BEVO BEAT

Texas notebook: New-look offensive line makes a statement for Longhorns

Posted October 8th, 2017

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For the third straight week, Texas started a different combination on its offensive line.

The puzzle pieces fit on Saturday against Kansas State.

In its double-overtime win, Texas compiled 546 yards of offense behind a line that featured two players making their first-ever starts. Junior Terrell Cuney replaced an injured Zach Shackelford at center, while sophomore Denzel Okafor was the left tackle. Freshman Derek Kerstetter, who had his redshirt pulled last week, made his second straight start at right tackle.

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That inexperienced trio joined mainstay guards Patrick Vahe and Jake McMillon. Freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger threw 50 times and was not sacked once. Two of UT’s three penalties — a Cuney false start and a Vahe hold — were attributed to the offensive line.

“I’m very proud of my guys,” Vahe said. “I feel like we came out there and played physical ball out there.”

Texas coach Tom Herman said the Longhorns knew they would have to attack Kansas State through the air. Kansas State entered the week with the nation’s 33rd-ranked rushing defense (The Wildcats also were rated 34th against the pass).

Ehlinger, an elusive freshman who avoided some sacks with his feet, ran for 107 yards on 20 carries. UT’s three running backs were limited to 59 yards on 20 attempts. Kyle Porter scored twice, and Warren’s 2-yard plunge secured Texas’ third win.

“Boy, did they rise to the occasion,” Herman said of the offensive line. “They played well. When they made mistakes or gave up some leakage, I know Sam was able to kind of make him right by using his feet to get out of trouble.”

Texas kicker Joshua Rowland (49) hangs his head after missing a field goal against Kansas State on Oct. 7, 2017. Rowland missed two of his four attempts. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Kicking problems: Warren’s touchdown run in the second overtime gave the announced crowd of 90,462 plenty to cheer about. Texas, though, could have sent their fans home earlier.

With the score tied at 27, UT kicker Joshua Rowland missed a 45-yard field goal with two seconds remaining in regulation. Rowland did make two field goals on Saturday — his 34-yard kick tied the game with 1:37 left — but he also missed a 27-yard attempt in the fourth quarter.

Rowland, a junior transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, has missed five of his nine field-goal attempts this year. Last week against Iowa State, he converted from 49 yards out.

“You’ve got to be able to make field goals in Division I college football,” Herman said. “So we’ll go back to the drawing board there and figure out what happened.”

Secondary standouts: Texas safeties DeShon Elliott and Brandon Jones both had solid outings. A two-time Big 12 defensive player of the week, Elliott recorded his fifth interception in a three-game span. Jones led UT with a career-best 11 tackles.

As a team, Texas allowed 254 passing yards. Kansas State sophomore Dalton Schoen had 128 of those yards, and he scored on two of his five receptions.

Cheers: Members of the UT Hall of Honor’s 2017 class were introduced at halftime. Bob McKay, who will enter college football’s hall of fame this year, also was honored during the game. During the pre-game coin toss, DeLoss Dodds, the former-UT athletic director who graduated from Kansas State, was recognized.

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