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Texas Longhorns Are Amazing!
Five Questions: Baylor
By Steve Habel
Senior Contributing Writer
What has happened to the Texas offense?
For the second game in a row, Texas head coach Tom Herman and offensive coordinator Tim Beck’s offense has been sorely lacking in production, but the performance at Baylor raises red flags anew.
The Longhorns never made it past the Baylor 30-yard line until the final drive of the game, which resulted in a mop-up-time 4-yard touchdown run by Daniel Young.
Yes, Texas managed 391 yards of total offense (the exact same total as Baylor) and had 21 first downs. But the majority of quarterback Sam Ehlinger’s work was on check-down passes and either designed quarterback runs or flat-out scrambles as he tried to avoid the Bears’ defense rush.
Herman said that his team’s lack of a running game stymied the offense and made it too predictable.
“They're dropping eight in coverage and can get a really good pass rush with those three defensive linemen, which makes it difficult for the quarterback,” Herman said. “Sam stuck to the game plan, threw a bunch of check-downs because of how deep they were dropping, and he took off and tried to run at times.
“If you can't get the run game going, that's really difficult against a defense like that.”
Even the Longhorns’ final rushing numbers (191 yards) were skewed because 68 of them came on one play, Keaontay Ingram’s run on the next-to-last snap of the first half that led to Cameron Dicker’s 48-yard field goal, and Ehlinger finished with 79 yards on 19 carries, most of them desperation runs to get out of trouble.
Is Ehlinger pressing?
Yes — mightily, it seems.
Once one of the most ballyhooed quarterbacks in the nation — remember back in September when polls showed him in the same conversation with LSU’s Joe Burrow for a chance at the Heisman Trophy? — Ehlinger has hit the wall, basically because teams are forcing the Longhorns’ other players to beat them … and those guys just aren’t.
Ehlinger passed for just 200 yards against Baylor, continuing a trend of finishing with fewer than 300 yards, which he has done in four of the past six games. UT’s longest gain through the air Saturday was for 29 yards.
“I don’t know,” Ehlinger said when asked about the ineptitude of the Texas offense. “If I knew I would fix it. It is very frustrating — very frustrating.”
Yes, Ehlinger has been working without wideout Collin Johnson for the past two contests and was without Ingram, Texas’ main rushing threat, for the second half against Baylor. But there should be plenty of players behind those injured starters to pick up the slack.
“It always hurts to lose a talent like Colin,” Ehlinger said, “and so it's tough not having him on the field. But at the University of Texas, you have guys that can compete and play well at the college level, so it’s a ‘next man up’ mentality.”
Is there a disconnect between the Texas coaches and players?
We asked that very question directly to Longhorns defensive end Malcolm Roach and safety Brandon Jones after the loss to the Bears, and both came back with emotional responses.
“Nah, I have to say,” Roach said. “Everybody comes in, works hard and we just try to find a way to get the job done on Saturday.
“We’ve got guys that do show that emotion,” Roach added, a little teary-eyed. “There are guys in that locker room right now that's hurting more than me. Every Saturday we step on that field (and) play with that emotion. Everybody in the locker room is hurting from this, because we've been together for so long and we do so much together.”
Jones confirmed that Herman has not lost the locker room.
“I don't think there's a disconnect whatsoever,” Jones said. “We've always had the same goal in mind. This team is going through adversity. We've never, not one time, had a doubt about any player coach or anything. We have found a way to come closer, closer together. The other thing we just do a really good job of, you know, finding some positive out of every situation and coming together stronger.
Herman said he has not lost the team.
“They’re not quitters,” Herman said. “Will there be some? Probably. Maybe a few will throw in the towel. I can't imagine. These guys, they're embarrassed. They want to play to their standard. There's no way that they're going to check it in.”
After each loss, the Texas coaches and players say that they’re making mistakes that are correctable, but those issues are not being corrected. Why is that still a problem after 11 games?
The Longhorns sometimes are so busy trying to make things happen that they forget the fundamentals. That’s a glaring weakness for a group that should have been on the same page — heck, every page — together in what had to be considered a do-or-die game for Texas.
“From a defensive perspective, guys get a little antsy at times,” Jones said. “I don't blame them. At the end of the day, we want to be able to make plays, make stops, and we're taught to go full speed all the time. Sometimes, you know, it seems that the offenses we are playing against see that and they kind of take advantage of it. Those are things that we can fix.”
Ehlinger showed some real emotion, as well, when asked about the uncorrected mistakes.
“There's a lot of emotions,” he said. “I certainly didn’t expect (the season) to be this way. I have full trust love and confidence in every single coach because they're at the University of Texas.”
What’s next for the Longhorns?
Texas is now 6-5 overall and 4-4 in Big 12 play, and is all but playing out the string. The Longhorns finish the regular season at home against Texas Tech (4-7 overall, 2-6 in Big 12 play) on Black Friday and then will await an invitation one of the lower-tier bowls that is affiliated with the conference.
So get ready to pack your bags for either Houston (the Texas Bowl) or Orlando (the Camping World Bowl). That doesn’t have the same nice ring to it as the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, does it?
“I told our team that we've got one game left in DKR for these seniors,” Herman said. “I'll be damned if any of us throw in the towel, because those guys deserve much more. For everything they've done for this program since we've gotten here, they deserve and have earned the right to have a very memorable Senior Day.”
That will be a nice home ending for the teams’ elder statesmen. But it’s far cry from the victory lap that was expected from the Longhorns, who began the season ranked in the top 10 just a few months ago.
What Starts Here Changes the World
Last Sunday, Brandon Jones was nominated by the Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation as one of the nine semifinalists for the 16th annual Lott IMPACT Trophy.
BRANDON JONES, Texas (6-4), DB, Sr.: 70 tackles (leads team), 4.5 for losses, 2 interceptions, fumble recovery, 4 passes broken up… 217 career tackles, 70 tackles in 2018, high school All-American.
Team captain… Semifinalist for Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year (leadership on and off the field) … Participates in team community activities and has established a relationship with a young cancer patient… Physical culture and sports management major
25 Longhorns Football players currently playing in the NFL
Calvin Anderson, OT – Denver Broncos
Andrew Beck, TE – Denver Broncos
Kris Boyd, DB – Minnesota Vikings
Malcom Brown, DT – New Orleans Saints
Malcolm Brown, RB – Los Angeles Rams
Michael Dickson, P – Seattle Seahawks
Quandre Diggs, DB – Seattle Seahawks
Deshon Elliott, DB – Baltimore Ravens
Poona Ford, DT – Seattle Seahawks
Marquise Goodwin, WR – San Francisco 49ers
Jordan Hicks, LB – Arizona Cardinals
Holton Hill, DB – Minnesota Vikings
Trey Hopkins, OL – Cincinnati Bengals
Lil'Jordan Humphrey, WR – New Orleans Saints
Marcus Johnson, WR – Indianapolis Colts
Colt McCoy, QB – Washington Redskins
Alex Okafor, LB – Kansas City Chiefs
Charles Omenihu, DL – Houston Texans
Adrian Phillips, DB – Los Angeles Chargers
Hassan Ridgeway, DT – Philadelphia Eagles
Geoff Swaim, TE – Jacksonville Jaguars
Earl Thomas, S – Baltimore Ravens
Justin Tucker, K – Baltimore Ravens
Kenny Vaccaro, S – Tennessee Titans
Connor Williams, G – Dallas Cowboys
Longhorn Jackson Jeffcoat (2010-13) playing for a championship in Canada
Sam Ehlinger and Devin Duvernay both named semifinalists for the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award
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