Despite losing starting quarterback Quinn Ewers to injury last week at TDECU Stadium in Houston, the Longhorns managed a 31-24 win over the Houston Cougars. Backup quarterback Maalik Murphy filled in for Ewers and played the fourth quarter, passing just twice and handing the ball off to his cadre of running backs. Murphy will be asked to do some of the same and more this week against BYU, as he will likely be the starting quarterback at kickoff on Saturday in Austin.
BYU boasts a respectable 5-2 record through seven games this season and needs one more win to become bowl eligible. The Cougars are ranked 122nd out of 130 FBS programs in total offense and their defense, which is ranked 95th, gives up an average of 396 yards per game.
It is possible that Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian plays multiple quarterbacks on Saturday, and he will do so with inexperience under center.
Can Sarkisian’s alma mater do enough on defense and muster up an offense that will give the Longhorns trouble and possibly upset the ‘Horns at DKR? Our staff weighs in with thoughts and score predictions on Saturday’s game against the BYU Cougars.
Jameson McCausland (5-2)
It is backup QB time as Maalik Murphy is expected to make his first career start against BYU. Murphy was mainly asked to just hand the ball off against the Cougars as Texas hung on to win a nail-biter, but things will get more interesting this week. The Cougars are not great defensively, but they are respectable and certainly better than Houston.
Defensively for Texas, they will not have to worry about the threat of a running QB as Kedon Slovis has negative rushing yards for the reason. They will have to worry about the quick and short passing game as that is about the only thing BYU does well offensively. If the struggles Texas had against Houston carry over in the secondary, this game will get interesting.
This feels like a game where Texas is going to try to win by running the ball and playing sound defense. BYU forces turnovers at a good clip and asking Murphy to throw the ball 25-30+ times could spell trouble. The 17.5 points Texas is favored by seems like a lot, but I like Texas to flirt with a cover in a relatively low scoring affair.
Score Prediction: Texas 27, BYU 10
Aaron Carrara (6-1)
This game smells like trouble to me and brings back memories in the last decade of former BYU quarterback Taysom Hill having his way with the Texas defense. While BYU isn’t a great team offensively, Pete Kwiatkoswki’s defense has shown that they are susceptible to intermittent let-downs in games. With the Longhorns starting a very capable but unproven quarterback in Maalik Murphy, things get interesting. Sarkisian will likely keep the playbook simple and ask Murphy to hand the ball off more-than-not, and the running game will have to win this game against a BYU defense that allows 150 yards on the ground each game. The Cougars should not be able to run the ball against a stout Texas rush defense which means the onus is on the Longhorns’ secondary to make plays and not give up large chunks of yards.
Score Prediction: Texas 34, BYU 17
Todd Glawson (5-2)
The last two times Texas played BYU…it did not go well…at all. I still have college football PTSD thinking about 2013 Mack Brown and Manny Diaz cluelessly arguing on the sideline in Provo about why a one-legged Taysom Hill is embarrassing the Longhorn defense on a historical level. Thankfully that program aimlessly wandering in the desert hoping for a taste of success is now in control of their own destiny a decade later. A Cougars squad with a misleading 5-2 record, a bottom-of-the-barrel offense and a defense that’s not much better is headed to Austin this weekend as a conference foe. In what amounts to a pure scheduling gift with the depressing loss of Quinn Ewers and a banged up defense that’s been struggling, the good guys remain a 20.5-point favorite for good reason. With Maalik Murphy making his debut, this is a fantastic opportunity for Steve Sarkisian to follow his own advice by being willing to adjust as things change in-game, and letting the easy things be easy. A Herculean team effort is absolutely not needed for a victory on Saturday (a healthy Cedric Baxter should go a long way), but a coaching staff unable to get out of their own heads can lead to disaster. Just roll the Houston tape from a week ago to see what that looks like. Overall, I feel much better than I did earlier in the week and believe this will be a clean, productive outing for the burnt orange, even if there are a few early hiccups.
