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(Bobby Burton) Snap Judgments: Texas takes care of business in season opener

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My overwhelming takeaway from this game is the level of talent Texas has. It's the first time in years where just about every position has a future NFL prospect.

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The receiving crew is going to be fine. Josh Moore was a major bright spot, and could easily become Sam Ehlinger's favorite target as the year progresses. But the injury to Jordan Whittington is concerning. Whittington made an eye-opening catch-and-run near the end of the first half only to leave the game the next play. The number of different receivers who made plays was another highlight. The two grad transfers both scored TDs. The TE got involved early. Cade Brewer had three catches in the first half.

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The running backs were all productive. Roschon Johnson got the start, but his best run of the night was negated by off-setting penalties. Bijan Robinson made a guy miss on a pass to the flat that I'm not sure any other RB at Texas can make happen.

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The offense looked very good. It looked efficient and explosive. I don't think I have been able to say that about a Texas football team to start a season since 2009. Other than a sputter to start the second half, Sam Ehlinger gave the Horns scores (or scoring opportunities) on every drive that he led.

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The defense felt like a team effort. Josh Thompson stood out. I felt like DeMarvion Overshown played well for his first full game at linebacker. And Keondre Coburn and T'Vondre Sweat are tough to move on the interior.

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D'Shawn Jamison looked explosive in the return game. His punt return for a touchdown was called back because of a penalty, and he almost hit a big kick return on the opening kickoff.

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I think it would be too easy to draw too many conclusions after this game. UTEP is not very good. There will be much tougher tests ahead.

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As for The Eyes of Texas, it's time for Texas fans - those who care about the song - to get past it. Because I don't think it's going to make a comeback, not to what it once was at least.

 

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(Eric Nahlin) Conversational thoughts: UTEP

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These aren’t meant to be comprehensive by any means. I would like to talk about the game within the framework of our reporting. Not to give attaboys, but to keep the season on a serial path.

- The offensive line isn’t going to be great this year. The goal will be for it to improve. I received a handful of text messages voicing concerns about the OL and I have them too. Without the hiring of Yurcich these concerns would be much more founded. Yurcich won’t be resolute to run first and asserting bully ball. And if bully ball doesn’t work, then hero ball. He’ll just pass first or formation the run game to his advantage. This offense isn’t nearly as predictable as last year. It was fun. Early on UT was winning based on chess rather than out-athleting. Texas will be able to easily turn on the run game when it needs to, but it will involve Ehlinger or a commitment to 12 personnel. It’ll get really fun when it’s both.

- Counter to our reporting, the d-line didn’t get much pressure on the QB. But I also don’t recall them blitzing much, and I can’t recall the QB having much time to throw. Without the benefit of a rewatch, I’m not sure why we didn’t see more sacks but it’s not like UTEP QB was winging the ball around.

- Jacoby Jones was a no-show. Obviously something happened in the last day or two. He’d help the pass rush. Moro Ojomo was active. The face mask penalty pissed off Fauci but he was athletic and breaking down in the back field which isn’t really his game yet he still showed ability.

- Alfred Collins.. His length and quickness is the equivalent of shooting 6-foot free throws. He has serious advantages thanks to his lengthy and initial. Wait until he’s a 1-tech. UT is going to get incredible interior pressure eventually.

- Sweat threw an OL in comical fashion and barely missed the tackle on the RB. He’s Hassan Ridgeway, which is crazy to think about because of all the other talent around them. Teams would kill for a Ridgeway, and UT has players with even more ability.

- On brand for our reporting, the QB is working the ball all over in the passing game. I think I saw 7 guys caught a TD. That alone is enough proof. We mentioned the passing game exploited the whole field and we damn sure saw that. The offense was so functional, and not athlete reliant, that Brennan Eagles, I mean, Kai Money, caught a touchdown. So did Schooler. We were seeing the entire field threatened. It’ll get better when Jake Smith returns because he alone threatens all three levels.

- I don’t like Josh Moore in the screen game because he can’t shake a tackle. He needs better blocking to make a big play.

- TE play is going to be a quiet killer. I’ll leave it up to the better football brains to explain it, but it’s going to become clear over the course of the season why Tom Herman loves 11 personnel like malaise loves mayo de gallo burgers. The tight ends lined up all over, and Cade Brewer and Brayden Liebrock had noticeable games. Every non-OL is a receiving threat.

- The defense didn’t get a pass rush but they played fundamentally and tackled well. We didn’t see broken containment! You’re not going to run on that front. They weren’t tested in space as much as I was hoping to see. I wanted to get a better gauge of team speed. This wasn’t the game for it.

- The defensive backs are better coached. That doesn’t mean they played perfectly, but they’re not getting posterized as they look back and the ball drops in the wide receiver basket.

- I need to re-watch but Overshown looked like a real linebacker at times rather than a converted safety.

- UTEP is bad, but just looking at competencies I was impressed. It was a clean game given all the turnover and lack of practice time.

 

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Wescott Eberts: No. 14 Texas easily demolishes UTEP, 59-3

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Football returned to Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday as the Texas Longhorns took care of business throughout the overmatched contest against the UTEP Miners in a dominant 59-3 victory in front of roughly 18,000 fans in Austin. Despite head coach Tom Herman integrating two new coordinators and five more assistant coaches without the benefit of spring practice, the Longhorns raced off to a huge start. It only took one play on offense.

New offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich dialed up a bubble screen run-pass option with a skinny post attached for his first play at Texas. Senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger held onto the ball when UTEP took away the bubble screen after Ehlinger got a pass read, but hit Moore on the post — the redshirt sophomore then went off to the races for a 78-yard touchdown.

It was Moore’s first catch since Sept. 29, 2018 against Kansas State before a subsequent injury ended his season and a suspension last year kept him from seeing the field. Moore finished the game with six catches for 127 yards and that touchdown, by far the best performance of his career. Texas has a threat at the Z position in Moore. The play from Ehlinger to Moore also represented the longest Texas offensive play since 2017 and the longest touchdown by the Longhorns since 2016. Moore’s run and catch and score was also the first time that Texas scored on its first play of the first game since 2004 against North Texas.

When UTEP wasn’t able to convert a third-and-short situation against the four-down front of new defensive coordinator Chris Ash, Texas took advantage offensively on the following possession. A holding call on senior center Derek Kerstetter negated an explosive run by sophomore running back Roschon Johnson, but the Horns were able to remain on track.

On those first two possessions, Yurcich showed off his repertoire of run-pass options, complementary plays, and different looks to showcase each player’s skill set. The diversity of players, plays, and formations continued throughout the game at a high level of rhythm for Yurcich. Texas finished with close to 700 total yards on offense while barely playing starters in the second half.

When Texas did get behind the chains with a false start, Yurcich inserted junior running back Keaontay Ingram, put him in the Pistol, and gave him a downhill run that allowed Ingram to hit the line of scrimmage with significant momentum. When he was contacted, Ingram kept his legs driving to gain 12 yards. Ingram only received nine carries on the day, but the Pistol looks he did receive highlighted a player who could significantly benefit from an ability to hit the hole close to full speed.

Ehlinger then targeted senior tight end Cade Brewer for a 15-yard gain over the middle, a positive sign after the position didn’t produce much in the passing game last season. Two plays later, Ehlinger found Brewer again for a 20-yard touchdown. On that play, redshirt freshman wide receiver Jordan Whittington went in motion and Ehlinger faked the bubble screen to him. Moore was open on the back end, but so was Brewer, and Ehlinger found his second open option for a 14-0 lead.

After the game, Ehlinger expressed his disappointment about some plays that he left on the field, even though he went on to set school records for full games by the time the first half ended. That’s an insight into how much the Longhorns can still get better — the Miners were, after all, projected as the nation’s worst FBS program this season.

