First things first: Despite the loss, that was one hell of a game, and it validated an entire week of tremendous hype. But, on the big stage, Texas did lose, as a late 61-yard touchdown strike from Joe Burrow to Justin Jefferson on 3rd and 17 sealed the win for LSU.
I’ll have some more in-depth thoughts on a few of these tomorrow, but here’s a few initial thoughts from the Longhorns’ loss.
- Missed opportunities cost Texas this game. In what ended as a seven-point loss, the Longhorns left at least 14 points on the field. Obviously, Keaontay Ingram dropping a wide-open would-be touchdown to potentially take a 7-3 lead comes to mind, and then Texas had two chances to score from the half-yard line on the following drive and didn’t. On the play that essentially sealed the win, Texas had LSU facing a 3rd and 17, and instead of making a key stop in a six-point game, allowed a 61-yard score. Even then, after responding with a touchdown of its own, Texas nearly executed the on-side kick, but Collin Johnson couldn’t secure the recovery. These were just a few of the several plays Texas will wish it had back.
- Roschon Johnson may actually be a good running back. I have no clue what to expect here long-term, but Roschon Johnson looks quite comfortable at running back. When Ingram was struggling to make a difference, and actually out-rushed Ingram, 32-29 on three fewer carries. He runs with effort, burst, shiftiness, and for now, that’s enough. He also added three receptions for 17 yards. He’s still extremely new to a position that he may ultimately remain at long-term.
- Devin Duvernay appears to be Texas’ new star in the slot. Last season, Lil’Jordan Humphrey became Sam Ehlinger’s safety blanket and thus, a star in the slot. It appears Duvernay is doing the same. He led the Longhorns with a career-high nine receptions last week, and quite easily bested that tonight 12 catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns, including a 44-yard catch and run score on 4th and 2 that kept Texas alive late. He’s a YAC machine and kept several plays alive through sheer power and will. Expect Ehlinger to continue looking his way.
- Similarly, Brennan Eagles is legit and coming into his own as a difference-maker. After hauling in a pair of touchdown passes last week, Eagles impressed even more against an LSU secondary that is, by all credible accounts, elite. He recorded his first 100-yard game (116) on five receptions, made a couple remarkable catches, and broke free for Texas’ first 50-yard play since 2017 to put the first points on the board. I’d be extremely surprised if he doesn’t start next week and continue to impress going forward.
- Texas’ has some things to figure out in the secondary. But before that, for two programs that talked quite a bit about the real DBU, each secondary sacrificing 400-plus yards was a bit ironic. Of the two secondaries, Texas allowed more yards (471-to-409) and much of that was because of Jalen Green, who has largely been impressive throughout the spring, fall, and during the opener, getting humbled, so to speak, by Ja’Marr Chase, who finished with 147 yards. Texas still doesn’t have a solid answer at the other corner, as Kobe Boyce allowed several big plays and Anthony Cook allowed some first-down pickups in his place. All told, three LSU receivers finished with 120-plus yards (Jefferson’s 163, Chase’s 147, and Terrace Marshall Jr.’s 123). Yes, the cornerback play needs to improve, but allowing that kind of productivity speaks to Texas’ struggles in the secondary as a whole. Sure, LSU’s passing game is very much legit and proved that tonight, but Texas needs to figure some things out in the back end because it’s going to see several more explosive passing offenses throughout Big 12 play. It would also help if the Longhorns established a respectable pass-rush on a consistent basis where quarterbacks aren’t allowed so much time to set up shop.
- The Longhorns offense should prove to be an elite unit. Basically down to its only healthy running back, who happened to struggle quite mightily, Texas’ offense managed only 178 yards in the first half, but flashed the kind of potential it possesses in the second. By the end of the evening, Texas totaled 530 yards of offense, produced 38 points, and again, left as many as 14 more points on the field behind two failed fourth-down attempts. And this was against an LSU defense that is absolutely loaded with talent at each level and was probably the best Texas has seen since Tom Herman arrived. If Texas can remain consistent and Ehlinger can continue to develop chemistry with Eagles, Duvernay, and Jake Smith, the Horns are going to score a lot of points this season.
- Sam Cosmi deserves some love. As if it weren’t already clear, Cosmi is a star in the making at left tackle. I obviously haven’t re-watched the film yet, but it seemed like on each play that I was able to notice, he was having his way with K’Lavon Chaisson, who did plenty of talking this week before essentially having no impact as a pass-rusher because of Cosmi. Chaisson did finish with one sack, but that didn’t come against Cosmi, and it came when LSU rushed six to Texas’ five on an empty backfield. It’s probably safe to say Ehlinger feels safe with Cosmi covering his blind side.
- Breathe; the season isn’t over. Texas lost a game that it just as easily could have won, but LSU proved tonight that it is, indeed, very damn good. The Tigers will be top five next week, if not top three after this performance, and Texas was a few mistakes away from beating that team. More notably, this kind of loss will provide plenty of learning opportunities. As Tom Herman said post-game, “This is Game 2 of a marathon.”
Again, I’ll dive into a few of these a bit more tomorrow after I re-watch the film, but all-in-all, this was the kind of loss I think Texas as a team will get better from, and it could be a sign of a few things to come from key players.