Each week this fall, we’re looking at a specific number that’s tied to Texas football.
This week’s notable number is 24 — the jersey number assigned to defensive back Marques Caldwell and running back Derrian Brown. A former walk-on who earned a scholarship last year, junior linebacker Cort Jaquess has appeared in 24 straight games. The 24 field goals kicked by Hunter Lawrence in 2009 is a Longhorns record.
Twenty-four also is the number of touchdowns that TCU quarterback Max Duggan has been responsible for in his career.
Technically, Duggan has not been named TCU’s starter for Saturday’s game. On the depth chart, both he and fellow sophomore Matthew Downing are listed as possibilities.
But Duggan was the better of the two in last week’s 37-34 season-opening loss to Iowa State. Duggan finished the game with 83 more passing yards and two more touchdown passes. (Duggan did throw a meaningless 31-yard touchdown pass on the final play). He also was sacked two fewer times.
Duggan’s name was mentioned often this week during Texas press conferences. Defensive coordinator Chris Ash even paid him what UT fans would deem to be the ultimate compliment. He compared Duggan to his own quarterback.
“I look at him, and I think he’s the closest thing to a Sam Ehlinger in this league,” Ash said. “He’s going to be a tremendous challenge for us.”
Ehlinger has opened his senior season with a nation-leading 10 touchdown passes. He ranks second to only Colt McCoy for most of UT’s significant passing records. He and McCoy are the only Longhorns who have been responsible for at least 100 touchdowns in their careers. Ehlinger has also rushed for 26 career scores, 16 of which came in 2018 when he ranked ninth nationally in that category.
So, what do the 6-3, 225-pound Ehlinger and the 6-2, 201-pound Duggan have in common? Are there dots to connect on their résumés?
Both were graded as dual-threat quarterbacks in high school. Ehlinger was rated as both a four-star recruit and the fourth-best dual-threat quarterback in the 2017 recruiting cycle. Meanwhile, Duggan also was a four-star two years later and was the No. 5-ranked dual-threat quarterback in 2019.
Both played as freshmen. Ehlinger threw for 1,915 yards and 11 touchdowns over his nine appearances in 2017, six of which were starts. Duggan made 10 starts and appeared in all 12 of TCU’s games last year. He threw for 2,077 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Both have legs that complement their arms. Ehlinger has averaged 3.5 yards per carry in his career and has two 100-yard rushing games to his credit. Duggan’s career average of 4.0 yards per rush was boosted by a 115-yard effort at Kansas State last year.
Last year in Fort Worth, Ehlinger threw a career-high four interceptions in a 37-27 loss. His young doppelganger, on the other hand, had two touchdown tosses and a team-high 72 rushing yards.
This week, the Longhorns didn’t appear to have forgotten about Duggan’s performance.
“It seems like he makes that offense go,” UT defensive lineman Ta’Quon Graham said. “He has great feet, he can extend plays, he makes smart throws. I think he’s a heck of a player, and I think he’s a heck of a leader too. He just knows how to win, it seems like he knows how to get things going.”
Added defensive back Josh Thompson: “He’s a good quarterback. Very physical, knows where to put the ball and everything. I’ll say the challenges for him is just stopping him from running. When he does get in the open field, he does seem to make a lot of plays.”