Football

Texas notebook: Numbers show Horns’ offensive line is making solid strides in 2018

Longhorns on pace to allow the fewest sacks since 2013

Posted October 30th, 2018

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Two-thirds of the way through this season, Texas coach Tom Herman said he’d grade his offensive line “above-average, which considering where we came from with last season’s group, I think is a drastic improvement.”

The numbers would indicate the offensive line play has been substantially better.

Texas is on pace to allow 18 sacks in 12 regular-season games. If that number holds, it would be the lowest total since Texas allowed 16 sacks in 2013. That’s way down from the 32 sacks allowed in 2015 and 2016 and 34 allowed last year.

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Texas running back Keaontay Ingram (26) runs as quarterback Shane Buechele (7) looks to block against Baylor at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Oct. 13. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

The running game numbers are better, although not terribly. Texas averaged 139.6 rushing yards per game last season. This year, with quarterback Sam Ehlinger’s running skills and running back Keaontay Ingram’s quickness, the Horns are averaging 154.

“I’m happy that we’re doing better, and I feel we’re doing better in terms of morale and stuff like that,” center Zach Shackelford said. “But at the end of the day, we want wins. We didn’t win Saturday so obviously we didn’t do enough to execute the win.”

Shackelford said first-year offensive line coach Herb Hand breaks down opposing defenses and gives players a set of rules for each play to simplify things. Starting right guard Elijah Rodriguez said Herman and Hand stress that linemen should always “strain and finish.”

That’s Hand’s favorite lingo, calling guys a “strainer.”

“Straining to the whistle,” Rodriguez said, “playing or the love of our brothers.”

Wake up ready: Defensive tackle Charles Omenihu said he was over the Oklahoma State loss by the time he woke up Monday morning. But as to why the defense starts slow each week, he wasn’t sure of the root cause.

The Texas defense has allowed the opposing team to score on its opening drive in six of UT’s eight games. Five drives ended in touchdowns, and a sixth ended with a field goal.

“You don’t go out there and be like, ‘Let’s give up 14 points and then start playing.’ That don’t make any sense,” Omenihu said. “I don’t think that’s what you need. You just need to come out and be ready to play. That’s just straight up.”

Supportive Moms: If you’ve seen left guard Patrick Vahe’s mother Patiola in the stands, she’s unmistakable.

“She’s always yelling,” Vahe said. “It could be at the refs. It could be at coach. It could be at other players, other parents. It doesn’t even matter. My dad? He just sits there and watches the game.”

Shackelford said his grandmother can be heard over everyone else. “My dad’s more like, ‘Go get ’em,” Shackelford said. “My grandma, she’s got a killer whistle. You could hear her whistle over 100,000 fans, I promise you.”

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

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