On Saturday, the Texas Longhorns completed the team’s second scrimmage of preseason camp, with head coach Tom Herman declaring the defense the winner during his post-practice media availability.
The offense led for most of the scrimmage, with Herman even declaring to strength and conditioning coach Yancy McKnight that it was over. However, at the end of a two-minute drill, the defense scored two points with a sack and then stopped the offense on the subsequent play, earning three more points.
With the score tied, the ball was placed at the two-and-a half yard line and junior safety DeShon Elliott came up with the stop to win the scrimmage for the defense.
“It was good to rally back from when I thought it was basically over at that point,” Herman said.
Herman wasn’t particularly surprised about the results after the defense won its second scrimmage in two tries.
“Our defense is really hard to prepare for, it's really difficult,” Herman said. “We had one of the best offenses in the country for two years at Houston, probably in spring and summer only won a couple of scrimmages against our defense. So our defense is difficult to prepare for.”
Red-zone defense has been a point of emphasis since the defense struggled in that area during the spring, as well as increasing the level of hustle and physicality.
“These guys, so much more so than in the spring, they're running and hitting... And they're running around and hitting people with energy and enthusiasm, so they gave us everything they had today,” Herman said.
The head coach noted that the team was far from 100 percent after two tough weeks of practice, but appreciated the effort given by his team.
On Monday, Herman said that freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger was the offensive MVP for the day.
“Sam (Ehlinger) had a good week, he said. “Sam made some strides and will continue to get reps with the ones. He was the one in the last two-minute drive that was the quarterback with the ones and led them down to the four-yard line. We didn't punch it in, but he has made a lot of strides in the last four, five practices.”
So Ehlinger has made progress in his competition with incumbent sophomore Shane Buechele and could even remain in contention for the starting job past the end of this week, when Herman has long planned on officially naming a starter.
On the defensive side of the ball, senior nose tackle Poona Ford earned MVP honors — Herman said that he only knows one speed. Often playing further outside as a four technique last season, Ford has the third-highest run stop percentage among all returning interior linemen.
According to junior left tackle Connor Williams, Ford has also gotten stronger since last season, leaving him poised to fulfill on his preseason All-Conference selection.
In total, the first team ran about 50 snaps, with 53 for the second team, in addition to what Herman estimated as around 12 special teams snaps. The head coach also moved the kickoff time back to simulate the opener against Maryland on September 2, which has an 11 a.m. CT start.
Installation is now complete on both sides of the ball as the staff prepares for the final week of preseason camp before preparation begins for Maryland next Monday. In an effort to force the team to adapt to some changes, Herman is having the team practice at Whitaker Fields all week.
The goals? Continue to gain competency on both sides of the ball, while staying healthy and ramping back the level of hitting and physicality that has been a defining element of the first two weeks of practice.