Football

Third and Longhorns: A closer look at Texas’s 28-21 win over Tulsa

Posted September 9th, 2018

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Why Texas (1-1) won

Well, maybe because Tulsa just ran out of time. The Longhorns were up 21-0 toward the end of the third quarter but had to grit out the victory, that 13-play, 75-yard drive to go up 28-21 with 6:13 left ending up being a real key. Sam Ehlinger had a nice night, connecting on three long passes and doing some damage on the ground, too. The offensive line, reconfigured because of Zach Shackelford’s injury, kept Ehlinger clean without a sack. Certainly the Longhorns benefited from Tulsa’s knack for blowing scoring chances for most of the first three quarters. And if you’re into history and trends, perhaps Tulsa was doomed even before kickoff; Texas hasn’t lost to a non-Power 5 team not named Notre Dame or BYU (both independents) since the Big 12 began in 1996.

Why Tulsa (1-1) lost

Because Texas — even an 0-1 Texas that had spent the last week trying to fix various things that had gone wrong in Maryland — is still Texas. The Longhorns looked bigger, stronger, faster and more athletic. Consider this: There are 57 Texans on the Tulsa roster but the Longhorns offered a scholarship to only one of them, Tulsa’s backup quarterback. The biggest reason, though, were all those missed opportunities. Three missed field goals, all from reasonable range (a fourth miss was called back because of a penalty) and a UT goal-line stand. Luke Skipper threw a couple of interceptions before he got hot in the fourth. Bring on Arkansas State, which was crushed Saturday by Alabama.

Texas defensive back Kris Boyd (2) breaks up a pass intended for Tulsa wide receiver Justin Hobbs (29) during an NCAA college football game in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The eyes of Texas

… were on four specific players tonight — Texas left tackle Calvin Anderson, in his second UT game but needing to help settle down a reconfigured offensive line; Tulsa running back Shamari Brooks, coming off a 129-yard, two-touchdown game against Central Arkansas; Tulsa wide receiver Justin Hobbs, who scored a touchdown last week and was 229 yards away from cracking Tulsa’s top-10 all-time list for receiving yards; and Texas linebacker Gary Johnson, whose season opener was cut short by a targeting ejection that kept him out of the second half at Maryland.

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How’d they do?

Anderson: Was called for a third-quarter holding penalty that wiped out an 8-yard gain by Ingram, but otherwise kept the line intact.

Brooks: Had 22 carries for 66 yards and two touchdowns, and added a couple of catches.

Hobbs: Was targeted several times but ended up with only two grabs for 13 yards.

Johnson: Had five tackles and a quarterback hurry.

Game balls

Offense: Sam Ehlinger. The sophomore was smooth, completing 21 of his 27 attempts and showing some moves as a runner. The zone read agrees with him. He had throws of 40, 36 and 35 yards.

(Last week’s offensive game baller, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, led the team with 7 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown.)

Defense: Caden Sterns. The freshman safety made an impact on the first play of the game, going up to make a nice interception and keeping his foot in bounds. That set up Texas’ opening score. He finished with four tackles, including one for loss.

(Last week’s defensive game baller, Brandon Jones, missed the game with an ankle injury.)

Cheers

1. By all accounts, the Bevo Boulevard debut was a good one. Jimmie Vaughn rocked it, the crowd showed up and there was a buzz around the stadium in the hours before kickoff.

2. It was encouraging to see Ehlinger bounce back from his two-interception opener at Maryland. His best throw of the day didn’t get to the end zone, but did reach the 1-yard line: A nicely-placed pass to Humphrey between two defenders on UT’s first drive.

3. Ingram averaged 6.4 yards on 10 carries. Watson started, but it was Ingram who showed a combination of wiggle and power that should have Tim Beck smiling.

Jeers

1. The Golden Hurricane twice made this a one-score game in the fourth quarter, 21-14 and 28-21. The good news: That made for an exciting finish. The bad news: Texas was a 23-point favorite and had to stave off two Tulsa rallies. Texas’ motto for 2018? “Finish.”

2. Where’s the pass rush? Texas registered just one at Maryland and didn’t get any tonight.

3. More struggles for Ryan Bujcevski, who  averaged 29.2 yards on five punts despite logging a 52-yarder. That included one 24-yard effort. And one of his punts was blocked. And while there weren’t frustrating penalties like targeting or pass interference, the Longhorns followed up their 10-penalty opener with eight against Tulsa; through two games, Texas has 18 penalties for 167 yards.

Texcetera

This was Victory No. 899 for Texas all-time, and it also was Tom Herman’s 30th as a head coach. He’s now 8-7 at Texas. … The Longhorns improved to 75-17-3 in home openers at Royal-Memorial Stadium. … It was a game of firsts. Tre Watson scored his first touchdown as a Longhorn (on a pass, no less); Keaontay Ingram became the first UT freshman running back since Henry Melton to score a touchdown in his first two games; Caden Sterns and B.J. Foster recorded their first career interceptions, the first time since 1993 that two UT freshmen had picks in the same game (Chris Carter, Bryant Westbrook); and Brennan Eagles made his first career catch, a 35-yarder.

On deck

No. 17 USC (7 p.m. Saturday, Fox)

This is the premier home game of the season, and perhaps the biggest game for Texas this year save for Oklahoma. It would be a real statement win for the Longhorns, who came thiiis close to knocking off Sam Darnold’s Trojans on the road in overtime last year. USC will be coming off a 17-3 loss tonight to Stanford.

RELATED: Texas 28, Tulsa 21: Longhorns won, evened their record to 1-1, so why do things feel off?

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