After dominating the UTEP Miners in their season opener and then immediately enjoying a bye week, the No. 8 Texas Longhorns will be back in action on Saturday afternoon, hitting the road to meet the Texas Tech Red Raiders (1-0).
The BON staff got together to discuss what new wrinkles we may see as we enter Big 12 play, how much of a test Texas Tech should actually be, and more.
We only have one game to evaluate so far, but what was most impressive to you about Texas’ 59-3 win over UTEP?
Cody Daniel — I’d say how in sync Sam Ehlinger was with his receivers, with the exception of Brennan Eagles. After losing Duvernay and Johnson, and with Jake Smith sidelined, it would have been expected if it took Ehlinger a few drives to find some chemistry with his receivers. Instead, he simply passed for 429 yards and five scores in a half, getting nine different receivers involved.
Gerald Goodridge — More than any other in the Tom Herman era, the team really felt prepared to play in every facet of the game. You’d expect a decent number of procedural penalties on offense with a new system and no spring ball, but Texas managed to avoid the head-scratching penalties from years before. You also saw a defensive unit that really has improved their tackling fundamentals, which was the difference in a few contests over the last two seasons.
Daniel Seahorn — I’d say the execution on both sides of the ball. You had coaching staff turnover with Chris Ash and Mike Yurcich coming in as the new coordinators and on top of that they did not get the benefit of having practices in the spring to install their schemes. The staff had their hands tied to a degree when it came to get the team ready heading into the year and they still executed at a high level in week one. We all know UTEP is not a world beater of a program, but I can still vividly remember the Tulsa game from 2018 and this team looked way sharper and ready to go.
Evan Kirschner —
That we covered the spread. Good teams win, but great teams cover. What impressed me most is how organized and prepared this team was to play. Around the NCAA these past few weeks, we’ve seen plenty of teams come out of the gates rusty and undisciplined. We’ve also seen that from Texas in the past (ex. both Maryland games). This year, Herman enters the season with plenty of veteran leadership and talent on both sides of the ball. That’s why it was a such a joy to see the Longhorns play so smart and disciplined — even with two new coordinators, the Horns took care of business and looked sharp doing so.
Kyle Carpenter — I think the obvious choice is the passing game, but more specifically the depth of it. Without your second-most productive returning receiver in Jake Smith, you had 9 players with multiple catches and seven with a TD grab. Sam obviously looks every bit the Prince Who Was Promised, but Casey Thompson looked more confident and competent and makes the thought of letting someone else take reps at QB feel less daunting.
As expected, Texas’ UTEP game plan was fairly vanilla on both sides of the ball. What will we learn about Mike Yurcich and Chris Ash as Texas begins its conference schedule?
Cody — Defensively, I don’t think we’ll see anything too crazy aside from Chris Ash getting a bit creative and dialing up blitzes to create pressure. Offensively, though, I’m interested to see how diverse Yurcich is willing to get with his play-calling, if he even needs to considering Tech struggled against HBU’s passing attack. But at least early on, I’d expect some different looks through the air and a heavier dose on the ground to keep Tech off balance.
Gerald — Defensively, Texas really didn’t dial up anything special to generate pressure against UTEP, which I think will likely change over the coming weeks. I expect to see some defensive stunts and the like as Texas takes the field defensively. On the offensive side of the ball, I would imagine you’ll likely see a few formations and alignments you have not seen — potentially a bunch of 12 personnel — to get those guys in rhythm for the coming weeks.
Daniel — I’m expecting to see some interesting wrinkles on both sides of the ball with conference play kicking off. I’m sure Ash will have some interesting pressure packages to break out to heat up Alan Bowman given that Tech’s offense has the ability to rack up yards and points and on the flip side I’d expect Yurcich to allow Ehlinger to have a little more latitude on how deep they are going into the playbook.
Evan — Expect to see more creative play-calling and exotic schemes from both sides of the ball moving forward. There was no need to get fancy against UTEP — it was the first game of the year after a bizarre offseason, and there was frankly no need for creativity. As the opponents get tougher and better and the games matter more, I’d expect some more intricate plays to be dialed up.
Kyle — We will very quickly see how Ash’s system handles an upper-tier Big 12 quarterback in Alan Bowman who will be throwing early and often. In Bowman’s career, he has only attempted less than 46 passes in 3 games (two were due to injuries and one was when he was 22-25 before being pulled in a 77-point trouncing of Lamar).
Texas Tech allowed Houston Baptist to have its way through the air, totaling 572 yards and four touchdowns. What kind of afternoon do you expect from Sam Ehlinger, and after seven different receivers caught touchdowns vs. UTEP, how many will score vs. TTU?
