There were 140 snaps taken in Texas’ 56-0 win over San Jose State on Saturday. Here are five that ended up making a big difference:
1. Welcome to Royal-Memorial Stadium
A four-star freshman from nearby Westlake, Sam Ehlinger started at quarterback in place of the injured Shane Buechele. UT took the kickoff and ran on the game’s first play before Ehlinger threw incomplete on his first collegiate pass. Ehlinger actually was 0 for 3 before connecting with Armanti Foreman on an 18-yard pass.
Ehlinger, who would finish the day 15 of 27 for 222 yards and a touchdown, wasn’t shaken by the slow start that included two unsuccessful drives.
“On the first drive, I just threw a couple bad passes, didn’t look the right way,” Ehlinger said. “It was just calm down, let the nerves settle and just do what we do every day in practice.”
2. Have you Heard?
Texas struck first in the opening quarter as junior Jerrod Heard took a snap and scooted into the end zone on a nine-yard run. It was the first rushing touchdown since 2015 for Heard, who was moved from quarterback to wide receiver ahead of the 2016 season 13 games ago.
Heard was used twice out of a wildcat formation against the Spartans. Those plays, though, netted minus-8 yards. Used primarily in running situations, he finished with 39 yards and a pair of touchdowns on eight carries. He took one shot downfield as a passer, but it fell incomplete.
“The good thing about him is he can throw the football too, and that’s probably the biggest area that we’ll have to expand his package a little bit or else you’re going to see, like most wildcats, people are just going to load the box and play cover zero on you and dare you to throw it,” Texas coach Tom Herman said. “But Jerrod can and will expand that part of his package.”
3. Warren gone wild
Junior running back Chris Warren III made the most of his 18 touches, finishing with 166 rushing yards. He leaped over a defender in the first quarter and carried a Spartan into the end zone in the fourth. His biggest highlight, though, may have been a 41-yard touchdown run that gave the Longhorns a 14-0 lead in the second session. On the play, Warren took a direct snap on a 3rd-and-1 and was off to the races after breaking two tackles. As he neared the goal line, Warren bounced off another defender and into the scoring summary for his first touchdown since Sept. 17, 2016.
“It was just a different game plan,” Warren said comparing Saturday’s game to the Maryland loss. “We like to structure our game plan differently and we decided to run the ball a little bit more this week.”
4. Stuffed Spartans
UT cornerback Holton Hill turned a third-quarter pass into a 45-yard interception return — his second pick-six of the season. But that wasn’t the defense’s standout moment. A quarter earlier, San Jose State trailed 14-0 and faced a fourth-and-1 at the Texas 10. The Spartans gave the ball to DeJon Packer, but the 220-pound tailback was met at the line of scrimmage by linebacker Malik Jefferson and lineman Gerald Wilbon. San Jose State’s only other trip into Texas territory came in garbage time, and a Longhorns team that surrendered 51 points the previous week posted its first shutout since 2014.
5. Another missed opportunity
Among the few breaks that Texas didn’t catch occurred in the third quarter. Ehlinger drove the Longhorns from the UT 23 to the San Jose State 26, but Joshua Rowland closed out the 10-play drive with a missed field goal. The 43-yard miss was inconsequential — Texas led 28-0 at the time and Hill scored his defensive touchdown two plays later — but it underscored a larger problem: Rowland is now 0 for 3 this season, all of which have been from between 42-44 yards.
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