When Texas inserted the nation’s No. 1 running back in the 2020 class, Bijan Robinson, it was behind Yurcich’s debut of his 12 personnel scheme. Three carries only went for five yards for Robinson, but the Longhorns were able to march 70 yards on eight plays, thanks to two catches for 38 yards by Wolverines graduate transfer wide receiver Tarik Black, the first two catches of his Texas career.

Black finished as the second-leading receiver for the Longhorns with five catches for 80 yards and a touchdown. The Horns finished that drive with a 15-yard run by Whittington on a reverse with Ehlinger serving as an effective lead blocker before Johnson scored on a one-yard run to take a 21-0 lead. A missed field goal from 44 yards by junior kicker Cameron Dicker resulted in the first empty possession for Texas after Ehlinger missed Whittington open on third down, but redshirt junior cornerback Josh Thompson continued his strong play by stopping UTEP running back Deion Hankins on the edge on third down to force a punt.

A 6’0, 215-pounder, Hankins is Power Five-quality running back who is tough to bring down thanks to his leg drive and ability to run behind his pads. On previous drives, Thompson’s coverage downfield forced several incompletions, a positive sign for a cornerback who sometimes struggled in coverage last year, but has the right skill set to fit Ash’s defense.

Texas took advantage of its next drive, fueled by big contributions from graduate transfer wide receiver Brenden Schooler, who just landed in Austin last week after moving from Oregon to Arizona during the offseason. Schooler’s first catch included a broken tackle on a hitch and a 25-yard gain on his first touch in burnt orange, then another broken tackle on another hitch for a 40-yard touchdown. Texas took a 28-0 lead on the play.

Thompson’s impressive performance continued when the UTEP quarterback tried to throw the ball away, the intended receiver gave up, and Thompson was able to use his superb athleticism to come down with the interception. The turnover set up Texas with a shortened field and the Longhorns offense continued to slice and dice the Miners through the air. All three plays were passes to Black, including a 35-yard gain when Ehlinger was under pressure, hung in the pocket, and then delivered a pin-point throw with a defender breaking dangerously on the football.

Down the field, Black kept fighting for extra yardage, but eventually fumbled the football, which was pulled away from a Miners player by redshirt freshman tight end Brayden Liebrock. Black scored a touchdown on the next play, his first score for Texas. UTEP ended the shutout with an 11-play, 46-yard drive that ended with a 47-yard field goal that included a fourth-down conversion.

However, Texas finished the half with another touchdown — once again through the air — this time to walk-on wide receiver Kai Money, who also made another catch on the drive. Whittington left the field with a knee injury and did not return. With Yurcich including some Air Raid concepts into the Texas offense, Ehlinger turned in a carer performance in a single half — his 429 yards and five passing touchdowns were both a career high as he completed 24-of-32 passes. Ehlinger’s passing yards and touchdowns also represented a Texas record for a single half.

Overall, Texas gained 498 yards in the first half compared to 121 yards for UTEP. Nearly complete dominance. The only complaint from head coach Tom Herman at halftime was that the Longhorns didn’t produce more in the running game, which still averaged 4.9 yards per rush. With the team’s objectives largely accomplished in the first half, though, the big stories in the second half were about backups getting experience.

Redshirt sophomore Casey Thompson threw for two touchdown passes, including a nice play by Eagles to redeem his poor performance early and the first touchdown catch by redshirt freshman Marcus Washington. Thompson put the ball where only Washington could catch it and the St. Louis product finished it with strong and sure hands.

Thompson finished the game with 4-of-7 passing for 55 yards and those two touchdowns in addition to those two passing touchdowns. In the fourth quarter, third-string true freshman quarterback Hudson Card entered the game and nearly engineered a touchdown drive that was thwarted on fourth down when his intended pass to true freshman walk-on wide receiver Paxton Anderson fell incomplete.

In the end, Texas produced 689 yards on offense and only allowed 223 yards and three points to UTEP, perhaps the worst team in FCS this season. The 689 yards of offense were the most by the Longhorns since facing the Aggies of New Mexico State in 2013. And so, while all caveats apply, the Longhorns turned in a dominant performance considering the ongoing pandemic, two new coordinators, and seven new assistant coaches. In a vacuum, it would be difficult to tell that Texas had so much turnover in the offseason.

In his post-game interview, Herman acknowledged the need for some improvement on the offseason line, but Texas will have time to improve that area of the game over the next two weeks before facing a Texas Tech team in Lubbock that barely survived Houston Baptist on Saturday evening.

The major takeaways are that the Texas defense did its job against an overmatched opponent and the Longhorns offense had 10 different players catch passes as Yurcich used the run-pass option game early, then mixed formations and personnel to create matchups that Texas effectively exploited. Massively.

Call it a huge success in a season opener amidst a pandemic that resulted in the postponement of multiple Big 12 games this weekend. Meanwhile, Kansas State and Iowa State were both upset. As former head coach Mack Brown might say, those early results could scare someone to death, but Texas absolutely took care of business on Saturday evening in front of roughly 18,000 fans.

 

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(Bobby Burton) Texas vs. UTEP grades: Sam Ehlinger, offense dominates opener

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Quarterback

You can't ask for much more than Sam Ehlinger gave you on Saturday night. The senior's first pass went for a 78-yard score. But it wasn't just the big plays. He was consistent all night. Ehlinger led the Horns to scoring opportunities on all seven first half drives, including a two-minute drill touchdown to punctuate the performance before half. Ehlinger finished 25 of 33 for 426 yards and a record-setting five passing TDs. Though the Horns' O sputtered out of the gate in the second half, Casey Thompson took over and led the Horns on scoring drives in two of his three opportunities. The only three-and-out he led came on a dropped ball by a receiver. However, he later connected with Marcus Washington on the prettiest pass of the evening, a perfect TD throw on a slant. Freshman Hudson Card led Texas on one drive, the highlight of which was an option pass to Malcolm Epps for a big 40-yard gain. Card has some tantalizing ability.

Grade: A

Running back

While Texas didn't dominate on the ground, the running backs were productive. Keaontay Ingram led the way with 44 yards rushing. But the best play of the night was a 20-plus yard run by Roschon Johnson that was negated by off-setting penalties. Freshman Bijan Robinson also got in on the action. He had five carries for 38 yards and was the only RB to catch a pass. He showed a couple of subtle, open field moves that gave us a glimpse of why he's considered a special prospect. Both Johnson and Ingram looked good in pass protection. Robinson was not called upon to do much of that. The Horns could have used another big play or two from the backfield, and that's why I gave the group an ever-so-slight knock on their grade. Regardless, the Horns appear to be in good hands in the backfield this season so long as they stay healthy.

Grade: A-

Wide receivers

Last year, it was the Devin Duvernay show. This year, it's more of a committee approach, and multiple players got in on the action. Six different wide receivers caught TD passes. The most exciting was the first play from scrimmage by Joshua Moore, who looks like he could become Ehlinger's favorite target. Moore led the team with six catches for 127 yards. Michigan grad transfer Tarik Black finished with five catches for 80 yards and a score. He also looked like he got tripped up by the turf a couple of times and unnecessarily fumbled the ball trying to gain extra yards in the second quarter. There were a couple of drops, including one by Marcus Washington, although Washington also made two of the nicer catches on the evening. Brennan Eagles continues to be an enigma. He looked to be on a different page than his QB a couple of different times only to make a highlight reel TD catch in the third quarter. Jordan Whittington's catch-and-run late in the first half showed exactly why Texas coaches have been so high on the Cuero product. Brenden Schooler, who has good size and physicality, turned a simple out route into a long TD. This group provides more run-after-catch ability than previous Texas receiving corps. But they have to cut down on the drops as the competition stiffens.

