Even without Sam Ehlinger in the second half of Saturday night’s matchup with Iowa State, the Longhorns dominated the Cyclones all night and came away with a 24-10 victory. Todd Orlando and his defensive unit stepped up in a big way by limiting David Montgomery to 33 yards rushing and making Brock Purdy look like a freshman. The health of Sam Ehlinger looms large as Texas is set to have a short week and travel to Kansas. The good news is that Ehlinger warmed up on the sideline and was really in Tom Herman’s ear about coming into the game. For now, here are five thoughts about the Longhorns’ big win:
Shane Buechele is selfless and serviceable
After losing the starting job to Sam Ehlinger in the offseason, Shane Buechele could have easily exercised his option to transfer like so many other quarterbacks have in the past. Instead, the junior took on a mentor role with Ehlinger and remained ready to be called on. When Buechele’s number was called against Baylor and tonight, he’s been more than serviceable at the position. There’s no doubt that the offense is entirely different when Buechele is in the game. Opposing defenses do not respect Buechele’s ability to run, and it certainly makes this offense more predictable. When that happens, the pressure is turned up on Buechele, who does not have the pocket awareness that Ehlinger has and often can’t get away from pressure. All in all, Buechele is a very serviceable backup quarterback who could be a starter in a different offensive scheme. As Tom Herman put it best, “He’s the definition of a teammate.”
Resurgence of the defense
Something must have snapped in Todd Orlando this week, because the Texas defense played with its hair on fire tonight. Todd Orlando’s unit reeled in 6 sacks, 9 TFL, 1 interception and 1 forced fumble. The defensive line played unbelievable, and asserted pressure on Brock Purdy all night. Gary Johnson was placed as a spy on Purdy all evening, and laid some solid hits on the freshman several times throughout the game. The statline may not show it, but Kris Boyd had a great game guarding Hakeem Butler. At times Boyd gave up some plays to the 6’6 junior, but that was to be expected. Boyd also made some fantastic plays that cut Iowa State drives short. One of the biggest performances came from the Texas LB corps. The rushing attack has been a huge weakness of Texas’ this year, but this unit stuck to its assignments and really made Brock Purdy air it out. It certainly helped that David Montgomery was out for the first half, but he was only able to accumulate 33 yards rushing in the second half. As a team, the Texas defense only allowed 62 yards (!) rushing. You have to credit the Texas LBs for maintaining gap integrity and the defensive line for getting a constant push up front. This will undoubtedly give the defense confidence as they head into the final stretch of the season.
One last win in DKR for the seniors
This year’s senior class has arguably been through more turmoil than any other in Texas history. Abrupt coaching changes in-season, constant regression, and an embarrassing loss to cap off a forgettable era were followed by the arrival of a new coach with a completely different attitude and style. It took a while, but the seniors finally bought in to his vision and saw results. They came to Texas with the goal of bringing the Longhorns back to where they should always be, and now they are ever so close to that achieving it. To Charles Omenihu, Breckyn Hager, Gary Johnson, PJ Locke, Davante Davis, Kris Boyd, Chris Nelson, Anthony Wheeler, Calvin Anderson, Patrick Vahe, Tre Watson, and countless others: thank you. All of you are shining examples of the types of players Texas wants to wear the burnt orange and white week in and out. The season is far from over, but just know the Longhorn faithful are glad you chose Texas and will forever be on your side.
Closing out games
As Tom Herman said best, “We’ve always got to make it interesting, huh?” You sure do, coach. Just as this game was all but wrapped up, Texas decided to give Iowa State some life. It started with a Ryan Bujcevski line drive punt to Tarique Milton that was taken back to the Texas 15-yard line, and then moved further up due to a Ryan Bujcevski facemask. Iowa State scored a couple of plays later, but failed to recover the onside kick. Okay, no problem, Texas fans thought. Then, instead of deciding to take a knee to run out the clock, Texas decided to give it to Daniel Young — a player who has been notorious for coughing the ball up. And guess what happened? Young fumbled, and Iowa State recovered. Thankfully, freshman pass rusher Joseph Ossai wanted to go home. Ossai got a step on the outside and strip sacked senior quarterback Kyle Kempt, which was recovered by senior Charles Omenihu to seal the game. This team always has to make it interesting, but a win is a win. This cannot happen in the future, as turnovers like that or missed field goals could end up being costly.
One more win…
And Texas will be heading to Dallas for its first Big 12 Championship appearance since 2009. Who would have thunk it after the Longhorns lost to Maryland to open the season and almost blew a lead against Tulsa at home? 8 regular season wins and a chance at 9 is a big improvement from 6 a season ago. All in all, there is no doubt that Tom Herman has this program heading in the right direction. It will be very interesting to see how Texas comes out against Kansas next Friday. Many of the seniors on this time know all too well what it feels like to lose in Lawrence with a lot on the line. This time, Texas has a Big 12 Championship appearance on the line and much more at stake. After putting up 40 points against Oklahoma today, it is safe to say that Kansas should not be taken lightly. It will be the Jayhawks Senior Day and the last time David Beaty will coach a game there. Emotions will be running high, and Texas must be ready. How ready they’ll look will also depend on the health of Sam Ehlinger. Tom Herman announced after the game that Ehlinger has an AC contusion at the moment, with an MRI scheduled for tomorrow. A contusion is certainly not as severe as a sprain, but it’s concerning to see Ehlinger take more hits on his throwing shoulder. One more win, Longhorn fans; the drought remains, but rain is in the forecast. We’ll see if it comes down on Friday.
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