Anyone who missed the double-overtime nail-biter against USC got another chance Saturday night to chomp on their cuticles against Kansas State.
Watching a team grow up isn’t easy, and this Texas team can sure make it difficult. Another backup quarterback ran wild inside Royal-Memorial Stadium and UT’s wildly inconsistent kicker missed a potential game winner in regulation.
But this time, in double-overtime, things were different. Instead of fumbling on the goal line, quarterback Sam Ehlinger delivered a devastating lick on Wildcats defensive back Denzel Goolsby. Instead of leaving things to chance, the coaches used 250-pound battering ram Chris Warren III.
Half the offensive line helped Warren bully his way into the end zone and capture the 40-34 win. But let’s be honest. The entire coaching staff, a roster full of believers, the 90,462 fans in the stands and everyone watching at home were all shoving Warren into the south end zone.
“That was a wild play,” right guard Jake McMillon said. “There was a little bit of love. That was kind of a cool play.”
Based on the replays, it appeared that linemen Derek Kerstetter and Denzel Okafor, tight end Kendall Moore and even receivers Collin Johnson and Lorenzo Joe all gave Warren some assistance. “Everybody on the field,” linebacker Naashon Hughes said. “I saw people coming in late, and I don’t know if that’s legal.”
Said Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, “Pushing is allowed.”
It takes a monumental effort to climb the college football mountain. Right now, Texas (3-2, 2-0 Big 12) is undefeated in league play. It’s only the second time this decade the Horns have started 2-0 in conference.
Nine days ago, Texas closed out a road win at Iowa State, a 17-7 win that looks dramatically better after the Cyclones’ road win at third-ranked Oklahoma earlier Saturday. The Horns battled back from a 10-point deficit against the Wildcats (3-2, 1-1). Has this team finally learned how to win?
“Yeah, we’re getting there,” UT coach Tom Herman said. “We have tasted what it feels like to win and win close ballgames. We’ve also tasted what it’s like to lose close ballgames. So I think we’re well aware of the difference in that taste and the steps necessary to make sure we’re on the right end of that.”
The Longhorns now have a better sense of what life could be like with Ehlinger at the controls.
The freshman was a dynamic play-maker with his legs, arm and attitude — an intoxicating mix of all three, really. He completed 30 of 50 passes for 380 yards and threw two touchdowns. He also ran for 107 yards on 20 carries and occasionally made plays that sophomore Shane Buechele simply cannot.
“He’s a ballsy kid who can come out and make plays,” Warren said. “Love Sam’s attitude. He has this kind of charisma about him during a game.”
His only obvious mistake was a poorly thrown ball on UT’s first offensive play, which made for an easy turnover. “That interception made me really, really mad,” Ehlinger said. “If I’d thrown it a little farther, it would’ve been a touchdown.”
All those points Texas left on the field will make Herman mad, too. An early drive reached the K-State 1-yard line but ended with a turnover on downs. Another drive late got to the K-State 8 and ended with a missed field goal.
Joshua Rowland missed from 27 yards, connected from 34 yards but then missed a 45-yarder that could have won the game with 2 seconds left.
By missing that final kick just a few feet to the right, Rowland left the door open for K-State’s Alex Delton. The backup quarterback replaced Jesse Ertz, who got hurt in the third quarter. Delton was going to run for it, and he didn’t even try to hide it. Same as Maryland did in the season opener with its backup.
Delton rushed for 79 yards on 12 carries and scored easily from 8 yards out in overtime. Two holding penalties really crippled K-State’s offensive efforts in double OT.
“Our mindset was, ‘Let’s get them out of field goal range here. Hold them to anything,’” linebacker Malik Jefferson said. “It was tough.”
In looking at the final numbers, Texas could have won going away. The offense tallied 546 total yards. That’s even with a reshuffled offensive line that featured junior Terrell Cuney playing for the injured Zach Shackelford (ankle).
A 71-yard drive ended with Kyle Porter’s 1-yard scoring plunge. A 78-yard drive ended with Warren’s 32-yard touchdown catch. Porter capped a 50-yard drive with another touchdown as Texas took a 21-17 halftime lead.
Ehlinger ran with abandon, leaving the UT running backs to fit in where they could. Porter and Warren both had seven carries each for a total of 27 yards. Toniel Carter had six carries for 32 yards.
Saturday night was the first time Warren had been made available to reporters since the USC game. Should he have gotten the ball on the goal line against the Trojans, like he did the Wildcats? That’s not his place to decide, he said.
“First of all, it’s disrespectful to question the coaches,” Warren said. “They’ve been coaching longer than you’ve been playing. So, I feel like they know what they’re doing, and I trust they know what they’re doing. If I get the ball 16 times, I get it 16 times. If I get it four times, I get it four times. I just have to make it work with whatever I get.”
And therein lies the reason why this Texas team may be different.
From the beginning, all Herman has asked is the players follow his plan. Just try it his way. Don’t just be “compliant,” he’s said, be “convicted.” As a result, Texas has major momentum going into the Red River rivalry against Oklahoma.
“We’re just moving forward,” Jefferson said.
With Herman and everyone else pushing them along the way.
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The post Texas 40, Kansas State 34 (2OT): Longhorns pushing their way into Big 12 forefront appeared first on Hook ‘Em.
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