This will be a weekly column throughout the season as I’ll categorize takeaways from each game into the good, bad, and expected for UT football standards.
On Saturday evening, the Texas Longhorns’ season got underway with a convincing 45-14 win over an overmatched Louisiana Tech squad.
Overall, this was a very encouraging performance from Texas that generated a lot of positive takeaways. They managed to put together a complete four-quarter game and played a lot of clean, efficient football as a collective unit to start the season. That’s something that’s been missing around Austin during non-conference play in past years.
It’s been awhile since Texas took care of business like this against an inferior non-conference opponent, so this is a rather positive step towards building up this program. Seriously though, it feels as if it’s been a decade since this program handily won a game like that.
As Texas was able to extend their marginal lead, it was encouraging to see the second team offense and defense get the majority of those fourth quarter reps. The coaching staff was on top of rotations and did a great job at utilizing different players in different types of game situations. It turned out to be valuable experience for a lot of guys.
Duvernay’s effectiveness from the slot WR position
Making his debut as the HWR in Tim Beck’s offense, the senior made an instant impact as the go-to receiver for quarterback Sam Ehlinger. He easily surpassed his UT career-high for touches in a game with 11 against Louisiana Tech.
The offense found constant success early in downs with some quick-hitting bubble screens to Duvernay on the outside. It seemed like Texas gained an automatic 5-6 yards every time they ran a screen. Duvernay also got a carry out of the backfield on 4th-and-1 to move the sticks. Given his stocky frame and toughness to break tackles while handing out stiff arms, it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see him be used more out of the backfield going forward.
Along with speedster D’Shawn Jamison, Duvernay was also the main returner on kickoffs. He opened the game up with a 36-yard return that set the offense up on their first scoring drive.
RBs Keaontay Ingram and Roschon Johnson
Ingram’s full repertoire of skills were on display in this one. The sophomore back showed off his sense of vision, improvement as a receiver, and ability to explode on cuts through running lanes. Along with 78 yards on the ground, Ingram totaled 43 yards on three receptions and looked extremely agile off the break on those quick-hitting swing passes to the flat. The coaches surely limited his workload due to the big test ahead of him against the LSU defense next weekend.
Despite his strong performance, Ingram wasn’t satisfied with his production, though.
Texas RB Keaontay Ingram said he felt fine physically. “Kind of disappointed in my level of production. Simple fact, I don’t feel I helped the team enough.”— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) September 1, 2019
You have to love hearing that kind of humble honesty out of your running back. He seems to always set the standard higher for himself.
Johnson’s transition to running back has been an extremely positive late development for this offense and the depth at the running back position. The freshman displayed a nice burst and managed to take on tackles pretty well. He finished with 26 yards (3.7 YPC) on seven carries.
Johnson deserves a ton of credit for taking on that running back role and being prepared as he was for this game. It’s noticeable to tell already that he’s a pure athlete out there on the field. He’s got a bright future ahead of him.
CB Jalen Green
Welcome to your No. 1 cornerback role, Mr. Green.
The sophomore made his presence felt early and often as the top incoming cornerback among the secondary. Louisiana Tech tested Green several times with one-on-one routes to the outside, but he stood his ground against their receivers. Green (5 total, 4 solo) made a few impressive tackles and defended very well in coverage.
Now comes the first true test for Green, as LSU’s talented receiving core stands ahead this Saturday. Along with 6’3 junior Justin Jefferson, highly-touted sophomores Ja’Marr Chase and the 6’4 Terrance Marshall Jr. lead the way at wide receiver for the Tigers. Marshall scored three times on four receptions in their season opener.
Third and fourth down efficiency on both sides of the ball
Per usual, defensive coordinator Todd Orlando was on top of his game tonight and did an excellent job at mixing up the blitz pressure on third downs. The Bulldogs only converted 5-of-14 third downs that they faced against the UT defense — multiple of those conversions came late in the game when Texas backed off the pressure.
Offensively, Texas was one of the best teams in the country last season at making the most of those short-yardage, two-down situations. They started off right where they left off, as Ehlinger got the offense in plenty of manageable short-yardage situations. Texas was 8-for-15 on third-down and converted 1-of-2 fourth-down plays.
QB Sam Ehlinger
Ehlinger’s stat line was probably more efficient than he was in this one, but regardless, the third-year quarterback was in full control behind the offensive line and looked comfortable running the RPO action. He led multiple touchdown drives in the first half and finished with 276 yards and four touchdowns on 28-of-38 passing.
Outside of his overthrows, Ehlinger did exactly what he needed to do and was effective at doing it as the signal-caller. Overall, he played a good game.
What was most impressive about Ehlinger was his ability to avoid big hits and minimize the amount of contact he took. While he did still take a few hard hits, Ehlinger showed a better feel for what was around him and often went to the quarterback slide to avoid contact.
It was noted on the telecast that Ehlinger ranked 7th in the nation with 231 quarterback contacts last season. It’ll be vital to bring those numbers way down in order to keep himself fresh throughout the course of the season.
CB Kobe Boyce
Green played his part, but the other first-year starting cornerback had all sorts of problems in this one. Redshirt sophomore cornerback Kobe Boyce is probably dreading his film session this week.
Nooooo!!! Ya can’t celebrate while your man is running with the ball. Texas cornerback showing his youth there: pic.twitter.com/YrA7tmrqUo— Emmanuel Acho (@thEMANacho) September 1, 2019
Along with his extremely uncharacteristic mental mistake, Boyce made several other minor mistakes throughout the game. Louisiana Tech tested Boyce once on a throw to the end zone and he got flagged for pass interference after being caught out of position. The Bulldogs also missed a wide-open touchdown pass on a play where Boyce completely blew his coverage.
Boyce’s sub-par performance leaves the coaches with a big decision to make before Saturday’s game against LSU. Starting reps for the boundary cornerback spot may be decided based on the performance in practice this week for Boyce, Jamison, and Cook.
Final offensive drive before halftime
Outside of the 27-yard completion to Collin Johnson on that drive, Texas ran six plays for a net of two yards and nearly pushed themselves out of field-goal range by taking a sack. Dicker ended up missing a long 49-yard attempt.
Just as head coach Tom Herman said himself on the telecast before the halftime break, “Our offense played exceptionally good except for that last drive. That was really, really bad. Really bad.”
La Tech FG kicking
Their kicker went 0-for-2 and came up short on a 43-yard attempt... Not good.