Grade: A

Tight end

Yes, Cade Brewer caught three passes, including a touchdown where he sold the short ball to get open deep. But what I really liked from Brewer was his improved feel in blocking for the run game. Brewer has been a tentative blocker at best in previous years, but he seems to finally getting a better feel for where he's supposed to be and what he's supposed to be doing in the run game to create lanes for the backs. That was the most encouraging aspect of the night for me among the tight ends. We also saw Brayden Liebrock get his first extensive action. He made catches on two back-to-back plays; the second one was particularly solid.

Grade: B

Offensive line

For their first time together as a starting unit, the group played reasonably well. Some will nitpick about the lack of explosive plays in the run game, and that's a legitimate issue. However, UTEP was determined to make the Horns beat them through the air, which is exactly what Texas was able to do, in part because of solid pass protection given to the QBs from the OL. The move of Derek Kerstetter to center improves pass blocking, particularly to the left side where Junior Angilau can struggle. Denzel Okafor and Christian Jones both had solid games. Each had a whiff or two but they played solidly overall. Samuel Cosmi looks like a future first rounder. Of the back-ups, I was particularly impressed with Isaiah Hookfin. He knocked his defender back a couple of times in the run game and in pass protection. His ceiling is as high as any OL on the team, and that includes Cosmi. This unit's grade is dictated by the total yardage of the offense and the fact that Sam Ehlinger was not sacked all night.

Grade: A

Offense

Welcome to Austin, Mike Yurcich. The Horns got off to a fast start and really never slowed down, except for back-to-back three-and-outs to start the second half. Yurcich's style and play-calling put receivers in better positions to earn yards after the catch. His move to run more crossing routes in the late first quarter really gave UTEP fits. The O produced explosive plays and 28 first downs. With 698 yards of total offense, it's hard to find much wrong. But the Horns were just 5 of 10 on third downs on the night. Third-down efficency will need to improve. Overall, the Horns look talented. They appear explosive and solid at the same time. This has the makings of the best Texas has seen in a decade. And part of that is in the small things. The Horns even ran a rub route correctly to end the first half for a touchdown to Kai Money. I can't remember Texas ever executing a rub route that well. Good job by players and coaches alike.

Grade: A

 

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(Scipio Tex) 2020 UTEP Post-Mortem: Offense

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That was really fun, even factoring in my many disclaimers about about UTEP's quality. How badly we beat a bad team doesn't really matter. What mattered was how we did it. Over the last few years, this is the kind of team we would have screwed around with for three quarters before wearing them down and pulling away late 42-17. It would have been 14-10 or some bull**** in the mid 2nd quarter until an Ehlinger 2:00 minute drill made it 21-10 going into the half.

I kind of prefer 45-3 at the half with 498 yards of offense and the coaches debating whether Ehlinger should get another series in the game. We have an actual offensive coordinator paired with a very good senior QB. That's how Texas effectively ended the game in the late 1st quarter. About ten days ago, I outlined what I wanted to see from Texas against UTEP and wrote about Brady's offensive debut at LSU against Georgia Southern.

Well, Yurcich certainly ran the actual offense. And kept at it for nearly four quarters. That was light years beyond anything we've seen here since 2013 Harsin in terms of design, concepts, creativity, and aggression. I had high expectations for our new play caller and he exceeded them. He was relentless with tempo, merciless throwing the ball against favorable box counts (UTEP outnumbered the box early, cluttered the middle of the field, leaving their corners in single man), ceded total control to Sam as a decision maker on the field, showed more interesting route combinations and play design in one throwaway game than we saw in the entirety of last year, and put a bunch on film for opposing DCs to fret over (personnel variety, tempo, option, RPOs, traditional passing game, play action, sprint and rollout game, misdirection, good screen game design) and said, "Have fun deciding what to prep."

Running tempo with Casey Thompson still aggressively throwing down the field while up by 49 and running a nifty TE triple option wrinkle with the 3rd string QB while up 59-3, tells me we've got a coordinator in the booth who is a lot more interested in improving Texas and driving enthusiasm from the players than indulging false wisdom about sandbagging. Looks like we've got an offensive coordinator.

QB

Sam was 24 of 32 for 429 yards at halftime, a new Texas record. Texas outmatched UTEP athletically across the board, but Sam's ability (and the offense's willingness) to attack the entire field allowed that deficit to be exploited. He finished with five passing touchdowns and looked great, even when the pocket leaked and he took some early hits. Good in play action and his ball placement outside the hashes was terrific. He consistently delivered the ball with enough velocity and location to allow the receiver to do something with it after the catch. The lead block on the Whittington reverse was also a nice reminder that the old Ehlinger is still in there under the new polish.

Any fears Longhorn fans have about Casey Thompson as the backup should be substantially allayed. Thanks to Yurcich, Casey ran the real offense and got meaningful reps under his belt. He showed poise in the pocket (loved the recognition of the offsides deep shot and the general calm in play action) and he threw some nice balls. Marcus Washington dropped Thompson's best throw of the night - which was an absolute strike - but they made up on a nice 17 yard post route TD. Casey finished 4 of 7 for 55 yards and two touchdowns. That's a nice box score and I thought his play exceeded his stats. He has shortened up his delivery as well.

Got a glimpse of Hudson Card who showed some decent wheels in limited action. It's pretty clear that all of the QBs have been instructed that single coverage + a step is now a no brainer throw downfield. Pull the trigger and push the ball downfield.

RB

The three primaries all ran well. It was a true RBBC (running back by committee) and that's what I expect going forward as they combined for 24 total touches (22 carries, 2 Bijan receptions) with no runner getting more than 9. Roschon showed power and a knack for maximizing inside runs, including one Miner helmet decapitation. He also lost a 35 yard run on a questionable holding call. Ingram looked quick and made some nice reads, while also finishing his runs. I also loved his aggression in blitz pickup. Bijan Robinson is a scatback trapped in a 220 pound frame. He made a couple of subtle moves, one on a catch on the sideline, the other on his 29 yard run, that really impressed me. His size conveys a certain geometry to the tackler that his cuts don't honor and it's just not computing in the defender's brain. He'll improve on running through contact, but he looks like the guy anticipated. Longhorn fans are hard-wired to yearn for a single bell cow runner, but there are some merits to a quality herd. Bijan is a freshman, Keaontay needs his load managed, and Roschon will sell snow cones in the stands if he thought it would help us win. Injury and circumstance will give each a chance to shine individually over the course of the season.

As rushers, the three combined for 22 carries for 120 yards and 1 touchdown. This is a good unit. They'll operate within the structure of the offense and you'll see some light box games where they go off and some coverage games that will have them combining for 8 catches.

WR/TE

The RBBC is joined by the WRBC and TEBC. The beauty of having a lot of skill options and an effective OC and QB running point guard is that it's hard for a defense to cheat towards tendency or personnel. We could see the downside of not having one overwhelming guy at WR or TE if a good defense plays physical man against us with a talented secondary and strong pass rush and guys need to win 1 on 1 consistently, but I'm having trouble finding that team in the Big 12. Particularly after looking at today's scores. Holy moly. So we'll deal with Alabama in the playoffs when we get there. 🙂

Josh Moore totaled 6 catches for 127 yards against UTEP's fairly awful corners. And yeah, that safety's angle wasn't so great on his game opening 78 yard TD jaunt either. But you can see Moore's quickness and ability to separate. Moore is also comfortable in multiple spots and that will be important when Jake Smith returns. Tarik Black got tripped up by the turf monster twice and he needs to learn to keep two hands on the ball in a crowd, but I like his effort, route-running, and how he uses his length to attack the ball. He doesn't passively receive the pass - he snatches the ball. Really pleased to see him go for 5-80-1 td in his Texas debut.

