After dealing with a disappointing loss against Maryland in their first attempt this season, the Longhorns had other lingering concerns. According to news reports, quarterback Shane Buechele had been held out of practice all of last week due to a bruised right shoulder. Not long before kickoff, the Texas athletic department sent notification that freshman Sam Ehlinger would be making his first career start as the quarterback for the Longhorns.
The Texas offense began fairly inauspicious, as if Texas OC Tim Beck designed the play calls to allow Ehlinger to grow comfortable at a methodical pace. It was a slow build, infused with patience, and sprinkled with a couple of variations of the “WildHorn” package we’ve grown accustomed to the past couple of seasons. Texas didn’t produce a score until Jerrod Heard’s touchdown at the 2:56 mark of the first quarter, but that would be just the tip of the iceberg.
Ehlinger had a workman-like performance in his first start, completing 15-of-27 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown, and rushing for an additional 48 yards. He had plenty of help in easing the pressure placed upon him from his supporting cast. Chris Warren III rumbled for two touchdowns and 166 yards rushing on only 16 carries and Jerrod Heard ran for two touchdowns and 39 yards on 8 carries, both taking turns at the helm of the “WildHorn” package. Texas gained a total of 623 yards of total offense, 406 of them racked up on the ground, while scoring touchdowns on all six of their red zone opportunities.
Defensively, it appeared that Texas DC Todd Orlando’s vision is slowly beginning to take shape. Twenty-three Longhorn defenders would go on to record a tackle on this day. The biggest moment on this side of the ball took place as the Spartans threatened to score on a 4th and 1 play at the Texas 10-yard line. The Horns defense stopped Spartan running back DeJon Packer in his tracks, and set the tone for the game, thanks to a vicious hit by Malik Jefferson.
The Longhorns held San Jose State scoreless, and posted their first shutout since a 23-0 victory over Kansas in 2014. The Spartans were held to only 8 first downs and 171 total yards for the day, 100 of which were gained in the first half. The Horns also forced two turnovers, including an interception returned 45 yards for a touchdown by “Hollywood” Holton Hill, his second in as many weeks. In short, the Horns were dominant.
|3rd Down Eff||2-12||10-15|
|4th Down Eff||0-2||1-1|
|Yards Per Pass||4.4||7.5|
|Yards Per Rush||1.8||6.9|
|SJSU – M. Aaron||12/23||104||4.5||0||1||39.8|
|TEX – S. Ehlinger||15/27||222||8.2||1||0||84.0|
|SJSU – D. Packer||5||22||4.4||0||18|
|TEX – C. Warren III||16||166||10.4||2||41|
|SJSU – J. Blackwell||2||21||10.5||0||16|
|TEX – A. Foreman||5||51||10.2||1||18|
EMPTYING THE NOTEBOOK
Texas couldn’t have hoped for a better performance a week after such a disappointing beginning to the Tom Herman era. Sure, we hear you saying that San Jose State didn’t exactly provide a stiff challenge for the Longhorns. But the costly mistakes which hurt the Longhorns dearly in their first game were not to be seen in this contest. That’s a huge step for a team that Herman himself labeled “mentally fragile” just a week ago. Especially one being led by a freshman quarterback in his first start.
There were early moments when the Longhorns looked jittery. But as the game progressed they seemed to come together and work fluidly as a unit on both sides of the ball. Texas threw the ball to eight different receivers and seven different rushers made a contribution. Though he overthrew a couple of passes he may eventually make, Ehlinger impressed with a couple of tightrope passes and never seemed to press. But what became clearly evident is that the Longhorns are a better offense when Chris Warren III is aggressive.
After the “Presidential Backfield” of Maryland had their way with the Longhorn defense, the run defense looked much improved as it only allowed 42 yards on 1.8 yards per rush. Malik Jefferson led the way with 7 tackles and played efficiently without overextending himself. Jefferson provided the spark for a defensive unit which seemed to thrive from his energy. The maligned secondary provided solid pass coverage and only allowed 129 passing yards, with San Jose State’s leading receiver for the game only snagging 2 catches.
It’s still too early to know whether Shane Buechele or Sam Ehlinger will be under center next week. When asked about the possibility of a quarterback controversy, Herman seemed to deflect and indicated that he was unsure about Buechele’s availability for their upcoming game against USC. If Ehlinger is forced to start, Herman and his staff can at least rest easier after what they saw in his performance against SJSU. The Longhorns will play USC for the first time since the 2005 BCS National Championship Game and are currently 14-point underdogs. Just the way Herman likes it.