let’s take a look at some key takeaways from a wild afternoon in The Little Apple:
Breckyn Hager Comes up Big
After having a relatively quiet first 4 games of 2018, DE Breckyn Hager came up huge Saturday afternoon. The Austin native collected his first sack of the season and also batted down a key 3rd down pass in the 4th quarter, allowing the Texas offense to get the ball back and run out of the clock. It was a very physical game at the line of scrimmage, and Hager was in the middle of all the action.
While discussing the defensive line, it would also be appropriate to mention the big game from Charles Omenihu, who had 2 sacks of his own, one of which resulted in a big safety in the 2nd quarter. The inability to get to the quarterback has been a hot topic amongst Texas fans in recent weeks, but Hager and Omenihu certainly responded by delivering big performances in Manhattan.
Big Plays on Special Teams
It felt like only a matter of time before D’Shawn Jamison would take a return to the house, and the freshman came through in the first quarter to help Texas jump out to a 7-0 lead. Jamison did an excellent job of weaving his way through defenders with the help of a couple of big blocks (go look at the replay and watch the effort by Josh Thompson).
Jamison’s touchdown was not the only bright spot on special teams. Despite his missed field goal attempt, Cameron Dicker did a nice job of putting his kickoffs near the corners of the end zone, and the coverage team had a nice afternoon pinning the Wildcats deep in their own territory on several possessions.
The Ryan Bujcevski adventure continued. The freshman punter had a punt partially blocked and averaged 36.7 yards on 3 attempts. Following the partially blocked punt, the Texas defense forced a punt of their own. The Longhorns could not afford to let special teams blunders haunt them, and it didn’t Saturday afternoon.
Turnover-Free Sam, Again
Sam Ehlinger has now gone 4 straight games without turning the ball over after his 2 interceptions in week 1 against Maryland. The sophomore finished the game 29 of 36 for 207 yards and a touchdown while adding 8 carries for 26 yards on the ground. Ehlinger has made big strides in the intermediate passing game and is showing improvement in the pocket.
Ehlinger still has work to do, particularly in the deep passing game, but he has shown the ability to learn from his mistakes and play within himself.
Keaontay Ingram’s Expanded Role
In week 1 against Maryland, Texas turned to Tre Watson and Kyle Porter with the game on the line in the 4th quarter. Fast forward to today and freshman Keaontay Ingram found himself as the go-to man when Texas was attempting to run out the clock. Ingram is still not 100% from a knee injury, but his cutback ability and vision makes him the best back on the Longhorns roster. He finished the game with 10 carries for 68 yards and 5 catches for 27 yards, but it is becoming more and more obvious that the Texas coaches know Ingram gives them the best chance to move the ball on the ground in crunch time.
Defying the Odds
If you would have told any Texas fan before the game that the Longhorns would be penalized 10 times for over 100 yards and Kansas State would not be penalized at all, most fans would have said Texas suffered another loss in Manhattan. The fact that Texas overcame multiple self-inflicted blunders shows the progress the program is making in its second year under Tom Herman. The Texas teams of the past would have not walked out victorious.
The Longhorns still have a lot to clean up if they hope to contend for a Big 12 championship, but Tom Herman now has his players believing in themselves. Herman emphasized the word “culture” and “learning how to win” over the past 21 months, and his team is now beginning to embrace it.
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