Score Prediction: Texas 38, BYU 10
Devon Messinger (5-2)
The Longhorns are in an interesting position. With Quinn Ewers’ injury last weekend against Houston, Maalik Murphy will be tasked with getting up to speed against BYU. Thankfully for Murphy, the redshirt freshman quarterback will be able to hand the ball off to Jonathon Brooks quite often on Saturday. If Murphy can stay efficient in the pocket, and keep the Cougars defense honest, the Longhorns will be in a good position to win in Murphy’s first career start.
Defensively, the Longhorns secondary will be tested on Saturday. BYU’s offense is predicated on the passing game, with quarterback Kedon Slovis leading the way with a plethora of receiving targets. Fortunately for the Texas defense, senior cornerback Ryan Watts should be returning off of an injury, which will definitely be of service. However, miscommunication and blown coverages has been a reoccurring issue, one which might drown Texas’s conference title chances if they do not shore things up soon.
Score Prediction: Texas 27, BYU 24
Marc Henry (4-2)
In this upcoming BYU vs. Texas football matchup, there are several intriguing storylines to follow. Texas finds itself in a somewhat vulnerable position after a hard-fought 31-24 win over Houston, and the absence of star quarterback Quinn Ewers due to an AC sprain adds an extra layer of uncertainty. Stepping into Ewers’ shoes is the highly touted Maalik Murphy, who is making his first start as a Longhorn. The pressure on Murphy will be immense, but his performance may well determine the outcome of the game.
For Texas, the key to success likely lies in the offensive line’s ability to control the line of scrimmage. They will need to create opportunities for the running back, Brooks, and provide Murphy with the protection he needs to manage the game effectively. Murphy’s inexperience might necessitate a conservative offensive approach, relying on the “big fellas up front” to open running lanes and maintain control.
Defensively, Texas must step up its game. The primary objective should be to get pressure on BYU’s quarterback, Kedon Slovis. Forcing turnovers will be crucial, and the pass defense must tighten up to avoid giving up big plays, as they did against Houston. Making life uncomfortable for Slovis and the BYU offense is a priority. Texas needs to disrupt his rhythm and prevent him from finding his targets downfield.
Score Prediction: Texas 27, BYU 17
Ryan Swantkowski (6-1)
The game will come down to this: can Maalik Murphy not turn the ball over. Yes, BYU has Kedon Slovis and a decent passing game. Yes, BYU also gives up over 150 rushing yards per game on average. Yes, Texas’ defensive line will have to provide pressure as BYU has only given up 10 sacks this season. Regardless of these points, the young QB Murphy will have to settle in early, grow his confidence, and take care of the ball. If he can do these things, I expect Texas to have a nice all-around victory after their lackluster effort last week in Houston. Do I think Maalik can do them? Yes.
Score Prediction: Texas 28, BYU 16
Dylan DeRaud (5-2)
The Longhorns find themselves in a bit of an offensive quandary with the absence of Quinn Ewers, but the team’s full confidence in Maslik Murphy suggests they won’t shy away from using their full playbook. How Murphy starts and adapts to the game will play a pivotal role in securing a win for Texas.
However, Texas should be wary of their defense, as they allowed a concerning 378 yards passing to Houston last week. This could be a chink in their armor, and BYU’s Kedon Slovis, despite his struggles with accuracy this season, might exploit it. A 56.6% completion rate aside, if Slovis gets into a rhythm and Texas continues to struggle in coverage, BYU has the potential to keep the game close.
For the Longhorns to seal the victory, their front seven will need to step up, shutting down BYU’s running game and creating substantial pressure on Slovis. Expect standout performances from Jonathan Brooks, Jaylan Ford, and T’Vondre Sweat as they aim to cover up the void left by Ewers. In a contest where adjustments, defensive prowess, and quarterback performance will be paramount, Texas looks poised to secure a hard-fought 24-17 win over BYU.
Score Prediction: Texas 24, BYU 17
Mitch Lovell (5-2)
Without Ewers playing, Sark will keep things simple with Murphy making his first career start. Expect a lot of Brooks and Baxter and the Texas defense to play better than it has recently. In their first home game in a month Texas should be ready to go. BYU can certainly play and can win this game if Texas doesn’t take care of the ball. There’s no Taysom Hill this time to worry about thankfully.
Score Prediction: Texas 28, BYU 17