Texas Longhorns wide receiver Marcus Washington (15) pulls the ball in for a first down against UTEP Miners defense in the first quarter during an NCAA football game in Austin, Texas Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Texas’ wide receivers is a cast of thousands … er, dozens

Posted September 13th, 2020

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Story highlights
  • “Our wideouts definitely were balling out there today," Texas left tackle Sam Cosmi said.
  • staggering seven receivers caught touchdown passes on Saturday night. Seven. Holy wishbone. Texas used to go seasons without seven receivers catching a pass, much less reach the end zone.
  • Sam Ehlinger’s toughest decisions moving forward? It may be choosing which weapon to use. But opposing defenses can no longer focus on stopping a single weapon like Devin Duvernay any more.


Sam Ehlinger is back for his senior season at Texas as one of the most celebrated quarterbacks in college football and a very legitimate Heisman frontrunner, but there was a nagging question about his final year.

Where would his supporting cast be?

Everywhere, it turns out.

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To the left. To the right of him. Behind him. Heck, even in front of him because he never got sacked, nor did any Longhorns quarterback in 41 passes attempts, and we all know what left tackle Samuel Cosmi can do when he gets his hands on the football, not that his hands were needed in Saturday night’s 59-3 season-opening rout of UTEP.

“I’m not saying the opportunities are not going to be there for me any more, but they might be slim,” said Cosmi, who scored on a lateral against West Virginia last year. “Our wideouts definitely were balling out there today.”

Texas wide receiver Joshua Moore scores on a 78-yard touchdown catch on the first play of the game in Saturday’s 59-3 season-opening win over UTEP. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman)

Yes, they were. From the first play of the game on Joshua Moore’s coast-to-coast dazzler until Marcus Washington’s climb-the-ladder end zone catch with 13 minutes left to play. A staggering seven receivers caught touchdowns. Seven. Holy wishbone. Texas used to go seasons without seven receivers catching a pass, much less reach the end zone. Had Ehlinger played beyond just the one series in the third quarter, it might have been eight.

Devin Who? Where did Collin Whazisname go?

“Spreading the wealth probably will be a common theme throughout the season,” UT head coach Tom Herman said. “We don’t have a Devin Duvernay, but we’ve got a few guys who are plenty good.”

Not only that, but they looked like big-time college receivers should look. And played like it. This isn’t to say Texas has a roster full of CeeDee Lambs or Ja’Marr Chases, but they were damn impressive Saturday and showed tremendous athleticism and made a ton of yards after the catch.

Texas head coach Tom Herman jokes with quarterback Sam Ehlinger during Saturday’s 59-3 win over UTEP. Ehlinger passed for a career-high 426 yards and a career-high five touchdowns. All in the first half. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman)

After one blowout game that was basically a no contest against a seriously outmanned UTEP that’s gone 2-34 the last three years, it’s very clear Ehlinger has weapons. Lots of them to overcome the losses of Duvernay and Collin Johnson, two highly productive receivers who are now plying their trade in the NFL. Those two combined for nine of the 10 100-yard receiver performances last season — seven from Duvernay — with returning Brennan Eagles adding one.

Texas didn’t miss them on this night, as complete and lopsided a victory as Herman has had in his four seasons in Austin. But he wasn’t surprised.

Curiously, Herman had said the receivers’ play had been kind of ragged in the preseason, and the two most best receivers in August were non-factors Saturday since slot man Jake Smith sat out with a hamstring strain and Jordan Whittington made it only one half before getting hurt again. Whittington and heralded freshman running back Bijan Robinson each had a pair of catches as well.

“We’ve seen that kind of athleticism in practice,” Herman said of the receiving corps. “And we’ve seen it in games from a few of the veterans like Brennan and Marcus. So it wasn’t a surprise. I was proud to see it show up in a game.”

There were so many yards after the catch, starting with Moore who took Ehlinger’s throw in stride on a slant route and stretched it into a 78-yard run-and-catch touchdown on the game’s first offensive snap.

Ehlinger clearly distinguished himself with 429 yards and five touchdowns, all in the first half in the annihilation of the FBS bottom-feeder. Even backup quarterback Casey Thompson got into the act, threading a pass to Eagles, who made a spectacular 35-yard circus catch as he was tightly covered and had to tip the ball to himself for a reception in the end zone after a quiet first half.

Quiet, you say. Until that moment, an obscure player named Kai Money had a better first half than Eagles.

Few even knew Money was on the roster, much less one Ehlinger could bank on, but the quarterback said, “I wish you could see the work he puts in every single game.” A money player, if you will. The walk-on receiver from Brownsville outshined a wideout touted as a possible successor to Johnson and scored his first touchdown as a Longhorn.

So did a pair of grad transfers in Brenden Schooler by way of Oregon and Arizona as well as Michigan’s Tarik Black. Both of them scored too, but then who didn’t on this night? Raise your hand if you didn’t.

Even tight end is no longer a distant memory as Cade Brewer and Brayden Liebrock both snared passes, and Brewer scored on a play where Moore was completely uncovered in the end zone as well. Another tight end, converted wideout Malcolm Epps, handled a lateral.

Ehlinger’s toughest decisions moving forward? It may be choosing which weapon to use. But opposing defenses can no longer focus on stopping a single weapon like Duvernay any more. 

“I sure hope so,” he said. “I think today was a step in the right direction. It’s nice as a quarterback to have that many talented guys out there.”

It makes for a nice supporting cast.

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