The Texas Longhorns left no doubt on Saturday in the season opener against the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks, as they took control early on in the ball game and never took their foot of the neck of the Warhawks.
The Longhorns set the tone early after D’Shawn Jamison blocked a ULM punt that was recovered and ran in for a touchdown by Keilan Robinson. From there on Texas dictated the flow of the game and flexed the muscle you would expect from a Power Five team playing a Sun Belt opponent.
I found myself trying to watch so much at one time in real time because I wanted to focus on so many individual players on each snap. With all the new names on the roster and the buzz that was produced over the offseason I wanted to see how this team looked under the bright lights with fans in the stands and opponent in a different color jersey.
This will be a weekly piece that takes place on Sundays (or at the latest Monday) and I will give some of my takeaways from what I saw during the game and after chewing through some of the snaps and highlights I am able to access via YouTube. After that I will make myself available in the comments for any discourse or questions for the next hour or so.
So if you want to talk some Texas football once the dust settles the day after the game, then pull up a chair, pour a drink, and come hang out! With that said, let’s get to my observations from the season opener.
Quinn Ewers turned in a solid performance
Figured we would start here since it was the elephant in the room going into the season. All eyes were on No. 3 from the moment he strolled into DKR on Saturday and you could tell from the first series that he was dealing with nerves. He flirted with an interception on a deep ball to Xavier Worthy after he led the safety to him by staring him down and then on the next play he tried to force a ball into very tight coverage and was picked off.
You could feel the nervous energy buzzing after the ominous start. But after a quick chat with Steve Sarkisian and a hold in the red zone by the Texas defense, Ewers was back on the field and he responded by converting a 4th and 4 and then hit tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders along the side for his first collegiate touchdown pass. From there you could see Ewers’ confidence grow and he played more under control as the game progressed. The throw of the game for me was easily the ball to Sanders up the seam in the third quarter. Ewers climbed the pocket, didn’t even have all of his cleats in the ground, and he uncorked a laser into a tight window in between the safety and the cornerback in coverage. You have to be blessed with arm talent to be able to make those kinds of throws.
Quinn Ewers displayed some of his best traits as a passer in his Texas debut.— Luca Sartirana (@SartiranaLuca) September 4, 2022
Perfect execution right here, he steps into the pocket and delivers a strike while throwing it side-arm and on one leg. His arm talent is truly elite. pic.twitter.com/oODYGGLJKo
Ewers would finish 16-of-24 passing for 225 yards and two touchdowns along with the interception early on. All in all it was a solid outing for a guy who hadn’t started a football game in over a year and I commend both Ewers and Sark for circling the wagons after the first series. I would have liked to see better results on the deep balls down the field, but that will get ironed out as the season progresses.
The defense looked good
Obviously you have to keep in mind who the opponent was on the opposite sideline, but the defense took care of business and then some. The Texas defense was very stout against the ULM rushing attack as they held the Warhawks to 92 yards rushing on 41 attempts (2.2 YPC). They attacked downhill with confidence on early downs and gave ULM runners very little breathing room all night long. The Longhorns tallied three sacks, eight TFLs, and D’Shawn Jamison took an interception back to the house, so it was a very productive night for Pete Kwiatkowski’s defense.
My game balls would go out to Jack end Barryn Sorrell and linebacker DeMarvion Overshown, as both guys were both visible and very active when they were out and it showed up in the box score. Overshown was the leading tackler for the Longhorns and notched two TFLs while Sorrell logged 1.5 sacks along with a TFL. The Longhorns badly needed guys to step up in the front seven and be able to put pressure on quarterbacks, and they definitely did that last night.
Special teams is going to be a mixed bag
On one hand you had Jamison and Keilan Robinson earning a gold star early in the game as they combined for a block punt that went the other way for a touchdown. On that same side of the ledger you had the punt return team making good, smart blocking decisions on nice return by Xavier Worthy, which is something we haven’t seen a bunch of in recent years.
On the opposite side of the spectrum punter Issac Pearson botched a hold on a field goal attempt that led to a terrible kick by Bert Auburn and on top of that he dropped a snap on a punt that almost led to a disaster.
Jeff Banks is a high-energy coach and while I am sure he was fired up about some of the results from his group on Saturday, I imagine he was less than thrilled about the kicking operation as things sit right now. Texas did add a punter just before camp in Daniel Trejo and he saw action last night, so it will be interesting to see how things shake out here.
Texas has youth everywhere
If you got a look at Texas’ depth chart just before the game, then you know this team has a ton of underclassmen in the two deep. Guys like Kelvin Banks and and Cole Hutson made their first starts last night as true freshman and they were far from the only ones that would log snaps in the game. I saw at least 15 freshman take snaps last night in Austin and that included an all-freshman offensive line group that Kyle Flood rolled out there late in the game.
Needless to say there is going to be growing pains over the course of the season, but getting the young pups experience like they did last night will pay dividends going forward.
Texas running back room is healthy and GOOD
Everyone with eyes can tell Bijan Robinson is still good at football and last night was the first game of his likely last season in Austin. Along with Robinson, we got to see a healthy Roschon Johnson after an injury scare that sidelined him for a bit during camp. Johnson is one of my favorite players on this roster so seeing him healthy and back scoring touchdowns was fantastic to see.
Bijan and Roschon will get plenty of the fanfare and for good reasons, but you still have Keilan Robinson and Jonathan Brooks in that room and they’re both talented and good enough to get carries over the course of the season. Having options like this is a good problem to have for the Texas staff, as over the course of a long season guys are likely to get dinged up at some point. Each of them will play a vital role in the offense at some point and will be called upon to make a play.
What were your takeaways and observations from last night? Fire away in the comments!