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Quinn Ewers proved he’s that dude in return against Oklahoma

The unflappable demeanor and playmaking ability of the redshirt freshman illustrated how Ewers is quickly turning potential into production.

NCAA Football: Texas at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday afternoon, Quinn Ewers was exactly where he’d always wanted to be — celebrating a momentous win over the Oklahoma Sooners with Texas Longhorns fans in the stands of the Cotton Bowl.

“To finally play in this game is really exciting for me and I know all these guys are pretty excited,” Ewers said. “Growing up a fan, I always wanted to play in this one, so it’s pretty special.”

The lifetime Texas fan took a notable detour to Columbus last season after re-classifying to the 2021 recruiting class before committing to the Longhorns for a second time. And in his second full game at Texas, Ewers put on full display the ability that made him the No. 1 prospect and a recruit with a perfect rating from 247Sports even after skipping his senior season of high school.

In going 21-of-31 passing for 289 yards and four touchdowns, Ewers not only announced his emphatic return from the shoulder injury he suffered against Alabama that caused him to miss three games, he also strikingly declared that his red-hot start against the Crimson Tide wasn’t a fluke. For Ewers the potential is already turning into production.

By the third quarter, the processing speed and accuracy of Ewers made his incomplete pass intended for an open Jordan Whittington in the end zone registered as almost shocking just before the worst play of the game from Ewers resulted in an interception as he tried to throw the ball away under pressure. Even the growing pains showed the small margins of his errors — marginal inaccuracy on one throw and the right decision to throw the ball away simply executed the wrong way.

“He’s trying to throw the ball away and he just didn’t get it out of bounds, so I can’t fault him for that — human error is human error. I get it,” Sarkisian said on Monday.

Most of all, Ewers made a variety of throws look easy with his effortless delivery and ability to change speeds to suit the throw. There was the gorgeous touch pass over a linebacker and in front of a safety for a 24-yard touchdown to sophomore tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders. There was the third-down conversion to junior running back Bijan Robinson, putting the ball into a small window despite throwing on the run moving left.

When the play situation called for making off-platform throws, like a run-pass option throw to junior running back Keilan Robinson in the flat against the blitz or a glance route to sophomore wide receiver Xavier Worthy for a 10-yard touchdown, Ewers delivered.

When the play situation required more traditional mechanics from platform, Ewers didn’t just rely on his arm talent, like gathering his feet after rolling right out of the pocket to deliver a frozen-rope strike to Whittington for a 22-yard gain.

And then there were plays that look simple initially but require pinpoint execution — carrying out a play fake on a throwback running back screen to senior running back Roschon Johnson, Ewers was able to turn sharply and deliver a pass with accuracy and timing to enable the 38-yard gain.

“When he throws the ball, the feel of the pass comes naturally to him,” Sarkisian said. “It doesn’t feel like it’s a game plan thing or it’s robotic, like he did something in training with his quarterback coach, he’s just dropping back, feeling the coverage, feeling our route, and he’s throwing the ball and he throws people open.”

It wasn’t just what Ewers did on Saturday in one of the sport’s premiere rivalry games, it was how he did it — calm, cool, and collected, something that Sarkisian called “relatively unique.” Even the touchdown pass to Sanders, the type that will end up on his highlight tape in NFL Draft preparation and made scouts drool, failed to elicit any discernible reaction from the Texas quarterback.

“For a guy that’s only played about nine quarters, he’s very calm,” Sarkisian said. “I don’t ever feel like the moment’s too big for him and he’s been in some pretty big moments already in his career with Alabama, here with the Red River game. He just seems very calm, very clear-minded. There’s not a lot of clutter up there — he’s just he knows what he’s being asked to do and he tries to operate it at a high level.”

The clear-mindedness of Ewers allows him to accept coaching in the moment and immediately work to fix his mistakes.

“Then when there are mistakes, some of which you guys don’t see, but we’re coaching him hard on that — maybe there’s an error here, misread there, poor decision — he’s very coachable in game. It’s not like he doesn’t understand what happened or it’s not like he’s defiant and doesn’t want to do it right. He’s very clear-minded, he’s very coachable, and he tries to do it right the next time. As a coach, that’s that’s about all you can ask for.”

Throw the natural ability, clear-mindedness, and coachability together and Ewers already looks every bit the player he was expected to be coming out of high school in one of the most consequential developments for the Texas football program since Colt McCoy so capably replaced Vince Young.