BEVO BEAT Football

The Whys of Texas: Ehlinger-to-Humphrey was a mixture of film study, practice, execution

Fans exasperated with Todd Orlando's defense and several officiating decisions against West Virginia

Posted November 6th, 2018

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There’s a lot to unpack from Saturday’s West Virginia-Texas game, but let’s start with one of the best non-scoring plays of the season.

Texas faced third-and-4 from the West Virginia 24-yard line in the first quarter. Those who scouted the Mountaineers knew they liked to max blitz in those situations. Lo and behold, that’s what they did.

What happened next shows what happens when video study, planning and practice all come together in textbook fashion.

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On the snap, quarterback Sam Ehlinger quickly read the blitz and knew he had to get rid of it. Without much thinking, he launched a ball to the right toward Lil’Jordan Humphrey’s general direction.

“We knew they liked to bring a bunch of pressure once we got close and also on third down,” Ehlinger said. “We were prepared for that, and LJ and I were on the same page on that play. I knew if I put it in his area, he would go get it.”

Humphrey did go get it. He went up and made a terrific 23-yard catch down to the 1-yard line.

“That’s always been our game plan,” Humphrey said. “I’m not running to a spot. It’s just a route we run, and he’s kind of running away from pressure. It’s something we work on all the time and we executed it.”

Humphrey finished the day with nine catches for 143 yards and one touchdown. Ehlinger finished with 354 passing yards and three touchdowns. But that one play truly signaled where this offense is headed and where these two playmakers are in their growth and confidence.

On to this week’s mailbag…

Q. Tom Herman identifies Orlando’s defense as “tentative”!!!! Orlando’s defense gave up 1,100 yards in two games!!! Tom Herman needs to be re-evaluated as a head coach. Orlando’s defense was THRASHED, abused like rented mule. Call it like it is, this pussyfooting around doesn’t help. Fire Orlando. Hire a real defensive coordinator. The Oklahoma Sooners fixed their problem by firing their DC Mike Stoops. Do you are anybody else thinks Nick Saban would tolerate a “Todd Orlando”, hell no. Herman needs to get it together. 

— Jack S. via email

Well, with all due respect to mules, rented or otherwise, I don’t think it’s fair to call for a new defensive coordinator after two losses. If that were the case, we would’ve been calling for coaching caches after a ton of losses over the last four years.

I go back to my main thesis about this entire roster. The Longhorns have a solid 22-man starting lineup on offense and defense, but once you mix in some backups, all bets are off. Texas was down three defensive starters by the end of the second possession on Saturday. Safety Brandon Jones (ankle), cornerback Davante Davis (shoulder) and defensive end Breckyn Hager (elbow) were all hurt.

Mid-season firings cause more problems than anything else. Oklahoma fans simply thought getting rid of Mike Stoops would be some magic bullet. Stoops was a scapegoat for a lot of OU’s defensive problems the last few years. Bottom line: UT’s players need to play better.

Q. Any idea what Tom Herman is complaining about? I’ve watched the video several times.  There was no taunting by Grier before he scored.

— Mark C. via email

After the West Virginia game, Herman was asked about Ehlinger’s helmet coming off on fourth down. He then swerved into a reference about the two-point conversion. “You know, I also thought that taunting before you cross the goal line meant that it negated a score, too. I’ve got to get some — I’ve got to brush up on my rules and get some questions answered,” Herman said.

West Virginia quarterback Will Grier (7) scores the game-winning two-point conversion during an NCAA college football game against Texas in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. West Virginia defeated Texas 42-41. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Yes, Grier held the ball out before he crossed the goal line on the two-point conversion. By the letter of the rulebook, that’s supposed to be taunting. That clarification was put into the rules as far back as 2010, as best I can tell. Good luck getting some referee to call that particular foul in that specific situation, though.

And quick aside, is it just me, or has the quality of Big 12 officiating gone down a tick this season? I’ve seen some oddball spots and weird 50-50 calls this season. Could be just me, though.

Q. Ask Coach Herman about our last series.  All we needed to win the game was a field goal.  We obviously scored way too soon, leaving Will Grier too much time.

