When Connor Williams opened up his day for the Texas Longhorns by driving West Virginia’s Reese Donahue to the turf, something shifted in the attitude of the Texas offensive line.
In the third quarter, when Texas went two plays off-tackle left for 46 yards and a score, it was clear that the Texas offense found what it was missing for the majority of the season — a calling card.
To say Williams is the difference-maker for Texas is underselling his contribution.
The offensive line looked better than it had all year, particularly during conference play — the period of time Williams missed due to injury.
In the seven games without Williams, the offensive line averaged more than four tackles for loss and two sacks per game. In his return, the offensive line kept the quarterback upright all day, while allowing just three tackles for loss against the Mountaineers.
Welcome back Connor Williams. It was nice to see you back out there today. pic.twitter.com/Y2XteSjZnP— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) November 18, 2017
With Williams back in the lineup, the entire offensive seemed to adopt his attitude and demeanor, allowing the run game to lead in a way it did not during his absence.
During his seven-game absence, the Texas managed just 112 rushing yards per game, three yards per rush and 1.9 TDs per game. Against the Mountaineers, Texas compiled 233 yards on the ground, two touchdowns and a 5.5 yard per rush average.
That success in the ground game impacted the Texas play calling and allowed the ‘Horns talented running backs to find their way.
For the first time since the Oklahoma State game, offensive coordinator Tim Beck called more running plays than passing plays, allowing the backs — and Sam Ehlinger — to get going and set the pace for the offense. Freshman running back Daniel Young led the charge with 12 carries for 85 yards and a score, while Ehlinger contributed 68 yards on nine carries. Kyle Porter chipped in 53 yards and a score of his own.
All three finished the game averaging more than seven yards per carry.
Following the win over West Virginia, Texas fans a have a lot to be optimistic about. With one game left on the schedule, Texas has secured its bowl berth, and now attempts to improve its lot in the bowl pecking order.
With Texas Tech’s struggles and the Teaxas offense’s resurgence, a 7-5 regular season is still attainable.