Football

Turning the page: Longhorns moving on, reading up about the Tulsa Golden Hurricane

QB Sam Ehlinger: ‘If we want to be a great team that we still have the capacity of doing, we have to move forward’

Posted September 4th, 2018

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Story highlights
  • Texas lost the season opener last season, then bounced back to win 56-0.
  • LT Calvin Anderson: “I still have a lot of faith in what we’ll be able to do this year.”
  • No changes on the depth chart. No changes in scheme, either.

Some Longhorns may be off reading John Steinbeck, but this week feels more like a scene penned by Ray Bradbury.

Captain Beatty once used to be an enthusiastic reader, he tells Montag in “Fahrenheit 451.” Now, he’s disillusioned and ready to burn it all down.

And somewhere in exile, there’s a group of Texas fans that can relate to Granger, who believes in the phoenix and its relationship to mankind.

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Bottom line in all this book-of-the-month-club madness, Texas (0-1) needs to play better in Saturday’s home opener against Tulsa. Coach Tom Herman’s club got rocked in the season opener last season and then bounced back against San Jose State in a true page-turner. UT players believe this is a similar script.

“It’s the responsibility on the guys who consider themselves leaders to understand there is absolutely nothing we can do to change the past,” quarterback Sam Ehlinger said. “If we want to be a great team that we still have the capacity of doing, we have to move forward. That’s day in, day out with your attitude and mentality around the facility.”

Ehlinger’s roommate, defensive end Breckyn Hager, acknowledged the firestorm created by the 34-29 loss to Maryland.

“Yeah, our fans are very passionate about our team,” Hager said. “It’s good they showed us how passionate and the uproar there is. It shows me they care still, which is a great thing. But right now, we just need to keep our mouth shut, show up to DKR, and I believe you’ll get a performance by our team that will dictate the rest of our season.”

Every player that met with reporters on Tuesday understood the gravity of the loss. But they also admitted it’s best to move on. Tulsa (1-0) tallied up 470 yards in a season-opening victory over Central Arkansas.

Nothing could extinguish Tre Watson and Calvin Anderson’s excitement for Saturday. Both graduate transfers have been eager to wear burnt orange and “run out that tunnel,” Watson said.

Watson, who transferred from Cal, was on the opposing sideline at Royal-Memorial Stadium in 2015 when the Golden Bears escaped with a 45-44 win. “This is the loudest stadium I’ve ever been part of,” he said.

Watson said the Longhorns simply need to come out and play their game. “We had a really, really good camp,” he said. “We showed some of that second and their quarter, but we started off pretty slow. We’ve got to play our game and not let this distract us.”

Said Anderson, the starting left tackle from Rice: “I still have a lot of faith in what we’ll be able to do this year. Playing with these guys is awesome.”

Offensive tackle Calvin Anderson, right, looks at paperwork alongside offensive line coach Herb Hand during a Longhorns football spring practice at the Frank Denius practice fields in Austin, Texas, on Thursday, March 22, 2018. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

There were no changes on UT’s depth chart unveiled on Monday. There don’t seem to be any major schematic changes, either, at least according to the players.

If Herman was correct — that UT’s players simply came out too tight against the Terps — then there’s nothing to change against the Golden Hurricane. Other than UT’s mental approach, of course.

“It was a real interesting feeling after that game,” Hager said. “But then I stated to look around and observe my teammates’ faces and their expressions, and I saw people really, really hurt. More so than ever. The determination and reborn look in their eyes the next day was one of the most refreshing things I could have seen. It really had me feeling optimistic and excited to get better and beat Tulsa.”

In terms of removing stressors, Texas doesn’t have to lug around that national ranking anymore. The Horns, who were ranked 23rd to open the season, did not receive a single vote in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll released on Tuesday. But the Terps got a dozen votes. Last season, UT lost to Maryland in the opener, lost its No. 23 ranking and never appeared in the poll again the rest of the year.

Tulsa is the first of a three-game homestand for UT, but it won’t be easy; No. 17 USC and No. 16 TCU come calling the two following weeks. Thus, it’s imperative the Horns get back to a winning narrative this week.

“I think that every conversation you have with anyone around the facility, they’re going to take away how your mood is and how you’re affecting others,” Ehlinger said. “So in every conversation you have, you can’t take an aw-man (approach). It has to be up-tempo, positive and energetic and that’s how you respond from a loss that you should’ve had.”

Up-tempo? Positive? Energetic? Spencer Johnson couldn’t have written it better himself.

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

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