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Quick thoughts from No. 14 Texas’ 59-3 win over UTEP

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The Sam Ehlinger-led Longhorns offense looked crisp early on, getting everyone involved as Texas works to replace key contributors.

NCAA Football: Texas El Paso at Texas Austin American-Statesman-USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Texas Longhorns’ 2020 campaign officially got underway on Saturday evening with the UTEP Miners in town, and it was expected that Texas would cruise to a comfortable win.

Of course, Texas did exactly that, overwhelming UTEP to the tune of a 59-3 win.

Here are a few quick thoughts from Texas’ season-opening win.

  • Sam Ehlinger’s Heisman campaign is off to a notable start. When your first pass of the season goes for 78 yards and a score, that’s probably a sign of good things to come. It certainly was for Ehlinger, whose 429 first-half passing yards and five passing scores were both career highs and school records. Thanks to that efficient 24-of-32 effort, Ehlinger saw only one brief series in the second half before enjoying the rest of the blowout win as a spectator. Ehlinger finished the evening 25-of-33 for 426 yards and added 12 rushing yards on three attempts.
  • Mike Yurcich’s offense looks the part. Sure, it was against a less-than-great UTEP defense, but for a season-opener, the Longhorns’ offense looked crisp with Yurcich calling plays. Of course, it helps when a Heisman candidate quarterback is orchestrating the offense, but beyond that luxury, there was diversity in the play-calling and formations Texas featured. The ball was being spread around to any and everyone who wanted it, including walk-on receiver Kai Money, and receivers were often being schemed open, as opposed to Texas simply relying upon superior athletes to make plays, though that did happen. The Texas offense finished the first half with 522 yards and averaged 11.1 yards per play. Overall, even with backups running the show in the second half, Yurcich’s offense capped the night with 690 yards, which is good for the third-most in school history, and eight touchdowns
  • Josh Thompson’s presence was felt. Throughout his first three seasons in Austin, Thompson made just three starts, but he earned the starting nod at corner entering 2020 and displayed why on Saturday. His speed was on full display as he ran step-for-step and smothered receivers in coverage. He recorded an early interception and made a few impressive stops around the line of scrimmage. Now, Texas will just need Thompson, who left the game early in the second half after receiving stitches, to maintain this level of play as the level of competition increases.
  • Tarik Black should be a factor. That much was expected entering the season, but the Michigan grad transfer quickly became one of Ehlinger’s favorite targets, hauling in five receptions for 80 yards and a score. More notably, Black flashed his burst and shiftiness to make several plays in space to pick up additional yards, including a 33-yard catch and run that was purely effort and raw talent before a careless fumble at the end. As Ehlinger spread the ball around really well, but with so much inexperience throughout the Texas’ receiver room, there’s good reason to expect Black to become one of the Longhorns’ top receivers this season.
  • The offense line appears to need some work. More specifically, the right side of the line manned by Denzel Okafor (RG) and Christian Jones (RT). A re-watch will provide a bit of extra clarity, but it seemed like UTEP was getting penetration on that side of the line fairly regularly, and the Longhorns seemed to struggle trying to create any push when rushing to that side.
  • Texas’ four-man front produced impressive results. When Chris Ash replaced Todd Orlando as Texas’ defensive coordinator, he replaced Orlando’s three-man front with a four-man front, and for good reason after Texas often struggled in the trenches last season. That wasn’t the case on Saturday, with Texas limiting UTEP to only 53 rushing yards and 1.7 yards per carry. Texas has some big, talented bodies up there and at least on the surface considering the competition, the defensive line should become a strength for this team.