Speaking of transfers, Brenden Schooler, who has been here a week, exploited single coverage for 2-65-1 td, including a sideline tightroping 40 yard touchdown after stiff arming the UTEP corner into the field turf (and the hoards of crickets that apparently reside there). Anyone still mad he's on the team? Schooler did drop a Thompson pass that he should have had, so his status as my adopted son is still in question.

Jordan Whittington looked great until his knee injury. 2-45 in the passing game, including a sideline catch where he showed strength and burst, and a nicely schemed 15 yard gain on the reverse. Best hopes for him, but as expected, the lengthy persistence of his hernia issue is going to have downstream effects for some time. Marcus Washington had 2-43-1 td on a couple of nice routes. Also dropped a gorgeous Thompson pass. He took a shot and held on to the ball on his 26 yard catch.

What's more surprising: that Kai Money caught 4 balls and a touchdown? Or that Kai Money is a white guy from Brownsville? Eagles made a nice play late on a deflection off of the defender for his only catch, a 35 yard touchdown. He also ran some routes where he didn't separate and he couldn't come up with a semi-high difficulty misfire from Ehlinger. #13 seeing Ehlinger throw for 400+ in a half without any contribution from him in the box score is good for realigning his perspective.

Texas played all four tight ends. I liked what I saw from Brayden Liebrock. He moves well and he's really comfortable split out (2-11). He's also an enthusiastic blocker in space. I'd like to see more. Cade Brewer caught a well-schemed open TD throw (Whittington's pre-snap motion and Ehlinger's sell make UTEP's secondary bite hard; Josh Moore is also wide open in the end zone on the same play) and some other good concepts. I didn't see Wiley get any targets. Epps had a big run (credits as a rush) for 40 yards on the Card option but he didn't nab any balls in the passing game.

OL

You shouldn't drop 698 yards and score 59 points and have a long concerns list, but the OL did have some hiccups. UTEP had a moderate tilt towards stopping the run early, even after Texas was gouging them throwing the ball, but there is some stuff that really needs to cleaned up. Pass protection breakdowns were as much on the protection as individuals getting beaten consistently. That's good or bad, depending on how you feel about which is more addressable by Hand. Christian Jones gave up a couple of flyby pressures on Ehlinger and just looked too hesitant at times, and the OL gave up too many hits on Ehlinger overall, even if he was converting many of those plays for big gains. It wasn't just the right side of the OL. Watch Angilau give up a QB hit on the Cade Brewer TD when he overextends on the interior defender. Run blocking didn't always create push, but some of that was guys not properly passing off in zone runs. Okafor had a terrific block that created the hole on Bijan's 29 yard burst. A Kerstetter hold negated a 35 yard RoJo run and from my vantage point it was a ticky tack call, but maybe his arm drifted out while cutting off the nose. Very few penalties overall, which is good.

We can always create more space by involving Sam in the run game against higher tier opponents and layering in the RPO game, but obviously we'd like to be able to run on honest boxes. A good scheme and a QB getting the ball out on time can bolster protection substantially and the zone run game should come together with more live reps. Ultimately, I'm interested in seeing good protection on clear drop back passing downs, when indecision won't slow down a rusher and the secondary knows it's pass all of the way. That's the real challenge. Accept that this is a work in progress. They have two weeks to work and get some other guys healthy and we'll gauge results against Tech in Lubbock.

Final Thoughts

Again, I can't stress enough that UTEP was weak. However, Texas did exactly what you should do to a bad football team and the offensive approach was perfect. Sam + Yurcich + skill player committees will work just fine. Whether this offense is very good or potentially excellent will rest primarily on health and the OL's growth.

 

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(Bobby Burton) Texas vs. UTEP grades: Defense gets the job done

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Defensive line

While the pass rush didn't necessarily live up to the hype, the control of the line of scrimmage certainly did. Keondre Coburn and T'Vondre Sweat make an incredible one-two punch on the interior. They not only clog things up, but they can also redirect plays. Moro Ojomo got beat a couple of times in the run game but also provided some pass rush. He had one QB hurry and a would-be sack that was negated by a facemask penalty. Alfred Collins looked the part and actually got the teams first sack on the season. Ta'Quon Graham was relatively quiet, but again the Miners found little success with anything they tried. The Horns held UTEP to a measly 43 yards rushing on 33 attempts.

Grade: A-

Linebackers

Joseph Ossai led the team with eight tackles. But he never really had that "wow" play that perhaps we were expecting. And he was only credited with one QB hurry. Cort Jaquess got the start in the middle and is solid against the run. When UTEP switched to a more pass-heavy look, he got a little lost. DeMarvion Overshown played well in his first full game at linebacker. Teams are going to have a real problem trying to run outside against him because of his length and quickness. He also led the team in TFLs with two on the night. David Gbenda was productive in spots, while Jett Bush, Juwan Mitchell and Marcus Tillman Jr. really weren't. But it's clear Bush is the current favorite to add to pass rush situations by Chris Ash. Not a dominating performance, especially in the passing game, where the LBs never jumped any slants that UTEP had some success with.

Grade: B-

Secondary

Josh Thompson was better than anticipated. Either UTEP's receivers just weren't that fast, or Thompson is ready for prime time. He blanketed his receiver all night until an ear laceration forced him from the contest in the third quarter. Chris Brown and Caden Sterns were both solid. Sterns broke up one pass but was also late getting to the sideline on a deep pass that was misplayed by a UTEP receiver. D'Shawn Jamison played reasonably well, but the Miners had more success against him than they did Thompson. Chris Adimora got beat for what should have been a TD that was dropped, and he may get picked on in weeks to come simply because he's not seemingly a great man cover guy. But he was physical against the run and was never badly out of position, either. Back-up corner Kenyatta Watson allowed one deep ball but also broke up two passes nicely and was physical in run support. True freshman Xavion Alford quietly had an excellent fourth quarter performance and was credited with four tackles. Kitan Crawford and Jahdae Barron also saw some action. Crawford made a crunching tackle on the near sideline. Missing in action was B.J. Foster.

Grade: B

Defense

The sum of the parts are better than the individual grades. The Horns limited UTEP to just 233 yards on 82 plays. That's less than three yards a pop. The Horns also kept the Miners out of the end zone and forced six three-and-outs and one turnover. The Horns will want to create more of a pass rush moving forward, but the run defense looks salty and the secondary didn't seem to have any major breakdowns.

Grade: A

Special teams

If not for a shoestring tackle, I think Jamison would have broken the opening kickoff for a TD. He also returned a punt for a score but it was called back because of penalty. On that same play, Jamison bobbled the punt, which is something to watch for as the season progresses. Cameron Dicker missed his first attempt of the season before later connecting on one into the new Longhorn end zone. Notably, the Miners did not return a single kickoff all night. Ryan Bujcevski didn't punt until the third quarter. He looked rusty at first but his second boot looked better. The hang time was good on the second one. He averaged 40.5 yards with no returns.

Grade: C

 

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(Joseph Cook) Texas 59 UTEP 3: Ehlinger begins 2020 season with record-setting performance

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If Sam Ehlinger plans to contend for the Heisman in 2020, approaching or eclipsing marks set by Colt McCoy, the last Longhorn in serious contention for the award, is a solid plan. Ehlinger set a school record with five touchdown passes and 429 passing yards in a half during a 59-3 rout of UTEP. He completed 25-of-33 passes for 426 yards in just over 30 minutes of game action, and found five different receivers on his touchdown passes.

Five touchdowns in a game is impressive, as is over 420 yards passing. Finding five different receivers for those touchdowns, including a 78-yard score on a RPO to sophomore Joshua Moore for the very first offensive snap of the season, is impressive in any 60 minute affair. But in 30? Even against an overmatched opponent like UTEP, that’s an efficiency that makes life great for Ehlinger, Herman, and new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. Still, Ehlinger walked off Campbell-Williams Field wanting more.

