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The Good, Bad, and Expected from Texas’ narrow 45-38 loss vs. LSU

The Longhorns appear to have some budding stars at receiver, but the secondary is chock-full with questions.

LSU v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

You live and you learn. The Texas Longhorns first game back under the Saturday night spotlight wasn’t the outcome that they had hoped for. But, Texas managed to overcome a tough start and went toe-to-toe with one of the nation’s best teams for 60 minutes. There should no longer be any doubt on whether or not this team can compete atop the national level.

This game proved how close this program is.

Joe Brady is legit. Joe Burrow is legit. And the LSU Tigers are legit. Major props to them for coming out of Austin with a win.

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.

The Good

Excellent scripted first two offensive drives

The execution and rhythm offensively was highly efficient throughout the game. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck had the LSU defense on their heels early after opening up with a well-scripted first two drives.

Going for it on 4th and Goal the first time was the right decision — Beck delivered a beautiful play-call by rolling Ehlinger to the right on that pop-pass back to Ingram. If he catches that, Texas jumps out to an early 7-3 lead.

Offensive Line play

The offensive line played their tails off for the majority of this game. They had little problems against the quickness and speed from the LSU front seven. Left tackle Samuel Cosmi did an excellent job in pass protection against K’Lavon Chaisson. The one time Chaisson got to Ehlinger for a sack was on a designed rush up-the-middle — that wasn’t Cosmi’s fault. This unit continues to improve each week under second-year offensive line coach Herb Hand.

WRs Brennan Eagles and Devin Duvernay

While Collin Johnson was held in check against freshman cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., Eagles and Duvernay stepped up in a big way during his absence. Along with Ehlinger, they were the reason why Texas threw for over 400 yards, put up 38 points, and remained within striking distance.

For the second straight game, Duvernay was the go-to receiver for Ehlinger when Texas needed a chunk of yards. He moved the chains multiple times on third-down and led the offense on those last few offensive drives. Duvernay displayed his grown man strength versus the nation’s top safety by breaking a few one-on-one tackles against Grant Delpit. He’s poised for breakout senior season in the slot.

Eagles was the big-play receiver in this one, as he snatched five receptions for 113 yards and had the game’s first touchdown. Eagles showed off his elite ability to high point the football over defenders by making a few big-time catches against LSU’s cornerbacks.

With Johnson drawing matchups against opposing team’s top corners and having a safety over-the-top on his side of the field each week, the opportunities may be endless for other receivers like Duvernay and Eagles this season.

Roschon Johnson

On a night when Keaontay Ingram didn’t look like himself, freshman Roschon Johnson provided a spark for the offense when he was in. He ran for 32 yards on seven carries and willingly fought for an extra two-to-three yards before going down every time he touched the ball. He even held his own as a pass protector against those physical LSU defenders. The freshman was ready for the big stage.

For a guy that just transitioned to the running back position a few weeks ago, 4.6 yards per carry against an ‘elite’ SEC defense is pretty remarkable.

Sophomores Joseph Ossai and B.J. Foster

The numbers speak for themselves. Foster had seven solo tackles and two sacks, while Ossai came up with a huge sack on third-down to force a field goal and had an interception off a deflection inside of LSU’s 10-yard line. Along with Chris Brown, these two guys seemed to be around the ball more than anyone else on defense throughout the game.

Credit LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda for adjusting well and picking up Foster on blitzes after his hot start.

The Bad

Problems with LSU’s up-tempo offense

Time and time again, when LSU picked up their pace on offense, the Texas defense had problems lining up and getting the defensive play-calls in on time. This seemed to set the tone at the line-of-scrimmage and LSU started to wear Texas down with their up-tempo pace in the second half. Communication problems led to many gash plays right through the heart of the defense.

This is an area that Orlando and his defense need to improve on, especially with conference play approaching. Texas will see plenty more of that fast-paced offensive style in the Big 12.

Missed scoring opportunities early

Eight plays, eight yards, and zero points to show for the goal-line offense in the first quarter. The quarterback power run plays simply weren’t working against the speed and strength of LSU’s front seven. It would have been nice to see a jump ball or two thrown up to No. 9 instead of those slow-developing run plays.

And, of course, Ingram’s touchdown drop proved to be mighty costly towards the outcome of the game.

Failing to get that one stop to give Ehlinger a chance to win the game

En route to 25 second-half points, the Tigers gashed Texas for nearly 300 yards over their final four offensive drives of the game. The defense simply had no answer, especially on that final 3rd and 17 with the game on the line. Not sure why Orlando decided to send 6/7 guys to rush Burrow while leaving his defensive backs on an island around the sticks. He tended to be inconsistent with his blitz calls in the second half.

Possession swing before halftime

Before halftime, going from a six-point deficit to a 13-point deficit in less than a minute was an absolute buzzkill. While trying to get aggressive towards the end of the half, Herman completely mismanaged the clock and played that possession right into LSU’s hands — LSU got the ball to start the second half, too.

Texas took over on offense with 1:41 left and LSU ended up scoring a touchdown with 54 seconds left in the half.

Those kinds of small mistakes contributed to why Texas was playing catch up for the majority of the second half. No matter how well the offense played, it just wasn’t going to be enough considering how gassed the defense looked late in the game.

The Expected

Secondary play

Typically, I’d put this performance under the “Bad” category, but given LSU’s plethora of talent at wide receiver and the inexperience at the cornerback position for Texas, it wasn’t much of a surprise to see Burrow’s outburst through the air.

The Tigers 2018 class of highly-touted wide receivers simply outplayed Texas’ 2018 class of highly-touted defensive backs. Jalen Green got outworked by Ja’Marr Chase for the majority of the game, Kobe Boyce was beaten deep against Terrance Marshall Jr. a couple of times for big plays, and star safety Caden Sterns was caught out-of-position several times in coverage.

It’s going to be a work in progress for this unit, especially at cornerback. They’re going to have their ups and downs. But that’s all part of the growth and development that comes with a young group.

The problem is, it’s not going to get any easier with Oklahoma State’s explosive offense coming to Austin in two weeks. The QB-RB-WR combination of Spencer Sanders, Chuba Hubbard, and Tylan Wallace looks rather lethal early on.

Battling back

This has become a common theme under Tom Herman at Texas. His team never fails to fight back into games when facing large deficits.

After missing some pivotal throws in the first half, Ehlinger willingly led the offense back into this game. Him and the rest of the offense did a phenomenal job at making sure they came away with a touchdown on each possession while facing a two-possession deficit. They did all they could to give themselves a chance to win this game. Unfortunately, they never got that final opportunity to do so.