Ingram’s intangibles ready to boost Texas offense

Freshman Keontay Ingram's intangibles could lift the Longhorns' offense to another level (photo by Jesse Drohen/Horns Illustrated).

Freshman RB Ingram's impact could have 'Horns scoring more in Red River rivalry

By Steve Habel, Senior Contributing Writer

AUSTIN, Texas — Freshmen have seemed right at home helping the Longhorns to a four-game winning streak.

Now, freshman running back Keaontay Ingram is set to be the breakthrough back hoping to vault the No. 19 Longhorns past No. 7 Oklahoma in one of college football’s top rivalries Saturday.

Ingram returned to the fold full-force in the win over Kansas State, factoring heavily in the fourth quarter. The talented frosh is already Texas’ best running back and one of its most reliable receivers ... and the sky is the limit as the Longhorns set their sights on winning the battle of top-20 teams once again.

The veteran leadership has taken notice, too, as senior tight end Andrew Beck said Ingram has become a key part of the Texas offense.

“He’s really matured since he got here, both mentally and physically,” Beck said. “Keaontay is a very intelligent, very physical back with speed that we really look for in a guy like that. It’s a lot of fun to block for him because we know he’s going to make plays, make one or two guys miss and run somebody over.” [place_ad_1]

Easing in Ingram

The plan this season for Ingram was to ease him into the starting role and expand his contribution each week as he better adjusted to the speed and intensity of the college game. Then for the talented freshman to be the Longhorns’ featured option at the position by the time October rolled around.

Those intentions were adjusted a little bit, first because Ingram, a 6-foot 205-pounder from Carthage, Texas, immediately made himself too valuable to not be on the field. It then slowed when he suffered a minor knee injury in the win over Tulsa, followed by a hip-pointer in the victory over TCU.

“Keaontay hasn't been healthy since week one, when we were not quite sure,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said. "As a true freshman, you want to kind of ease him into some things."

Through four games, Ingram has carried 34 carries for 207 yards, which has produced a team-best 6.1 yards per tote, and his 10 catches for 39 yards also leads Texas’ running backs.

Late game load

Through his first three games, Ingram is the Longhorns’ middle-of-the-game threat, sent in to provide some flash-and-dash for the UT offense.

Saturday in the Longhorns’ 19-14 win over Kansas State, Ingram took a starring role.

He tied a career high with 10 carries for a career-best 68 yards, while catching five passes for 27 yards with a good share of the freshman’s work coming at the end of the game when things were still up for grabs.

Texas ran out more than six minutes of clock to end the game and secure the win over the Wildcats. Wearing down Oklahoma is next.

The stage is set for big plays in bunches and more points as UT polishes its red-zone offense, a crucial factor for the Longhorns' showdown with the Sooners.

“Everyone can see what’s in store for Keaontay,” Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger said. “He has great potential, and I’m very excited for what he’s going to do in the future. He’s doing an excellent job with protecting the football and getting downfield.”

Crash course toward the Cotton Bowl

There are still some growing pains for Ingram, but he's getting better each week. The next step is carrying more of the load, and helping carry the Longhorns to a win against Oklahoma.

“Certainly, he's ready,” Herman said about Ingram. “There's still some things that ... every first is a first. Every new thing is a first time — every blitz, every gap exchange, where the linebackers are coming from.” [place_ad_1]

Led by graduate transfer Tre Watson, who also has the team lead in carries so far, along with contributing sophomore Daniel Young, the Texas running backs seem to have a healthy and supportive relationship in rooting for each other. All three are sure to factor in as the Longhorns try for another win over their rivals to the north, but it's Ingram's intangibles that could highlight an offensive outburst for the 'Horns.

Herman lauds Ingram’s gifts and running ability, plenty of which are natural and can’t be coached.

“Running the football requires a vision and a skill, and a bit of predictability in terms of our ability to predict based on fronts and coverages,” Herman said, "where a guy is going to fit certain things and how is my O-line is going to block certain things. Keaontay is learning.”

Fish Not Out of Water

A few freshman running backs with heavy impact in the Texas-OU rivalry

1982: Marcus Dupree
Dupree, the mercurial freshman from Philadelphia (Mississippi, that is) ran for 96 yards on just nine carries in the Sooners’ 28-22 win over Texas on 1982, including a 67-yard touchdown on a fake end-around. Dupree racked up bunches of yards and touchdowns for Oklahoma for the next year-and-a-half until, while playing against Texas in 1983, he suffered a concussion and literally just went home, never playing again at the college level.

1983: Edwin Simmons
In one of the best performances ever by a freshman in the game’s history, Simmons ran 14 times for 100 yards and two touchdowns for UT as the second-ranked Longhorns beat No. 8 Oklahoma, 28-16. It should have been the first of many big games for Simmons, but he suffered a knee injury on his first carry against Arkansas in UT’s next game and was never the same, ending up with 936 career yards in 26 all-time games

1984: Kevin Nelson
Nelson was a non-starter who rushed only four times but netted 78 yards (58 of which came on one carry) in the famous 15-15 tie between the two teams, a game considered one of the best in the series. In the unbeaten Longhorns' previous three games, Nelson had run just 10 times for 24 yards. He ended up with 404 yards that season, but eventually was moved to wide receiver in 1986 and was never an impact player.

2004: Adrian Peterson
Everyone knew the Sooners’ Peterson, who is from Palestine in East Texas, was something special; the week of the Texas-OU game he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. But few were prepared for what Peterson did against the Longhorns that afternoon, when he ran for 225 yards — video game numbers and a harbinger of things to come for Peterson, who is in the final stages of an NFL Hall of Fame career.

Steve Habel

Steve Habel is a senior contributing writer for Horns Illustrated. He has covered Texas sports since 1989 and was this magazine’s senior editor for 24 years. You can follow him on twitter @stevehabel .

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