“To tell you the truth, I’m actually pretty disappointed,” Ehlinger said. “I left a lot of throws out there that I should have made. I can’t wait for the bye week to continue to get better.”

In its consistent breaking of the Miner defense with the passing game, the Longhorns set a school record with 481 passing yards. That broke a mark set against Houston in 1987. On the first drive of the first game with the first pass of the season, Ehlinger hit Moore in the middle of the UTEP defense. Moore then outran several UTEP defenders on his way to the end zone. Moore’s 78-yard touchdown reception was Texas’ longest play since 2017, and longest touchdown since 2016.

Texas forced a three-and-out on the ensuing UTEP possession, and Ehlinger continued to rack up yardage once he got the ball back. He completed four of his next six passes, including a 20-yard touchdown throw to Cade Brewer. Brewer caught the pass, but the play worked so well that both he and Moore were wide open in the end zone. “I think that Coach Yurcich’s schemes are incredible,” Ehlinger said.

Another stop resulted in another Longhorn scoring drive early in the second quarter. With 1st-and-10 from the Miner 40, Ehlinger found senior Brenden Schooler one-on-one with the opposing corner. He caught a pass from Ehlinger on a stop route, avoided a tackle, and ran for a 40-yard score on his second career catch as a Longhorn. The Texas tally continued to rise in the second quarter, when Ehlinger found Michigan transfer Tarik Black for his first touchdown as a Longhorn, and the first ever by a Longhorn wearing No. 0.

Up 38-3 with just over a minute remaining in the half, Texas took an opportunity to work the two-minute drill in a live situation. Texas moved its way down the field, and with six seconds remaining in the half, Ehlinger delivered a pass to walk-on Kai Money in the end zone to make it a 45-3 game. “I sure hope we can continue to spread the ball out to those guys,” Ehlinger said. “There’s too much talent in that room for them not to be making plays like that.”

Sophomore Roschon Johnson added a rushing touchdown and junior Cameron Dicker kicked a 32-yard field goal for the other 10 first half points Ehlinger was not responsible for. Ehlinger saw one series in the second half, completing one pass to Moore. From then until the final whistle, he was able to watch his backups, Casey Thompson and Hudson Card, run the offense. Thompson added 55 passing yards to the total with touchdown tosses to Brennan Eagles and Marcus Washington in back-up action.

Texas is not going to face an opponent as close to the bottom of the FBS as the Miners, despite other Big 12 teams like Iowa State, Kansas State, Kansas, and Texas Tech stumbling out of the gate. But if Ehlinger wants to potentially join the ranks of the Trevor Lawrence’s or the Jaylen Waddle’s in New York in December, then performances like Saturday’s against UTEP are a strong first step.

Ehlinger’s opening game performance was akin to those of McCoy and Vince Young during their standout seasons, at least in terms of efficiency. Young hit 76.5 percent of his passes against Louisiana in 2005, while McCoy had completion percentages of 82.8 and 72.4 in his season openers in 2008 and 2009. Where Ehlinger differs is in his production. Neither Longhorn great matched Ehlinger’s yardage or touchdown production in those games, and none of those three games were as out of reach at halftime as Saturday’s game with the Miners.

Thanks to Herman’s spread principles and Ehlinger’s status as a starting quarterback since 2017, the senior from Westlake trails only McCoy for every major passing record in school history. Catching No. 12 was already a stretch in 2020 even before COVID-19 changed the college football landscape. With only 10 regular season games, the opportunities for Ehlinger to make up completions, yardage, and touchdowns aren’t as great in number.

Ehlinger’s opportunity at gold, especially considering who is and isn’t playing in 2020, might be just as strong as McCoy’s and Young’s. Still, those two never came out of the gate as strong as Ehlinger did Saturday. “It’s really, really nice as a quarterback to have that many talented guys out there that are able to make plays,” Ehlinger said. Texas now enters an open week with a game at Texas Tech in 13 days. The Longhorns have lofty expectations for 2020. So too does their quarterback. After one prolific game, the opportunity to continue on to great things exists thanks to a record-breaking Ehlinger performance.

 

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Joseph Cook: Saturday was a good day for first impressions

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Plenty of offseason attention on the Longhorns went to fourth-year quarterback Sam Ehlinger, fourth-year offensive linemen Sam Cosmi and Derek Kerstetter, and fourth-year head coach Tom Herman. Saturday night’s 59-3 win for the Longhorns over UTEP wasn’t just a time for established veterans to show off. Several members of the program took the opportunity to make strong impressions on Campbell-Williams Field.

Mike Yurcich

Any coordinator starting his first year at a new school will be faced with questions, but one of the easiest ways to quickly answer those questions is to score a touchdown on the very first play called on the job. It wasn’t anything more than a simple RPO that Joshua Moore took 78 yards to the end zone, but it set the tone for the evening in that Texas was going to try to get the ball out of Sam Ehlinger’s hands and into those of the Texas wide receivers.

“I thought Mike and the offensive staff had a really good plan,” Herman said. “We were fairly inconsistent at wide receiver heading into the game and throughout training camp. We wanted to make a point to get the ball to them early and often, get them some confidence, find out who’s made of what, and was really, really proud of the way that unit stepped up.”

Texas showed a wide variety of formations Saturday after running an offense with limited variety in 2019. They also brought in different personnel packages, including plenty of 12 personnel with one running back, two tight ends, and two wide receivers on the field.. In the end, a 56-point drubbing in which Ehlinger set school records in one half was as good of a beginning to Yurcich’s tenure as he could have asked for.

Chris Ash

Yurcich wasn’t the only coordinator calling his first game at Texas. After UTEP was penalized for delay of game before their first offensive snap, Texas forced the Miners in to a three-and-out. Cort Jaquess, DeMarvion Overshown, and Joseph Ossai – Texas’ starting linebacker group on Saturday – were responsible for both tackles to end the series.

Things didn’t improve much for the Miners from there. Ash’s defense kept them out of the end zone the entire night. UTEP QB Gavin Hardison was 12-of-27 for 141 yards, with a single interception coming at the hands of Josh Thompson. No Miner rusher had more than 35 yards, and as a team Dana Dimel’s squad tallied just 43 yards rushing. Texas’ defense totaled two QB hurries, eight tackles for loss, and two sacks against an overmatched UTEP offensive line.

“This is brand new for our defense,” Herman said. “To have it in brand new with new coaches, a new scheme, no spring ball, no real offseason, guys playing in different positions than what they had in the past, and to go out there and be as dominant as they were, tackle as well as they did, to play the ball for the most part in the air as well as they did, I was really, really pleased.”

The defense was mostly sound, and so too was the tackling. It wasn’t an extremely glaring issue as it was in Texas’ early-season games in 2019. Ash was brought to Texas to teach fundamentals and help highlight Texas' pass rush. Progress remains on both fronts, but what played out Saturday was a marked improvement from where the defense stood about a year ago.

Tarik Black and Brenden Schooler

Newcomers don’t have to be young guys. Black, a Michigan grad transfer, and Schooler, an Arizona grad transfer, both caught touchdowns from Sam Ehlinger in their first ever game wearing the burnt orange. Black earned a starting receiver spot and was a significant part of Saturday’s offense. He caught 5 passes for 80 yards and one score. Schooler played some outside receiver, and on his two catches avoided tackles. On his second catch, the tackle he avoided was the only obstacle standing between him and the end zone. Schooler also played the gunner role on Texas’ punt team, a spot he’s more than familiar with from his time playing at Oregon.

