With the arrival of a new college football season, the “Texas is back” hype train was rolling once again. And once again, the optimism did not last long. Texas lost their season opener to the Maryland Terrapins for the second straight year.
Texas must have missed their wake up call. Aside from a spectacular touchdown catch by junior receiver Devin Duvernay, Texas played an awful first quarter. Down 24-7, the Longhorns found themselves in a big hole early. However, they found a way to rally and actually held a 29-24 lead at the end of the third quarter. But when crunch time arrived, the Longhorn offense choked under pressure, yet again.
Down 34-29 with the clock running out and facing third and 10, quarterback Sam Ehlinger held the ball like it was glued to his hand and when he had to scramble to avoid the pressure, he chucked up a jump ball along the sideline, and Maryland’s Fofie Bazzle came down with it. With no timeouts remaining and just a minute left on the clock, Texas was done. Would the Longhorn’s have won had Ehlinger not made the ill-advised throw? Maybe, maybe not, but it would have been fourth down and the chances didn’t look good.
Texas did not seem to solve many of their deficiencies that plagued the team last year. Poor quarterback play, costly late game turnovers, and an incompetent offense put the Longhorn defense in a bad position all game long. This is a story that Longhorn fans are all too familiar with.
Texas’ Offense Is Still Bad
Ehlinger had been playing a decent game until he completely broke down in the second half. He completed 21 of his 39 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns. The reality is though, that it felt like Texas could not move the ball outside of the second quarter against a Maryland team that won just two conference games last season, and a couple of thrown interceptions didn’t help matters. Particularly the one with the game on the line.
Despite his inability to avoid late game turnovers though, Herman is still adamant on rolling with Ehlinger
Trying to find the silver lining, the offensive line showed some improvement from last season. Ehlinger had plenty of time in the pocket. Unfortunately he still wasn’t able to find any open receivers. It was evident that the unit has improved as a whole as the pass protection was good, but the line still needs some work on run blocking.
Against Maryland’s impressive rush defense that ranked 99th in the country last year, running backs Tre Watson and Keontay Ingram both showed some promise. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Watson was the Longhorn’s leading rusher with just 52 yards on 12 carries. Ingram received six carries for 37 yards and a touchdown. Ehlinger also put up 30 yards rushing on seven carries. Simply put, if Texas can’t get a push up front and open up some running lanes, this is going to be a long, long season for the Longhorns.
The Longhorn receivers are still very good — did you see Duvernay’s catch? — but they don’t do Texas any good if they aren’t getting the ball. Lil’ Jordan Humphrey was the leading receiver with 82 yards on six receptions.
The Longhorn’s Defense Had Their Own Issues
The strength of this Longhorn team is their defense, or least it was supposed to be.
Todd Orlando’s unit showed some encouraging things Saturday, but made some uncharacteristic mistakes. Texas played this game with no linebacker depth, especially after Gary Johnson was ejected for targeting. But that was not the biggest problem.
The Longhorn’s defensive line could not generate any pass rush against an experienced Terrapin offensive line.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the defensive performance was all the costly penalties. Numerous late hits, pass interference penalties, and a targeting call cost the defense and turned into points for the Maryland offense. Texas committed 10 penalties for 102 yards. This was a huge blow to an already extremely thin line backing core.
Despite all off these mishaps, the Longhorn defense made stop after stop down the stretch to give the offense an opportunity.
Texas seems to be right back in the same position as they were last year. A solid defense paired with a bad offense. It will be interesting to see if Herman can get more out of his team going forward. He described Saturday’s loss as a “not very” big setback in the grand scheme of things. Herman said he saw a lot improvement on the field and was proud of the team’s effort. Clearly Herman was more content with the performance than most Texas fans were.
“A lot of people are going to say it feels a lot like last year,” Herman said. “It doesn’t to me.”
Hopefully for Herman’s sake he can get his team rolling by the start of big 12 play. Texas hosts Tulsa next Saturday. Until then, Texas fans can at least enjoy this one highlight.