Texas running back Keaontay Ingram (26) scores a touchdown past Rice cornerback Andrew Bird (15) at NRG Stadium in Houston on Sept. 14, 2019. [Stephen Spillman for Statesman]

Football

The long run: Keaontay Ingram is now proving why he was Texas’ starter all along

Longhorns' sophomore, the pride of Carthage, has two 100-yard performances in the last three games, needs another big one Saturday at Iowa State

Posted November 15th, 2019

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Story highlights
  • Temperatures likely to be in the 30s, cloudy with a chance of a three-headed rushing attack.
  • Asked what he thought of Ingram’s game against K-State, Ehlinger said, “I loved it. I loved it.”
  • “If you’re out there playing uptight, then I mean, you’re not going to be playing to your full potential.”
Keaontay Ingram practically jumped out of his skin when Texas running back Roschon Johnson hurdled that Kansas State tackler last week.

“Oh, man, it was something,” Ingram said. “It just shows you what type of player he is. When I saw him do it, I looked at coach and said, ‘Just keep feeding him.’ ”

And he’s eager for Jordan Whittington get out there and strut his stuff, too.

Asked what the freshman brings to the table, Ingram said, “Just more juice. More opportunities, more big plays being made. Explosives, we call them. I feel like it could bring more life and juice to the offense.”

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Iowa State GameDay section cover in the Austin American-Statesman for Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019.

Texas fans are clamoring for more Johnson, and everyone’s eager to see a healthy Whittington finally back on the field. But, um, what about Ingram?

The Texas sophomore, the pride of Carthage, has posted two 100-yard games this month. He’s averaging 6.7 yards per attempt over the last three games. Sure, it’s fun to get revved up over the next greatest whoever. But Ingram, the guy who’s been here all along, might be finding a permanent groove himself.

“Keaontay is the ultimate team player,” Texas coach Tom Herman said. “I think he’s getting comfortable back there, but he’s got nothing to prove to anybody.”

Saturday’s road test against Iowa State (5-4, 3-3 Big 12) could be a running back’s wonderland in the heartland. Temperatures are likely to be in the 30s, cloudy with a chance of a three-headed rushing attack.

No. 19 Texas (6-3, 4-2) needs yet another win to keep the flame aglow for the Big 12 championship. Any slip-up at this point, and the Horns are unlikely to get back to Arlington for a second straight year.

So bundle up, pour some hot chocolate, and get ready for Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy and the pesky Cyclones.

“When it’s 34 degrees out with a little bit of wind, to me, if you’re worried about that, you can’t play football,” UT defensive coordinator Todd Orlando said. “You shouldn’t play football if you’re worried about that.”

High school coaches have no issues with cold weather. It means a long night full of off-tackle dives. In theory, it should be the same on the college level. Cold weather and dreary conditions sound like a perfect night for Ingram and the reshuffled offensive line.

Ingram is developing into a real threat. He suffered a knee injury on Texas’ first full-padded practice in August and spent the rest of the month trying to get well. He wore a brace for the first three games and had modest success — 78, 29 and 74 yards.

Ingram finally ditched the brace before facing Oklahoma State and ran for 114 yards, a career high. But Oklahoma shut Texas down from all angles, and Ingram finished with just 9 yards on two attempts.

He’s been churning forward ever since. Ingram averaged 7.2 yards per carry and had another 100-yard night against Kansas. He averaged 4.4 yards against TCU and then a whopping 8.7 per carry against Kansas State, notching another career high in the process.

Herman and UT offensive coordinator Tim Beck both said Ingram is getting better at waiting for plays to develop, slow-playing things until the holes open up. Once you see daylight, put your foot in the ground and go, Beck said.

“Just being a competitive person, I actually learned how to be patient with the growth,” Ingram said. “It taught me a lot. In life, of course, you’re going to be frustrated because you expect too many things. You work so hard, and you only get a limited amount of tries.”

Remember last year how Herman limited Ingram’s workload because the freshman wasn’t heavy enough, how Ingram needed more “armor”? Ingram looked sensational going 34 yards for a touchdown against the Wildcats, notching his longest career run. Then he danced around a tackler and scored again from 12 yards out.

“The dude is pushing 230 pounds right now, squatting more than he ever has in his life and power cleaning more than he ever has in his life,” Herman said. “When you can do that, you’re going to see an added burst.”

Even with all the hubbub over Johnson and Whittington, neither Herman nor quarterback Sam Ehlinger sees any need for Ingram to prove anything to anybody at this point.

“He’s a guy that’s going to come to work every day regardless of the situation,” Ehlinger said. “He’s been doing a great job of keeping his head down and getting better.”

Asked what he thought of Ingram’s game against K-State, Ehlinger said, “I loved it. I loved it.”

The Horns would love another strong defensive performance like the one they got last week. Well, after K-State went up 14-0, anyway. Purdy is one of four players nationally with at least 20 passing touchdowns and seven rushing scores. UT’s pass defense should get a boost with the return of Chris Brown from his forearm injury.

The Cyclones are fighting off the ropes at the moment, too. Iowa State is on a two-game skid, having lost by seven to Oklahoma State and by one to Oklahoma.

Texas is 14-2 all-time in this series, but Herman was the offensive architect behind Iowa State’s 2010 win at Royal-Memorial Stadium. Nothing went right for the Horns in Ames on a cold Halloween night in 2015, either.

“You can’t play this game uptight,” Ingram said. “We’re going out there doing it for each other and just blocking out the noise. Sometimes the noise can be a distraction. If you’re out there playing uptight, then, I mean, you’re not going to be playing to your full potential.

“We’re not going to be perfect,” Ingram added. “We’re not robots. We’re humans, just like anybody else.”

Humans who want to bundle up, run the clock and get back home with a win.

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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