Alfred Collins

Herman told Yahoo!’s Pete Thamel that Collins “had superstar written all over him.” The five-star from Bastrop was one of the most sought-after defensive linemen in the nation during the 2020 cycle, and one of Texas’ prized recruits in its 2020 class. “Told y’all he was going to be a big impact,” Joseph Ossai said. “He proved me right.” Collins recorded two tackles Saturday, and was responsible for one of Texas’ two sacks. Collins rotated in behind Ta’Quon Graham at defensive tackle, and overall played well in his first outing.

Bijan Robinson

Attention will always follow the stars, and Robinson’s debut had plenty of Texas fans star gazing at the former five-star back.. Robinson, Roschon Johnson, and Keaontay Ingram split carries last night, with Robinson drawing the shortest stick. On his five carries, he rushed for 38 yards and put together some impressive moves to make defenders miss.

There were even some glimpses of his breakaway ability, something that has been missing from the running back room for some time. Even in limited action, Robinson made some exciting plays and gave a peek as to why he was rated so high coming out of high school.

Kai Money

Kai Money probably isn’t an NFL player. Most Texas fans may not have even known who the walk-on from Brownsville was before Saturday’s game. Now, they’ll know him as a receiver who caught a touchdown in a Texas uniform. When Texas was running the two-minute drill late in the first half, Money lined up on the short side of the field in the slot with a few moments remaining before the halftime gun. The play called was designed for him from the get-go, he just needed to make the catch.

Money broke wide open toward the near sideline, and hauled in a pass from Ehlinger. Even though Money likely won’t be making NFL money, he made sure to get two feet in to secure the score. “I wish you guys could see the work that Kai Money puts in every single day,” Ehlinger said. “What an incredible team guy. Always puts the team before himself, and works hard every single day.” He was gleefully mobbed by his teammates and coaches on the sideline, and made sure Texas successfully completed its first live stab at the two-minute drill.

DeMarvion Overshown at linebacker

One of the biggest offseason roster moves wasn’t an addition or subtraction, but a change. Overshown shifted closer to the line of scrimmage from safety to will linebacker. “The front seven was phenomenal in the run game,” Ossai said. “There’s so much talent in that group of guys. Whoever is playing, I have full confidence in them.” Overshown had four tackles and a team-high two tackles for loss against the Miners. He was typically around the play, and overall turned in a good first performance at the position.

 

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(Scipio Tex) 2020 UTEP Post-Mortem: Defense & Special Teams

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All caveats about UTEP stinking apply. Some quick top line takeaways from a very solid team defensive performance:

- 27 different Longhorn defenders registered a box score impact and several more than that played. That's why no single Longhorn had more than five tackles in the game. With eligibility a moot consideration, playing nearly everyone early and often is a smart move by the coaches to build depth, get buy-in, and find out who can help us at some thin spots. Hat tip to the aggressive offense as well - can't empty the bench without a 42 point halftime lead.

- UTEP converted 4 of 19 on money downs (defined as 3rd and 4th down conversions combined). That 21% conversion rate is substantially less than half of the conversion rate against Orlando defenses over the last two years. That's a key trend to watch going forward. I'm also puzzled as to why offenses keep trying to run it down our throats on 3rd and 4th and short.

- The Miners were held to 233 yards on 72 plays. 3.2 yards per play is getting it done. UTEP totaled only 43 yards rushing.

- In the first half, UTEP QB Gavin Hardison was 8 of 20 for 110 yards and a 1 pick.

- UTEP's longest pass play from scrimmage was 30 yards and their next three longest passing plays went for 18, 14, 11. Their longest run was for 18 against the Longhorn 2nd and 3rd teamers and their longest run against the first team D went for 7 yards. Big 12 defense pretty much boils down to 1). money down defense 2). disallowing big plays 3). holding up in the red zone. Check. Check. Check.

- Tackling was largely on point. I only counted four missed tackles. More encouraging, I saw several solid 1-on-1 stops in space where the Longhorn defender led with a shoulder, got underneath the UTEP player's center of gravity, and wrapped up. No face down launches to be found.

- Officials aren't going to call many holds in a clear blowout. They want to get home at some point. The DL should get more calls in a competitive game.

Let's talk units:

DL

I think we all would have enjoyed more general mayhem, but UTEP was getting the ball out quickly, frequently kept the TE in as a 6th OL, sometimes with the RB as well, and double teamed DL at the point of attack in the running game. We had several instances where linemen got good penetration against the run: Sweat, Collins, and Ojomo all leap to mind, but they took it a bit too far upfield and didn't get flat and take a good pursuit angle. A DL can beat a guy so badly that he can actually create a hole for the runner to duck into, particularly on zone runs. Gotta feel the flow of the run and then take an appropriate angle. One of the subtle differentiators between solid DL and good DL play is ball and blocking scheme awareness. If you watched any of Aaron Donald's play against the Cowboys last night, he's the gold standard. This should improve over time with coaching.

Joseph Ossai was very good against the run. We played him fairly snug on the weak side on standard downs to protect Overshown from downhill runs. I expect to see him lining up wider and in a track stance against more pass happy opponents - at least situationally. When you see him lined up in a neutral "catch" stance (a two point stance, squatted down, both hands up ready to shock the OL) he's playing run first. You see a good example of that on an early 1st quarter stop by Ossai when UTEP runs on 3rd and short at him. Bad choice by UTEP as Ossai creates a TFL.

Moro Ojomo cheated himself of a sack with an unfortunate face mask but later had a nice QB hit as he released the ball. I smiled watching him line up in a four point stance at times playing SDE. Playing run first, Ojomo? No Jacoby Jones. We'll find out more. I liked Jett Bush's hustle in late relief of Ossai. Reese Leitao had a good bull rush pressure in limited snaps where he walked the OT back into the QB without giving up his outside shoulder and did a decent job setting the edge on a run. This was a good depth move.

Keondre Coburn and Sweat held down the middle fine. Sweat had one of my favorite plays of the game when he hurled a UTEP OL about five yards into the backfield when the guy tried to reach block him. I'd like to see better get off from Coburn. It's possible that the coaches asked him to play run first to make UTEP''s power running a non-starter. Ta'Quon Graham was relatively quiet, but solid at the 3. We need more disruption from that position though.

Alfred Collins had a great sack where he showed his quickness and power and he could have notched another couple of tackles on disruptive plays if he can do a better job of locating the ball and angling his pursuit. Great debut from the freshman. Hard to believe he's 305.

One thing to keep in mind: there's a general belief that playing DL is just being big, quick, and nasty. Well, yes. But we're asking them to operate in a different scheme from how they've been employed. There's a lot of old muscle memory to work through and some new skills to learn. Some of these guys are still thinking. DL is instinctive - they've gotta let it go.

LB

Overshown and Jaquess got the starts. DeMarvion was expected, but Mitchell's 2nd team status was a surprise. Overshown flashed his range and lateral ability, notching 2 tackles for loss. He's a good cleanup guy and chaser, ideal for running down a RB trying to find a seam when the initial hole is thwarted. See ball, chase ball. UTEP tested him a couple of times by doubling both play side Texas DL and creating a mano-a-mano Oklahoma drill between Overshown and Hankins, who is a solid power back. 0 went low and got the job done. More importantly, he didn't lose his mind and take off chasing ghosts. Sometimes it's really hard for fast guys to just stand still until the play develops.

Jaquess did some good things jamming up stuff inside as his physicality is a plus, but he had a poor missed tackle inside on the LOS (he was unblocked) that didn't hurt us as the runner bounced into a hard set edge. He's not going to remind us of Brian Urlacher taking 20 yard drops in the passing game, but he's a hard-nosed guy who gives it his all. As I predicted before the season, they're using these walk-on LBs to set the floor. Above all, coaches want to know what they're getting so they can call the defense accordingly. Jaquess racked up 4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss. One possible concern to monitor is Ojomo on the same side as Jaquess when a team runs outside zone or simply blocks down and makes it a footrace to the sideline with a quick RB or a jet sweeper.

