The Texas Longhorns looked impressive in the first half of their Louisiana two-step, dropping the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, 45-14, in somewhat of a statement game on a Saturday when some of the other top schools in the Big 12 struggled.
After knocking some of the rust off in the first quarter, Texas was able to find its stride with its starters, thanks to a few outstanding performances from expected players.
RB Keaontay Ingram: 11 att., 78 yards (7.1 ypc), TD
The running back room might not be deep, but Keaontay Ingram quietly proved that he can be a workhorse for Texas, putting up a solid performance in spite of his self-assessment. Ingram told reporters after the game that he was “Kind of disappointed in my level of production. Simple fact, I don’t feel I helped the team enough,” but the numbers don’t speak to that.
On several occasions, Ingram was able to find seams or cutback lanes to turn a three-yard play into longer gains. In-fact, his 7.1 yards per carry on 11 carries is actually the highest average by a player with double-digit carries since Daniel Young in Week 11 of the 2017 season. If Ingram is able to keep up the volume, even if his average normalizes a bit, he will still be a massive asset to maintaining balance in the Texas offense.
QB Sam Ehlinger: 28/38 (73%) 276 yards, 4TD
It was just another day at the office for the Longhorns captain, turning in a highly-efficient performance and climbing his way up the record books. Ehlinger now sits at No. 6 in school history in passing touchdowns and No. 7 in total yardage, while completing passes to eight different receivers — seven of which had multiple receptions in the game.
But perhaps more important were his eight carries for 34 net yards, when considered with the need to keep the Longhorns’ signal caller from taking unnecessary hits. In 2018, Ehlinger had six games with single-digit carries and when measured against those contests, the win against LaTech is the highest net total and tied for the highest average. He was able to do that while taking several well-timed slides and running out of bounds on a few occasions, proving that he does not have to be a battering ram to be successful on the ground.
Third Down Defense: 5-of-14 (35.7 percent)
One of the Longhorns biggest struggles defensively in 2018 was their inability to get off the field on third downs. The Longhorns finished the year No. 108 in the country, with a third-down stop rate of 44.3 percent, behind teams including Ohio, Ball State, and Hawai’i. The 35.7 percent against the Bulldogs would have been the third-lowest average in 2018, behind the wins against Tulsa and Iowa State. Compare that to two seasons ago, in a year when the defense carried Texas, it would have been the second-worst performance.
For Texas the question becomes, which year will their defense resemble more?
If you isolate the first quarter, where Texas seemed to be trying to settle in, and look at just the final three quarters, Texas was 3-of-10 on third downs; a 30 percent conversion rate.
In the week between the two games, Texas needs to figure out which one will be more emblematic of its defense.
Now, Texas finds itself in a unique position as it heads into its marquee matchup against the LSU Tigers, as the Longhorns are undefeated for the first time under Tom Herman. The Tigers put together their own impressive performance Saturday, a 55-3 win over the Georgia Southern Eagles.