BEVO BEAT Football

Texas holds off Tulsa’s fourth-quarter rally for home-opening win, 28-21

Posted September 8th, 2018

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It’s over at Royal-Memorial Stadium. Texas, which not only needed a win tonight but also needed to look good getting it, has beaten Tulsa 28-21.

It was the first-ever meeting between the schools. The Longhorns were 23-point favorites.

The optimists out there will say a win is a win, 1-1 is a heck of a lot better than 0-2, the quarterback played well and bring on the Trojans. The cynics will point to the fact that this game was much, much closer on the scoreboard than it was supposed to be, that the Horns very nearly blew a 21-0 lead, that the defense couldn’t shut things down and the offense couldn’t put it away.

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Why Texas (1-1) won: Well, if you’re into history and trends, the Longhorns won in part — large or small — because they were facing an AAC team; Texas hasn’t lost to a non-Power 5 team not named Notre Dame or BYU (both independents) since the Big 12 was founded. But really, the Longhorns won because Tulsa blew several scoring chances and Sam Ehlinger was sharp throughout, directing two critical fourth-quarter drives when they were most needed.

Why Tulsa (1-1) lost: Because Texas — even an 0-1 Texas that spent this past week trying to fix the things that went wrong in the opener — is still Texas. Because you can’t blow that many scoring chances, including three missed field goals and a UT goal line stand. Props to the Golden Hurricane for the two fourth-quarter rallies, though.

Texas running back Tre Watson (5) scores a touchdown past Tulsa cornerback Akayleb Evans (26) with wide receiver Devin Duvernay (6) during an NCAA football game at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

This game had a little bit of everything. Sam Ehlinger connected on passes of 40, 36 and 35 yards and rushed for 51  yards and a touchdown, mostly off zone reads. Freshmen safeties Caden Sterns and B.J. Foster notched their first career interceptions, Sterns’ coming on the very first play of the game. Tulsa missed not one, not two, not three, but four field goal tries (one of them was nullified because of a UT penalty). The Golden Hurricane blocked a Ryan Bujcevski punt. There was a goal-line stand from Texas.

And, perhaps most important, Texas held a 21-0 lead but saw Tulsa rally twice in the fourth quarter, closing UT leads to 21-14 and then again to 28-21. Last week’s narrative was that this team just may not know how to win.  Does it take head scratchers like this to get there?

Also, don’t forget this team’s mantra for 2018: Finish.

Here’s a recap of what’s happened:

FIRST QUARTER

Texas 14, Tulsa 0. Sam Ehlinger’s touchdown run was set up by a really nice throw to Lil’Jordan Humphrey in double coverage, and Keaontay Ingram carved up the Tulsa defense on his scoring run. But the Horns failed to punch it in from inside the 3 on their second drive. Freshmen safeties Caden Sterns and B.J. Foster both notched the first interceptions of their UT careers. Tulsa missed a 43-yard field goal try.

Texas: Sam Ehlinger 1-yard run (Cameron Dicker kick, 14:18)

Texas: Keaontay Ingram 29-yard run (Dicker kick, 1:58)

SECOND QUARTER

Halftime: Texas 21, Tulsa 0. Humphrey got onto the scoreboard for the first time this season on a 40-yard catch that featured two broken tackles. The score capped a five-play drive that featured four runs by Tre Watson and a 10-yard rush by Ingram. Tulsa continued to struggle in its kicking game. Two kickers combined to miss three field goals, although one of those misfires was negated by a UT penalty. Tulsa also dropped a touchdown pass in the quarter that would have cut the Texas lead to 21-7.

Texas: Lil’Jordan Humphrey 40-yard pass from Ehlinger (Dicker kick, 3:28)

THIRD QUARTER
Texas 21, Tulsa 7. 
Both teams got off to a slow start. Ehlinger lost a fumble while Tulsa dropped another touchdown pass. The Golden Hurricane had a fourth-and-goal at the 5, but linebacker Gary Johnson cut down quarterback Luke Skipper on a scramble. But on the final possession of the quarter, it was Skipper shrugging off Johnson for 21 yards on fourth-and-6.Two plays later, Tulsa ended UT’s shutout bid.

Tulsa: Shamari Brooks -yard run (Nate Walker kick, 1:12)

FOURTH QUARTER

Final: Texas 28, Tulsa 21. Did Keylon Stokes get in or didn’t he? His 48-yard catch looked like a touchdown, but he was ruled down at the 1 as he stretched. The review backed that up. No matter: Brooks ran it in on the next play to make it a 21-14  game. Texas answered with a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that took 6:13 off the clock. Tulsa answered that with another score, and Texas answered again with a drive to close it out.

Tulsa: Brooks 1-yard run (Walker kick, 12:38)

Texas: Tre Watson 11-yard pass from Ehlinger (Dicker kick, 6:25)

Tulsa: Keenan Johnson 35-yard pass from Skipper (Walker kick, 4:53)

Texas Longhorns running back Tre Watson (5) fights for room to run against Tulsa Golden Hurricane running back Shamari Brooks (3) in the NCAA college football game, at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, in Austin, Texas Saturday, Sept. 8 , 2018 RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Curious about those missed field goals?

Tulsa’s Nate Walker missed from 43 in the first quarter, then from 29 in the second. He was off the mark on a 36-yarder late in the half, but Tulsa got a second chance because of a roughing the kicker penalty. The Golden Hurricane trotted out John Parker Romo for another 36-yard try, but it went wide right as well.

The Golden Hurricane must have taken those misses seriously. During halftime, while the rest of the team was in the locker room, Walker and Romo remained on the empty field, working on field goals.

Tre Watson started the game for the second straight week, but it was freshman Keaontay Ingram who impressed for the second straight time. He had 10 carries for 64 yards and averaged 6.4 yards a carry (he averaged 6.3 at Maryland). It was Watson, though, that had the carries on Texas’ critical final two drives, as Texas nursed one-touchdown leads both times.

Watson rushed for 74 yards on 18 carries and scored on a catch.

Tom Herman’s rationale for going with Watson over Ingram at Maryland was experience; after that 80-minute weather delay, Texas liked the fifth-year senior’s experience over the freshman. Maybe that came into play again tonight.

Other Big 12 scores from Saturday:

No. 6 Oklahoma (2-0) thrashed UCLA, 49-21.

No. 14 West Virginia (2-0) blew out Youngstown State, 52-17.

Kansas State (1-1) fell to No. 18 Mississippi State at home, 31-10.

Kansas (1-1) beat Central Michigan, 31-7.

Texas Tech (1-1) shut out Lamar, 77-0.

Iowa State (0-1) fell to Iowa on the road, 13-3.

Baylor (2-0) beat UTSA, 37-20.

Oklahoma State is well on its way to beating South Alabama.

Next up for Texas: USC, next Saturday at 7 at DKR.

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