I didn't see Juwan Mitchell enter the game until the late 3rd quarter. Pretty quiet. Jaylan Ford got some run late and quickly notched 2-3 tackles. He's one of those guys who is better at football than the shorts Olympics. Interested to see how #41 develops here and if he grows some more athletic traits late with college S&C. I've got a list of stuff Herman's regime needs to do better, but basic recruiting evals ain't one of 'em. Marcus Tillman also got some late run and notched a sideline sack.

DB

Pretty much every DB got real playing time.

Terrific game from my Defensive MVP Josh Thompson. He dominated UTEP's decent wideouts, manhandling them at the LOS, and created an interception with a good jam that short circuited the QB's brain into a poor throw. Thompson also had a terrific solo tackle on Hankins on a 3rd and 3 in run support. Every time UTEP tried to test him deep on the vertical sideline shots that he'll be seeing all year, he forced the wide receiver off of his desired spacing and basically made him ride the chalk. Hopefully, we can pack his ear in duct tape and marshmallows and get him ready for Tech in two weeks. He'll see better, much stronger wide receivers in Lubbock and if he manhandles them, this is the beginning of something beautiful.

D'shawn Jamison played well. Good tackling and the stuff he gave up was within the scheme. Kenyatta Watson made a point of taunting whatever receiver he blanketed on every throw, but he backed it up with solid tackling and good play against the short game. He seeks contact and I like his level of engagement in the game. Jalen Green got shaken up for a second, but proved to be fine. Cornerback is shaping up nicely so far.

Adimora was good in run support, but got caught a couple of times looking in pass coverage. He was beaten by a step on would-be UTEP TD, but the receiver dropped it. Spur is a tough position in this defense and Adimora is still learning when he has safety help and doesn't. The difference from last year is that Ash can assign deep help over the top with experienced safeties when the OU's of the world attack him with a 5 star slot receiver running a vertical while simultaneously running a play action jet sweep that threatens the edge.

Kitan Crawford brought a hard pop late in the game that got my attention. Bring it, young man. Young Jahdae Barron also got a ton of late reps and he's some weight room time away from being interesting. Brown and Sterns did a solid job playing ranger on the back end and each had pass break ups. Sterns took a couple of bad angles that UTEP couldn't punish him for, but that's going to be part of the teaching process with these guys throughout the season. There are some ingrained bad habits to be worked out, but the schedule plays in our favor to teach as we go.

Special Teams

Dicker went 1 for 2 on field goals, missing a 42 yarder, but went 8 for 8 on XP. He was pushing the ball a little right all evening. Dickson Bujcevski didn't get much punting work, but UTEP had negative punt return yardage, in no small part due to the excellent gunner play provided by Tyler Owens. A Woodard penalty erased Jamison's 77 yard punt return. D'shawn is bringing one back soon enough. Kickoff coverage was good.

Overall

While UTEP's lack of quality applied to both sides of the ball, the offensive performance answered some pretty big questions for me about game approach and aggression. That's going to scale, even as opponents get better. Despite the defense and special teams playing well, we'll know more about those units as the quality of opponents ramp up and they face athletes that can ask our defense the questions they don't know the answers to yet.

That disclaimer aside, solid tackling, lining up right, getting reps up and down the depth chart, and casting players in the correct roles (or best roles determined by need) is a very solid step in the right direction.

 

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(Chip Brown) The Insider: What to take away from Texas' Week 1 win

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WHAT TO TAKE AWAY FROM WEEK ONE

Talked to one of my most critical, no-nonsense team sources this week about what to take away from the Longhorns’ Week 1 win over UTEP. And the first thing the source said was, “It’s hard to know what to take away from it, because UTEP just wasn’t very good. We would’ve been better off scrimmaging ourselves.” If we’re ranking the position groups on offense in order of performance, the source said No. 1 quarterbacks Sam Ehlinger and Casey Thompson, No. 2 the receivers and tight ends and No. 3 running backs, but blamed a “mediocre” performance by the offensive line for the running game not getting going earlier than the second half.

“The offensive line as a whole has to be a lot better,” the source said. “That performance in the run game wouldn’t cut it against an Oklahoma or TCU or the better defenses in the Big 12. The good news is there’s time to improve.” UTEP loaded up to stop the run early, and the biggest complaint about the Texas O-line was inconsistent technique — mostly hand and hat placement — primarily on the right side of the line, where Denzel Okafor lined up at guard and Christian Jones made his first start at right tackle.

But there were also some inconsistencies between the three returning starters — left tackle Samuel Cosmi, left guard Junior Angilau and center Derek Kerstetter. “We have good backs,” the source said. “The creases have to be there against a team like UTEP, and they weren’t there consistently in the first half. In the first half, we had a lot of four-man line play — four guys doing it right and one guy off.”

Of course the source added that Texas was “pretty vanilla” in the run game. “But even if you’re telling that defense where you’re running the ball, you still should be able to create lanes consistently,” the source said. The source expressed excitement about the play of running backs Roschon Johnson, Keaontay Ingram and Bijan Robinson. “All of them are a little different and hurt you in different ways,” the source said. “Roschon attacks the line so hard. Keaontay has great balance and is strong enough to drag defenders with him, and Bijan in space is a problem. He makes cuts you don’t see from most freshmen.”

On defense, the source expressed praise for the defensive line across the board, especially backup tackles T’Vondre Sweat and Alfred Collins. “Sweat and Collins are so disruptive,” the source said. “They get where they want to go. They don’t always know exactly where to go, but they get penetration. Once they are reading all their keys — and the linebackers are giving them more help with that — they’re going to be a problem for teams.”

The key comment in that last quote is having Texas’ linebackers making, quick, pre-snap reads and adjustments that can be communicated to the rest of the defense, especially the young players on the D-line. Along with having linebackers who can flow to the ball in traffic, shed blocks and make tackles, one of the biggest keys to success for this year’s defense will be the linebackers’ ability to help make those pre-snap reads and get them communicated to help get the front lined up correctly.

That will continue to be a key to watch going forward as redshirt sophomore linebacker Ayodele Adeoye is expected to return to action in time for the Longhorns’ Big 12 opener on the road at Texas Tech on Sept. 26. Adeoye returned to practice last week leading up to the UTEP game, but was held out of action against the Miners as a precaution following the shoulder injury he suffered in fall camp on a blitz pickup drill against Roschon Johnson.

SIMPLIFYING THINGS ON OFFENSE

One of the biggest reasons the Texas offense was able to get into such a rhythm in the passing game is the simplification of the offense under new coordinator Mike Yurcich, combined with a quicker tempo, a source close to the situation told Horns247. “Sometimes less is more,” the source said. “Yurcich has done a good job of simplifying the RPO (run-pass option) game with some really good route concepts that put defenders in conflict.

“So when the defense was crowding the box and Sam was continuing to go to the pass option, he and the receivers looked totally in sync from play one. You combine that with the tempo being much faster and a super smart quarterback like Sam (Ehlinger) operating it all, and you get a great rhythm with a lot of free-access throws like you saw (against UTEP).” The source said by reducing the playbook, it has allowed the coaches to “put a premium on execution.”

“The smoothness of the offense in the first half, connecting on multiple throws of 10 yards or longer and scoring on seven of eight possessions — with six of those drives ending in touchdowns — just screamed ‘attention to detail’ to me. Even as the defenses get better, that formula should work for this (Texas) offense, especially with a quarterback like Sam at the controls.”

The source said backup quarterback Casey Thompson also deserves credit for operating the offense with a high degree of precision. “With the exception of one throw in which the receiver and he were not on the same page, Casey did a nice job staying in the pocket and putting the ball where it needed to be,” the source said of Thompson’s performance after he replaced Ehlinger early in the third quarter. “He had a couple drops that weren’t his fault. Obviously, Casey can run when needed, but he also seemed comfortble with the throw game of this offense.”

