Longhorns build momentum throughout the day, stand together afterward as one in moving to 3-2
Posted October 24th, 2020
Texas enjoyed a boring 27-16 win over Baylor on Saturday. A big, beautiful, boring blowout — or at least what passes for a blowout these days with this team.
To be clear, it wasn’t dull. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger had some big throws. Receivers Tarik Black, Joshua Moore and Jared Wiley made impressive catches. The defense held tight, smothering the Bears whenever they got close and when it counted late.
Baylor converted a fourth-quarter interception into points and got back within 11 with seven minutes left. Then, UT cornerback Chris Brown was again flexing his muscles, this time after an incomplete fourth-and-7 pass attempt that practically sealed victory.
Texas (3-2, 2-2 Big 12) looked like a team midway through its season while Baylor (1-2, 1-2) looked like one that hadn’t played since Oct. 3.
“Really, really pleased to deliver a win for our fans in the stadium and obviously our millions of fans at home,” said Texas coach Tom Herman, who looked relieved. “Winning is intoxicating, but it is also a very big relief anytime you get a win.”
There wasn’t any post-game drama, either. UT players stood as a group on the field, facing the UT student section, during the post-game singing of “The Eyes of Texas.” Ehlinger said the team decided to stay on the field as a group. It’s likely this will not be an issue going forward, at least as far as the team is concerned.
“When it comes to the team, within the team, my honest opinion it wasn’t an issue,” defensive tackle Ta’Quon Graham said. “But hopefully we all put this behind us and we can move forward and focus on ball.”
The fan cheering could be heard well above the recorded music coming from the loudspeakers. The Longhorn Band was sacked this week because too many members objected to playing “The Eyes.”
At halftime, with no band to perform, school officials played an old 1960s-era video of Willie Nelson playing for a group of friends. Old-school cans of Budweiser were scattered on the table as the late Darrell Royal bobbed his head to “Whiskey River,” loving every second. Edith Royal, the UT coach’s wife, turns 95 on Tuesday.
Calmness returned, at least for one day.
“It’s always great talking about a win,” Ehlinger said. “Winning does cover up a lot of mistakes that we have to get cleaned up if we want to continue to get better. But it’s a lot better to be talking about mistakes when you win than when you lose.”
The Horns wore all-white uniforms at home for the first time since 1950. The first quarter had a post-war vibe, too. Texas had 11 offensive plays, nine of them runs. Ehlinger was 1-for-2 for minus-1 yard throwing. At least Baylor got on the scoreboard with a 22-yard field goal. Otherwise, it was a rather forgettable 15 minutes.
Herman said there was a specific focus on running the football, something the Horns were only so-so at through the first four games. UT averaged 3.4 yards per rushing attempt as freshman Bijan Robinson, the five-star recruit from Arizona, got the starting nod. Still, it wasn’t easy.
Texas got down to the Baylor 24-yard line early in the second quarter. After some back and forth via penalties, Cameron Dicker hit a 42-yard field goal and it was 3-3.
The next drive is the one that’ll leave Baylor fans asking questions. Charlie Brewer had some impressive passes over the middle as the Bears reached the Horns’ 30-yard line. But first-year coach Dave Aranda chose to punt on fourth-and-12 instead of try a field goal. The ball went for a touchback, too, so it was only a 10-yard swing.
Perhaps motivated by their opponents’ tepidness, the Horns went to work. Ehlinger reared back and found Black for a 72-yard gain. It was the Michigan grad transfer’s longest career catch and easily his biggest catch at Texas. That drive ended in a field goal, but at least Texas had found some momentum.
Baylor went three-and-out, and Ehlinger started again with a nice third-down connection with Keaontay Ingram on the west sideline. Near midfield, Ehlinger went deep again, firing for Moore, who hauled in a 42-yard pass. Two plays after that, Ehlinger rolled to his left and waited for Moore to come open. It was an easy 3-yard score for a 13-3 lead at halftime.
“I look at when the ball’s in the air, it’s my ball,” Moore said of his contested 42-yard catch. “I just let my athletic ability take over from there.”
The most damaging play of the half came in the final minute. Texas’ top pass rusher, Joseph Ossai, appeared to collide with Jacoby Jones while they drawing down on Brewer. Ossai went down immediately and grabbed his left arm. He was eventually helped off the field and went to the locker room.
Just as the second half began, UT officials announced Ossai had a shoulder injury and was questionable to return. But he came jogging back onto the field during a stoppage with 10:25 left in the third quarter. By that point, Ehlinger had scored on a 1-yard touchdown run and Texas was up 20-3.
Ossai was able to return late, and Herman said his “jack” defensive end should play at Oklahoma State. “We expect to have him ready to go on Saturday in Stillwater,” Herman said.
Now, the Horns can focus on the sixth-ranked Cowboys — who beat No. 17 Iowa State 24-21 at home — as the second half of the season begins. It should be considerably quiet around campus this week as the noise volume is turned down.
Herman mentioned how he had best-selling author Ryan Holiday address the team recently and talk about inner focus. The coach desperately wants his players to avoid outside noise, but around here, it’s unavoidable.
This past week, the decibel levels were off the charts.
“You’ve got to have a still mind, you’ve got to have a focused mind, you’ve got to have a mind free from distraction and free from any of the noise, as you call it,” Herman said. “But, you’re only as good as your next ballgame. We’re going to enjoy this one. But we know we’ve got a very, very tall task ahead of us this week as well.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.