During Saturday’s game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in Stillwater, the Texas Longhorns wide receivers were asked to do something they’ve struggled with all season — consistently beat man coverage often enough to win the game.
Thanks to four turnovers created by the Longhorns defense and the 100-yard kickoff return touchdown by junior cornerback D’Shawn Jamison, other game factors made that a relatively low bar to clear.
And that was crucial, because Texas senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger only completed 53 percent of his passes at five yards per attempt. The offense did, however, manage to create one passing play of longer than 19 yards — a 41-yard touchdown catch by junior wide receiver Brennan Eagles early in the second quarter that tied the game at 14-14.
Normally an outside receiver, Eagles lined up in the slot on this particular play, in which he was tasked with winning a simple go route up the field. The overall concept, which included an out route from the other receiver to the field and an inside receiver to the boundary working across to the field on a deeper route, is one that Ehlinger said Texas has probably run more than 50 times since he arrived on the Forty Acres.
However, this time it had a little bit of a variation — since the Longhorns knew that the Cowboys base almost entirely out of man coverage, offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich had sophomore wide receiver Jake Smith motion inside of Eagles.
Not only did that confirm the pre-snap read for Ehlinger that Oklahoma State was indeed playing man coverage, it also forced the outside cornerback to switch onto Eagles. In this particular instance, that got Eagles a more favorable matchup against a weaker coverage corner for his go route in Missouri graduate transfer Christian Holmes.
With the play schemed up to provide Eagles as much advantage as possible, the junior did a strong job of winning with an inside release and then using the elite speed that he possesses to maintain separation down the field.
Ehlinger, in turn, had a clean pocket from which to deliver the pass and hit Eagles in stride for the game-tying touchdown. Since Oklahoma State was playing with a single deep safety, Ehlinger held him with his eyes just long enough to ensure that the safety couldn’t get over the top on the go route by Eagles.
“Depending on what we see defensively, I think he does an excellent job of game planning,” Ehlinger said of Yurcich. “But then also working in our concepts that we feel really comfortable with maybe the slight variation of a motion like on Brennan’s touchdown.”