SOME QUICK THOUGHTS ON THE DEFENSE FROM TIM CROWDER

Tim Crowder, a member of the 2005 national championship team who played for the Denver Broncos and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is now a performance coach (Nuclear Athletes). He’s worked with Charles Omenihu, Alex Okafor, Joseph Ossai and Alfred Collins, among others.

— On Collins, the 6-foot-5, 305-pound freshman defensive tackle who notched a sack in his first college game, Crowder said:

“People don’t realize how hard that is to be a matchup problem in your first game. When you’re inside, close to the football, everything happens much faster, and when you’re 6-foot-6 like him, you have to keep your pads down. And the fact he can bend, keep his pads low and get off the ball like that is just very impressive.”

— On Joseph Ossai, who led Texas in tackles (eight) while playing the JACK (stand-up defensive end) in Chris Ash’s defense:

“The coaches having Joseph (Ossai) in that standup defensive end role is really smart, because it’s familiar to him in the way he’s played in the defense previously. It keeps him comfortable and it showed.”

— On DeMarvion Overshown posting five tackles, including a shared tackle for loss, in his debut at weakside linebacker:

“I told him ‘If I was you, I’d buy into being the weakside linebacker, because the NFL is looking for guys who are long and lanky and can still run 4.5 and cover tight ends one on one.’ I told him, ‘You can actually be a matchup problem for the offense.’ And I told him, ‘Being the Will linebacker, you’re going to get a chance to flow a lot. 'You’re not going to have to go through a bunch of bodies, because the Mike linebacker is going to do that for you. So, you’re going to get a chance to flow and move and use your speed.’ And it looks like that’s what he’s doing. He looks normal out there (at weakside linebacker), which shows you what kind of ball player he is. I’m proud of him. He just needs to keep it up.”

— On former walk-on Cort Jaquess posting five tackles, including a tackle for loss, in his second straight start at middle linebacker:

“I’m impressed with Cort . I don’t care that he’s a former walk-on or whatever. I coach linebackers, so I understand the instincts and how he needs to flow and sort through traffic and stay on his feet with bodies trying to cut him low and hit him high and still be able to stay square and keep his eyes in the backfield. It’s impressive. It really is.”

Horns247 Staff: Are folks overcooking Texas after only one game?

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Each Wednesday this football season, the Horns247 staff will answer the Question of the Week, where we take on some of the hottest topics surrounding the University of Texas. With the Longhorns first game of the year under their belt, this week's topic is focused around the national attention Texas has gained since the dominant 59-3 win over UTEP. With that said, the Question of the Week is ... After the Big 12's first slate of non-conference games, ESPN Football Power Index increased Texas' chances of winning the Big 12 title from 39.5 percent to 51.7 percent. Are folks overcooking the Longhorns after only one game?

Bobby Burton, Publisher

Slightly. The Horns are definitely talented enough to win the league, but so many questions remain and obstacles loom. Can Texas stay healthy all year — with Covid and at QB? The Red River Shootout is always a big one and Oklahoma State should be good, too. I think it’s too early after just one game to say something like that definitively.

Chip Brown, Columnist

Even though I picked Texas to win the Big 12 championship this year in a title game win over Oklahoma State, I have to say I'm a little surprised this ESPN Football Power Index says Texas has a 51.7 percent chance of winning the Big 12, while OU — the five-time defending champ — has only a 25.1 percent chance. FYI, the ESPN FPI has Oklahoma State with an 11.3 percent chance of winning the Big 12. So, yes, I guess you could say there might be some overcooking of the Longhorns right now, though I did pick Texas to win the Big 12 because of Sam Ehlinger and UT's D-line (and both looked solid against UTEP).

Oklahoma and first-time starting quarterback Spencer Rattler (14 of 17 passing for 290 yards and four TDs) looked solid in a 48-0 rout of FCS Missouri State. And we haven't even gotten eyes on Oklahoma State, which is a 22.5-point favorite against Tulsa this week. Even though I agree with Texas being the best team in the Big 12 this year, ESPN's FPI feels a little high right now with Texas not having faced a quality opponent.

Jeff Howe, Senior writer

It has a lot less to do with what Texas showed (the Longhorns should’ve beaten UTEP by a healthy margin and a 59-3 win where they took a lead 19 seconds into the game and never let up delivered a strong message) as opposed to what the rest of the Big 12 failed to do. While Iowa State, Kansas State and Texas Tech are certainly capable of beating Texas and figure to be much better when facing the Longhorns than what each of the teams showed on opening weekend, losses to Sun Belt Conference schools and beating a bad team from the Southland Conference (FCS) means nobody should buy into the Cyclones, Wildcats or Red Raiders as Big 12 contenders in 2020.

COVID-19 is the wild card that could derail anyone’s quest for a title at a moment’s notice. With that said, the FPI is more of an if-all-things-are-equal look at the conference, and with the aforementioned teams dealing with their respective issues and Oklahoma looking as vulnerable as it has in the tenure of Lincoln Riley due to opt-outs and suspensions, Tom Herman is coaching what on paper makes a strong case as the Big 12’s most complete team.

Taylor Estes, Managing editor

Considering the Longhorns' first game of the year was against a program that was one of the worst FBS teams in college football last season, I think ESPN FPI is probably overcooking Texas. Now, I do believe the Longhorns are in the top half of the conference this season, and — barring any disastrous injuries — have no excuse to not make it to the Big 12 title game. However, I think people may be putting too much emphasis on the first games of the year when considering how weird this offseason has been. I somewhat expected early season games for many college football teams to be more sloppy than we've seen in previous seasons due to no spring practice and a much different summer schedule for college football players, in addition to some programs dealing with training camp hurdles and postponed games. Because of that, I’m not ready to bash teams that were either upset or played close to inferior non-conference opponents in Game 1 of the year, nor am I ready to declare any team the likely Big 12 champion until more football is played.

Mike Roach, Recruiting analyst

Probably but that’s the way it always goes. I also think Texas is dangerous enough and the Big 12 is down enough to make a short format season very interesting.

Nick Harris, Recruiting reporter

I don’t think so. The Longhorns were dominant in all facets of the game on Saturday and continue to show strengths and areas of improvement. Despite a couple of injuries to key players during Week 1, healthy playmakers on both sides of the ball still give Texas the best chance to win the Big 12.

 

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5 hours ago, satyanash said:

Now, I do believe the Longhorns are in the top half of the conference this season,

Thank you Taylor, for that insightful and honest assessment of where Texas stands. Of all the teams in the big twelve, 1/3 of which looked like FCS garbage this past week, Texas is in the "top half". Bold statement. Ovaries on the Table stuff.

I am just happy to know that COVID might have destroyed the restaurant industry, but the 9.95 industry is still intact.

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6 hours ago, Sejjr said:

Thank you Taylor, for that insightful and honest assessment of where Texas stands. Of all the teams in the big twelve, 1/3 of which looked like FCS garbage this past week, Texas is in the "top half". Bold statement. Ovaries on the Table stuff.

I am just happy to know that COVID might have destroyed the restaurant industry, but the 9.95 industry is still intact.

She is a pain to listen to at times..  I have to forward her segments when she joins the Big 12 today or Big 12 this morning on siriusXM.

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1 hour ago, Thiefery said:

She is a pain to listen to at times..  I have to forward her segments when she joins the Big 12 today or Big 12 this morning on siriusXM.

YEP... If Taylor didn't run the Technology for the "Olds" at 247, there's no way she gets video, podcast, or radio air time...

And poor Jeff Howe has a look that belongs on just radio and audio podcasts...

Edited by LTtxfan

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