With incumbent starting quarterback Shane Buechele sidelined for the Texas Longhorns Week 2 meeting with San Jose State due to a bruised shoulder, Sam Ehlinger made his collegiate debut in just the second game of his freshman season.
It wasn’t quite the fairy tail first start Buechele launched his Longhorn career with a year ago with an instant classic victory over then No. 10 Notre Dame, but it was certainly a showing that should leave Texas coaches confident in the depth and competency inside the quarterback room.
As Tom Herman said during his post game press conference, "Sam played good for that being his first collegiate start."
Elingher with the big throw. pic.twitter.com/0Inm4hR4pQ— Rocky Osborn (@rockyknowsbest) September 9, 2017
By the end of the afternoon, Ehlinger completed 15-of-27 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown, and the performance was actually a bit more efficient than the raw numbers will reveal. Not surprisingly, Ehlinger badly missed the target on his first three attempts, and as the game progressed and he found a rhythm, the Texas receivers dropped four passes that could have easily turned into another 100 yards on the stat sheet. More notably, Ehlinger utilized his legs to the tune of 48 yards on seven carries, keeping three drives alive by putting his dual-threat label on display.
Pair that with a Texas rushing attack that had its way with San Jose State’s defense and the Longhorns totaled 623 yards of offense in Ehlinger’s debut. All things considered, it was a considerably noteworthy showing for a unit led by a backup quarterback.
But at this point in his young collegiate career, Ehlinger is just that — the backup quarterback.
Not surprisingly, though, Herman was asked following the Longhorns 56-0 win if he had a decision to make regarding his starting quarterback, although his response was formulated around the uncertainty of Buechele’s health.
"I don't know. I think it would be premature of me to say that today,” Herman said. “We've got to see how healthy [Buechele] can be. He played pretty good against a really good team in Maryland. We know we've got a capable one in Sam.”
For now, the latter is plenty considering the depth and uncertainty that’s shrouded Texas’ quarterback room since Herman’s arrival.
Buechele spent his freshman campaign battling various minor injuries and as his health faltered down the stretch, so too did the Longhorns. The sophomore opened the 2017 season enduring much of the same and although a healthy Buechele is clearly the top option, his bruised shoulder paved the way for some much-needed peace of mind at quarterback.
With a daunting five-game stretch ahead of the ‘Horns beginning with No. 6 USC and the Sam Darnold-led Trojans next weekend, having a healthy Buechele would be ideal. But as we’ve learned throughout the early portion of his career, Buechele’s health isn’t always ideal.
Should that prove to be the case next weekend in Southern California and going forward, at least Texas has some much-needed assurance that the next man up is a capable and competent field general.
Such security wasn’t yet in place on Saturday morning.