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Inside the Numbers: Sam Ehlinger’s strong starts spell success for Texas

The sophomore signal caller has put up big numbers in the opening halves of contests this season.

NCAA Football: Texas at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

It may not have been as dominant as fans may have wanted, but the Texas Longhorns did enough to beat the Kansas State Wildcats and improve to 4-1 for the first time since 2012. The Longhorns struggled offensively in the second half, putting the defense in a few tough situations, but were so good on offense in the first half they were able to hold on.

As Texas heads into its toughest game of the season, trends continue to emerge that show how Texas can be successful as they take on the Oklahoma Sooners.

Sam Ehlinger: 29-36, 207 yards, TD

Sam Ehlinger continues to do to everything the Longhorns need him to do in order to win. There were some overthrows, especially early in the game however, Ehlinger has moved past his penchant for throwing costly interceptions. Following Saturday’s game, Ehlinger has now thrown 128 pass attempts without an interception. That is the third-longest streak in school history, behind two stretches from Major Applewhite in his sophomore season.

One of the keys to Ehlinger’s success is how he starts games.

Seventy of his 207 yards against Kansas State came in the first quarter, bringing his first quarter total to 380 on the season. He is completing 69.7% of passes and carrying a 151.67 quarterback rating in the first quarter of games this season. In fact, in the first half of games this season, Ehlinger has completed 54 of his 83 attempts for 677 yards and five scores, good enough for a 153.45 rating. In all of last season, Ehlinger managed 992 yards and seven touchdowns in first halves, for a QBR of 146.62.

10 Penalties for 104 yards

For the most part, the Longhorns have been able to play relatively clean this season, but in the two games in which they have struggled the most, predictably have had the most penalties. Texas has eclipsed 100 penalty yards three times under head coach Tom Herman, in both losses to Maryland, and then Saturday against Kansas State.

It also cost Texas in a big way against Kansas State, as the Wildcats converted four first downs by penalty, two of which came on scoring drives. Senior defensive back Kris Boyd was on the receiving end of two big pass interference calls, one giving KSU a first down, another negated a holding penalty that would have given KSU a 4th and 17. After that, the Wildcats converted on 4th and 7 and scored four plays later. With the way Kansas State moved the ball in the second half, giving them additional chances definitely cost the Longhorns in the contest.

Collin Johnson: 4 receptions, 51 yards; Lil’Jordan Humphrey: 5 receptions for 50 yards

Texas’s two biggest receivers had what could be defined as modest days against the Wildcats, but their contributions to keep the game balanced for the offense cannot be understated.

All four of Johnson’s receptions were either for first downs or touchdowns, while four of five Humphrey receptions gave the Longhorns a fresh set of downs. They also forced the Wildcats to commit additional defenders to one or both of them regularly, allowing seven other players to come down with a reception.

When those two are on the field together and can string together big plays, success generally follows for Texas. The pair have had an explosive play (a reception longer than 20 yards) in nine games over the last two seasons; in those games, Texas is 6-3.

The level of offensive production from the Longhorns will be vital as they head to the Cotton Bowl, with Oklahoma averaging 523.2 yards and scoring 48.6 points per game.