LANDOVER, Md. — Texas entered Saturday’s opener with Maryland expecting to start only one newcomer on its defense. That experience, however, took a hit in the second quarter.
Texas senior cornerback Davante Davis exited the 34-29 loss with a sprained neck and was ruled out at halftime. Linebacker Gary Johnson, another senior, had his day cut short by a targeting penalty. Davis and Johnson combined for 12 starts last year, and Davis started nine times from 2015-16.
On the second play of the second quarter, Johnson was the first Longhorn to get to scrambling Maryland quarterback Kasim Hill. As Hill slid to the Texas 10, Johnson connected on a helmet-to-helmet hit. The penalty flag earned by Johnson was actually negated by a holding penalty on Maryland, but he was still ejected after a review.
Two plays later, Maryland took a 17-7 lead with a 33-yard field goal.
After Johnson’s ejection, Texas played Malcolm Roach and Jeffrey McCulloch at linebacker. Senior Anthony Wheeler returned to the field in the second half.
“I don’t know what to tell Gary Johnson,” said a resigned Tom Herman. “It was a guy that was clearly going low at the runner and he passed the point of no return going at the target that he was going at, and then all of a sudden that target changed. I get the rule. I really,really do understand the rule for player safety. But I don’t know what to tell him.”
Wheeler was unavailable at the time of Johnson’s ejection since he was serving a one-half suspension for the targeting penalty he drew in last year’s Texas Bowl. Since Johnson was ejected in the first half, he will not miss any time in UT’s next game against Tulsa.
Johnson is coming off a junior year in which he compiled 60 tackles and two sacks. Most of his playing time last season came at middle linebacker. This year, however, he is expected to fill the shoes of Malik Jefferson at the rover post.
New rules: If Texas fans were wondering if new NCAA rules would impact the Longhorns, they found out within seconds of UT’s first possession of the season.
Junior wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey fair-caught a kickoff near the goal line. Even though he did not appear to be in the end zone, Texas was given a touchback. Starting this season, fair catching a kickoff inside the 25 will result in a touchback.
After Texas then took the field, receiver Collin Johnson was alerted that he had an equipment violation. Since Johnson did not get off the field in time, Texas took a delay of game penalty. This summer, Big 12 coordinator of officials Greg Burks told reporters the NCAA’s new uniform rules would mandate that players have their midriffs and knees covered.
— Maryland Football (@TerpsFootball) September 1, 2018
Maryland honors McNair: Saturday’s game was the first for Maryland since the death of freshman offensive lineman Jordan McNair. In June, McNair died after participating in a team workout. The fallout of McNair’s death led to the placement of Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin on administrative leave.
A moment of silence was held for McNair before the game, and his No. 79 jersey was taken out to midfield for the coin toss. Maryland also took the field for its first offensive possession with only 10 players.
The last gesture drew a delay of game penalty — which Texas declined.