Revisiting our five pregame questions that were facing the Longhorns ahead of Saturday’s 31-16 win over TCU.
Here’s how they played out:
1. Did the defense struggle without Malcolm Roach?
Surely the defense would have benefited having Roach — the junior linebacker with 11 career starts who’ll miss the next six to eight weeks with a fractured foot. But Todd Orlando must have been all smiles after the 31-16 win over the Horned Frogs, who were averaging 41.7 points and 467.7 yards a game. TCU was held to nearly 100 yards under its average. Linebacker Gary Johnson, the Big 12’s reigning defensive player of the week, led the team with 11 tackles. The secondary shined, with three interceptions and five pass breakups. Even Jeffrey McCulloch, who replaced Roach at B-backer, produced a tackle for loss. And Marqez Bimage forced a fumble.
“We went in here knowing they were going to be a good defense,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “We knew — we said that for us to win this ballgame, we were going to have to be the best defense on the field, and we weren’t.”
2. Did Sam Ehlinger avoid Shane Buechele’s 2017 fate?
Buechele, who started last year’s game in Fort Worth, was sacked seven times in the Horned Frogs’ 24-7 win. Ehlinger, who missed that game with a head injury, was sacked three times on Saturday but generally had things in control. He ran it 11 times and dropped back to pass 32 times — Buechele threw it 44 times last year. Ehlinger finished 22 of 32 for 255 yards and two touchdowns, and didn’t commit a turnover.
“He’s having a lot more confidence in his offensive line,” UT coach Tom Herman said of Ehlinger. “I think one of the big things again, again I can’t say it enough, is the continuity of offensive system. … So continuity breeds confidence and he’s playing with a lot of it right now, but a lot of it goes to the fact that his receivers are doing what they’re supposed to and then the offensive line is doing what they’re supposed to.”
3. Did Shawn Robinson get the better of Caden Sterns again?
That 2016 Class 6A Division II state championship game between Robinson’s DeSoto Eagles and Sterns’ Cibolo Steele Knights must have seemed like a long, long time ago. Robinson came out on top in that high school game, a 38-29 win for the state championship. But it was Sterns who made a key interception of Robinson late in the third quarter on Saturday, returning it 33 yards to the TCU 2-yard line to set up a touchdown. Sterns, with two picks, was one of Texas’ defensive standouts. Robinson struggled, finishing 17 of 29 for 197 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Sterns now has three picks in his first four games.
“Caden Sterns. Hell of a football player,” Herman said. “Hell of a football player.”
4. What did Cameron Dicker do for an encore?
He made one field goal and missed two others.
Nicknamed “Dicker the Kicker,” the freshman from Lake Travis was being called “Dicker the Misser” at one point Saturday in the press box. He nailed two 46-yard field goals in last week’s big win over USC but missed from 42 and 43 yards against TCU. And one of his kickoffs ended up out of bounds, giving the Horned Frogs the ball at their own 35. He kicked a 36-yard field goal in the second quarter.
Herman was asked about Dicker’s misses.
“One of them was a pretty far one that the wind was blowing significantly and had just missed,” Herman said. “The other one we got to do a better job of having our composure because of some of these new rules about speeding the pace of play up, in the NCAA that clock is winding, and we were out there too much complaining about a call on third down that we got out there kind of late, and I’m sure no kicker wants to be rushed. But he’ll bounce back. We have the utmost confidence in him.”
5. Did Texas match last week’s crowd?
But figuratively, yes.
Saturday’s crowd was 95,124 — obviously down from last week’s school-record crowd of 103,507 that had Royal-Memorial Stadium buzzing against USC. The crowd made such an impact that it was the first thing referenced in Tom Herman’s post-game press conference last Saturday and then again in his weekly media availability this Monday. It took awhile on Saturday for the crowd to get into it, but the energy was there on TCU’s third-and-16 play on Texas’ 37 in the second quarter (the Frogs threw an incompletion) and on no-calls on apparent pass interference plays against Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey. When Texas got rolling toward the end of the third quarter, the crowd stayed at a high level throughout the fourth.