— Newt H. via email

That was my first question to Herman in post-game on Saturday. Was he concerned about the time still on the clock after Devin Duvernay’s go-ahead score? The scoreboard said there was 2 minutes, 34 seconds left. “Yeah,” Herman said. “We don’t get to pick when we score touchdowns. So you take your shots when you have them and you see them available, and you trust that you can play two-minute defense.”

Texas wide receiver Devin Duvernay (6) scores a touchdown against West Virginia at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Nov. 3, 2018. [Stephen Spillman for Statesman]

Go back and look at the drive charts from the fourth quarter. Texas kicked a field goal to go up by seven. Then, West Virginia drove 75 yards for a touchdown. Texas scored again, and WVU went 75 yards for a touchdown and two-point conversion.

In both instances, the Mountaineers basically went the length of the field on two drives. All the Horns needed was one stop and couldn’t get it. So yes, Herman did leave too much time on the clock, but you can’t let the opponent go 75 yards twice. You’re asking to get beat.

Q. Four reasons why the Longhorns’ defense is below average. DeShon Elliot, Holton Hill, Malik Jefferson and Poona Ford.

— Dan B. via email

I’ve been wondering how long it would take for someone to bring up those names again. All four defensive starters were told to stay in school last year, and all opted to try the NFL. If they all had stayed, the Horns are likely strong Big 12 title contenders. Instead, we’ll never know.

Q. UT was penalized for a horse-collar tackle of WVA’s QB in the pocket on an incomplete 3rd down pass attempt extending the possession and ultimately resulting in 7 points. Why didn’t the rule below apply in that case?

— Bob W. via email

Frankly, I had to look this up myself, so thank you, Bob, for sending me the screenshot of the specific line item. NCAA rule 9, article 15 states that “All players are prohibited from grabbing the inside back collar of the shoulder pads or jersey … and immediately pulling the ball carrier down.”

Texas linebacker Malcolm Roach (32) tackles West Virginia quarterback Will Grier (7) in the first half of a Big 12 Conference football game at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. [Stephen Spillman for Statesman]

But the rule continues: “This does not apply to a ball carrier, including a potential forward passer, who is inside the tackle box.”

Texas linebacker Malcolm Roach was called for a horse-collar tackle on Grier on third-and-15 from the Texas 37 just before the end of the first quarter. Grier was in the pocket at that time, so I’m not sure what the judgment was down on the field. Something like that, the Big 12 will not explain.

That penalty kept a drive going that ended with a WVU touchdown.

Q. Without the OU victory in 2018, the year was nothing to crow about — currently already with losses to 2 mediocre teams — Maryland and Oklahoma State though both on the road, and a heart-breaker to the Hillbillies. If we go 7-5 prior to a bowl game, then we are only one win better than 2017. Texas has to load up on talent; you can only go so far with playing hard, 1 game at a time, etc.

J.D. Wendeborn in Laredo, UT Class of ’59, via email

I would agree that Texas needs to finish with at least eight wins to show progress this season. You cannot win six straight and then collapse in November. That would kill a lot of momentum, which as we’ve learned is “an illusion” anyway. You know, a 9-3 regular-season finish is still on the table. Let’s see what happens this week against Texas Tech, which will be playing with its backup quarterback, Jett Duffey, before making any declarations.

Q. Who’s the band for the pre-game concert against Iowa State?

— Thomas J. in Buda via email

Funny you should ask, as that information flowed across our desk on Tuesday. Ghostland Observatory will be the headliner for the pre-game concert at Longhorn City Limits. I’m terrible with memorizing band names, but I actually know their best song, “Sad Sad City.” This is a solid way to wrap the first season on the LBJ Lawn.

Q. I loved the article last week and applaud you for taking on the tough questions.  By the way, there are a lot of us who support Herman on the discipline.  Accountability is critical on your journey to successes beyond the moment – goes for football and life. 

— Robert P. via email

I actually got a lot of feedback on last week’s mailbag, both via email and some in person at the game Saturday. Maybe this will restore your faith in college sports. More people were supportive of Herman’s decision to bench Kris Boyd and Davante Davis against Oklahoma State than not. If you can’t follow simple rules on a football team, how are you going to follow the rules in life?

Have a question for the Whys of Texas? Contact Brian Davis at bdavis@statesman.com.

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