Football

Texas finds mixed results in the backfield as Tre Watson, Keaontay Ingram make their debuts

Posted September 1st, 2018

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LANDOVER, Md. — Texas provided some answers about its running game in Saturday’s 34-29 season-opening loss to Maryland. Enough questions still remain, though.

Texas ran 36 times for 142 yards and two touchdowns. That yardage would have stood as the fifth-best performance of a 2017 season that saw the Longhorns rank 95th nationally in rushing. On the other hand, Texas matched the production of Maryland’s ground game (143 yards, two touchdowns on 46 carries).

“As a whole, to be honest, the run game is always going to be there for us,” senior left guard Patrick Vahe said. “It’s something that we’re always going to look at as our basic.”

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Still looking for an heir to D’Onta Foreman, Texas has seven running backs on scholarship. Four of those got carries on Saturday. Graduate transfer Tre Watson led UT with 52 rushing yards, while junior Kyle Porter and freshman Keaontay Ingram both scored.

Watson opened UT’s fall camp in a non-contact jersey as he continued his recovery from a knee injury that ended his 2017 season at Cal. He appeared healthy on Saturday and was given a team-high 12 carries, the longest of which covered 10 yards. A lost fumble by Watson, however, was sandwiched by two Sam Ehlinger interceptions during a turnover-laden fourth quarter.

Texas running back Kyle Porter (21) runs into the end zone at FedEx Field, in Landover, Md., on Sept. 1 , 2018. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Ingram averaged 6.2 yards over the first six carries of his collegiate career. The four-star recruit from Carthage also had a 3-yard catch. He scored on a 5-yard run to pull UT within 24-14 with 6:51 left in the second quarter, but he never touched the football after halftime.

In the third and fourth quarters, all 11 of the carries recorded by UT running backs were given to Watson, Porter and sophomore Daniel Young.

“We thought Tre was running really well, so we went with the hot hand,” Texas coach Tom Herman said. “It was a tight ball game and (Imgram is a) true freshman, and I felt like the fifth-year senior who was playing well at the time was the right guy to have in there.”

The touchdown run by Ingram capped UT’s most effective possession on the ground. After Maryland receiver Jeshaun Jones threw a 20-yard touchdown pass — which capped a hat trick of rushing, receiving and passing touchdowns for the true freshman — Texas turned to a no-huddle offense. The Longhorns drove 69 yards in 95 seconds, running the football on five of their six snaps.

Ehlinger said Texas “found what we’ve been doing for the past two months in camp” during that up-tempo attack. Tight end Andrew Beck pointed to that drive as a positive moment in the loss.

“The only reason why we liked it was only because of the outcome of that drive,” Vahe said. “Tempo is really our biggest fan right there, so we’ve just got to make sure that we utilize it as best as possible.”

Ehlinger, who led the team in rushing last year, ran for 30 yards on seven carries. Freshman D’Shawn Jamison lost six yards on two touches. The next test for UT’s running game will come next week against Tulsa, which gave up 265.0 rushing yards per game in 2017.

“As the game progressed, we ran the ball pretty well. I think our up-tempo was well-executed today,” Beck said. “Obviously, there’s things to improve but I think that’s a good place to start for us.”

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