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Texas blows out Louisiana-Monroe, 52-10, in strong season opener

The Longhorns scored first less than two minutes into the game and never looked back against the Warhawks.

NCAA Football: UL Monroe at Texas Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

AUSTIN, Texas — The start of the 2022 season for the Texas Longhorns more than went to plan in a 52-10 win over the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks on Saturday at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian told his team before the game that if the Longhorns won the coin toss, they would defer to the second half, the defense would get a three and out, and, if they got the punt protection look they thought they would, they would block the punt.

Check. Check. Check.

The Texas defense immediately benefitted from a delay of game, a tackle for loss on a running play, and a tackle for loss on a scramble by Louisiana-Monroe quarterback Chandler Jones before forcing a three and out when freshman nickel back Jaylon Guilbeau broke up the pass on third down.

On the punt by the Warhawks, the explosiveness on special teams that Sarkisian publicly touted on Monday showed up as multiple players crashed through the protection by the Warhawks with senior cornerback D’Shawn Jamison blocking the punt and junior running back Keilan Robinson recovering it and scoring from 12 yards out. So moving Jamison off punt return paid immediate dividends for special teams coordinator Jeff Banks and the Longhorns in taking the 7-0 lead with 13:12 remaining in the first quarter.

Other than an interception by redshirt freshman quarterback Quinn Ewers on his second collegiate pass — a poor decision to throw across his body while scrambling on a third down — the Longhorns accomplished most of the objectives set for Saturday.

The team created an early margin, held onto it, largely executed well, got backup players into the game, and stayed healthy with next Saturday’s tilt against No. 1 Alabama looming large in the program’s windshield.

Known for an even-keeled nature, Ewers bounced back from the early interception and finished 16-of-24 passing for 225 yards and two touchdowns, connecting early and often with sophomore tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders, already a favored target thanks to the big frame and steady hands of the former consensus five-star prospect. Sanders caught the first collegiate completion from Ewers to convert a fourth down and then scored the first collegiate touchdown scored by Ewers, a 19-yard reception wide open down the right sideline late in the first quarter.

Sanders finished as the team’s leading receiver with six catches for 85 yards, including an impressive 25-yard catch down the seam on the first drive of the third quarter that led to a 16-yard touchdown run by junior running back Bijan Robinson.

That second possession culminated by the Sanders touchdown reception was the first score in a stretch of four touchdowns, a field goal, and a missed field goal stretching into the mid-third quarter, by which point Texas led 38-3 and the game was over for all intents and purposes.

With the offense fueled largely by the short passing game as Ewers struggled to hit shot plays to sophomore wide receiver Xavier Worthy, who was open on multiple post routes and in the end zone on one play when Ewers was crossed up in the call, Robinson didn’t have to carry a large load in the running game. The potential Heisman candidate did, however, make the most of his touches, carrying the ball 10 times for 71 yards and a touchdown, making multiple impressive cuts in small spaces, and adding three catches for 40 yards and the touchdown.

The Texas defense largely played well, avoiding conceding a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter, despite rotating frequently early in the game. The Horns produced eight tackles for loss and three sacks, taking advantage of a Warharks offensive line that head coach Terry Bowden was worried about entering the game.

Senior linebacker DeMarvion Overshown had two tackles for loss and ranged sideline to sideline when he was on the field in an impressive performance that also featured him on the edge in pass-rushing situations. Sophomore Jack end Barryn Sorrell, who Overshown said was motivated by Texas pursuing other edge rushers during the offseason, recorded the first two sacks of his career, providing some bite to a pass rush that was moribund last season.

The true splash play defensively, though, was a 69-yard interception return by Jamison, who created buzz during preseason camp with his playmaking ability. Overshown noted Jamison’s propensity for being in the right place at the right time and it paid off midway through the third quarter when Jamison caught a tipped pass, received a hustle block from Guilbeau, and dove into the end zone.

Texas returns to Campbell-Williams Field next Saturday at 11 p.m. Central to face No. 1 Alabama.