Horns need to diversify offense, protect Ehlinger better

Sam Ehlinger ran a season-high 23 times in the narrow loss to Oklahoma (photo by Don Bender / Horns Illustrated).

By Colby Gordon, Contributing Writer

Following a performance where Texas gave up nine sacks during a 34-27 loss to Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry, assessing what went wrong and bouncing back in pass protection has been a common theme as the Longhorns prepare for this week’s home game against Kansas.

“There were some times it was straight up the offensive line, and we have to get better at that stuff,” senior center Zach Shackelford said. “There were a couple one-on-one matches we lost straight up, and that can’t happen. That’s something personally we have to take on. The rest were various aspects of the offense. At the end of the day it’s the offensive line and we’ll take that, and I’ll take that as the center and we’ll move on and get better from it.”

Texas coach Tom Herman has noted that pressure and sacks of quarterback Sam Ehlinger aren’t necessary the lone fault of the offensive line, something Shackelford agreed with, but he said the offense as a whole has to be better in protection.

“There’s also some stuff we have to get more fluid and quicker at communication-wise to eliminate that from happening,” Shackelford said. “Everyone on the field can get better at that and progressions and stuff like that. It’s something we can work on.”

Texas had a tough time keep the Sooners out of the backfield as Sam Ehlinger was sacked nine times (photo by Don Bender / Horns Illustrated).

Ehlinger, who said he held onto the ball longer than he should have during most of the nine sacks he took, noted it’s his job to have the offense communicating as a unit to make sure the offensive line gets the help to prevent something like Saturday’s performance from happening the rest of the season.

“(I can be better) understanding where (the defense is) going to bring pressure and get us in the best call possible,” he said.

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Though he completed 26 of 38 passes against Oklahoma, Ehlinger didn’t have a passing touchdown although he did pick up two scores on the ground while running a season-high 23 times but only managed 47 yards on the ground. Texas rushers other than Ehlinger touched the ball 13 times, meaning between the 38 pass attempts, 23 rushes and nine sacks, the plays were Ehlinger’s to make against a tough defense.

“I need to get us in the call that is going to maximize the guys up front but also get us in a position where we can get a running back out so we don’t lose him in the pass game.”

Roschon Johnson tallied 95 yards on just eight carries and added four catches for 23 yards, and incorporating him even further into the offense could be a key the rest of the way for the Longhorns.

Roschon Johnson led Texas with 95 rushing yards (photo by Don Bender / Horns Illustrated).

Oklahoma didn’t surprise Texas with any of its defensive looks, Shackelford said, but the Sooners’ execution and athleticism were a step above what the Longhorns had seen since the LSU game.

At 4-2 through six games, Texas’ two losses both came by the narrow margin of just one touchdown and both losses left plenty of reasons to lament being so close, yet so far away.

“They have great athletes, so you have to be really solid in every aspect of being an offensive lineman when you go against great athletes,” Shackelford noted. “There’s always a couple of wrinkles here and there, but for the most part what we saw (on film) was what we got. They’re just super-athletic and they executed really well.”

Texas is back home this week, hosting Kansas Saturday at 6 p.m.

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