Cody — I wouldn’t at all be surprised with another 400-yard outing, but I think high 300s is a little more likely with four different receivers hauling in touchdowns.
Gerald — The only reason Sam touches 500 yards is because Tom Herman chooses to run up the score. I think somewhere in the range of 425 yards and four touchdowns fits the bill, especially as Texas dials up the run game a bit to start conference play.
Daniel — I have high expectations for Ehlinger this year, so I would be surprised if he isn’t in the upper 300s passing yards wise with at least four total touchdowns on the stat sheet. I think we will see at least 3 different receivers catching touchdowns with the way Ehlinger likes the spread the love around.
Evan — Ehlinger and the Texas offense should have their way with Tech’s defense. To expect 572 yards may be too much, though, since Texas should be out in front for most of this game establishing the running game while they’re at it.
Kyle — There is absolutely no reason to expect anything but NUMBERS from Senior Sam. Each game of this season gets him closer to that New York Heisman Zoom invite, and so far we haven’t seen much from Big 12 defenses to indicate they have plans of impeding that. I don’t think we’ll see seven touchdown recipients, but I also don’t think that number will be low. Between rotation and a shared affinity for spreading the love between QB and OC...let’s say 4?
On the other hand, TTU totaled 624 yards of offense against Houston Baptist, including 430 yards through the air. How will the Texas secondary hold up against its first challenge of the season?
Cody — They’ll be tested, for sure, and I think Bowman will find guys like T.J. Vasher, Erik Ezukanma, and KeSean Carter more than a few times, but I think this secondary led by veteran safeties in Caden Sterns and Chris Brown will do a solid job of preventing numerous big plays. That will be the key. TTU is going to pass, then pass some more. Texas will just need to prevent those passes from connecting deep downfield and make the Red Raiders work for every gain and leave some trust in a stout defensive line to make Alan Bowman’s life difficult.
Gerald — Hot take, but the athletes for Houston Baptist aren’t at the level that Texas has on the defense, specifically in the secondary. I would imagine the Texas DBs will not have a ton of trouble running with the Tech wide receivers. Add to that the likely increase in pass rush from the Longhorns and I don’t really expect it to be anywhere near that number.
Daniel — I’m definitely not taking the Tech offense lightly in tomorrow’s matchup, and I’d probably be taking the over if I was a betting man. With that said, Texas’ secondary will provide a much stiffer test than HBU’s and I think Texas’ depth along the defensive line will aide greatly when it comes to getting pressure on Bowman. Tech’s offense will probably put up solid numbers through the air if I had to guess, but I think it will come in a losing effort.
Evan — Tech provides a great first look at how this defense will perform against a legitimate Power Five, Big 12 QB and passing game. Bowman is a good signal-caller and shouldn’t be taken lightly. That being said, I expect the leadership from their defensive backfield and blue-chip athletes on the sidelines at corner back to be enough to slow down the Tech air attack, but garbage time or playing from behind may result in another big box score for Bowman and the Raiders.
Kyle — That 624 was actually an improvement from Houston Baptist’s opening game against North Texas in which they surrendered 721 yards (style points to the Mean Green for doing it 360 rushing, 361 passing). That’s not to take anything away from Tech’s offense. They have plenty of weapons, specifically at QB/WR. There is no reason that it shouldn’t be around the 5th or 6th best in the conference. However, if this is going to be anything of a special year, Texas needs to turn blue chips into All-Conference level play in the secondary. How they lock up Vasher and Ezukanma will go a long way to the confidence you feel against Tylan Wallace and Charleston Rambo.
Texas made a concerted effort to get its inexperienced receivers involved vs. UTEP, which limited Keaontay Ingram, Roschon Johnson, and Bijan Robinson to just 120 yards on 22 carries. Do you expect Texas to get its running back trio more involved or will the Horns simply look to exploit TTU’s secondary?
Cody — I think we’ll probably see something similar to Texas’ gameplan against UTEP if the tech secondary continues to struggle. The Red Raiders allowed HBU to pick up 11.2 yards per completion, so why not keep taking those free first downs and just utilized the running backs as needed until TTU proves it can slow down Sam?
Gerald — Honestly? Unless one guy comes out and is just absolutely a hot hand, I would imagine Texas keeps up the rotation that Herman has talked about for weeks now. They like all three backs, so if you can limit the number of touches, which limits the number of hits they take, I don’t really see a down side.
Daniel — I think they will get a feel for what’s working early and go from there. You obviously love to stay a bit balanced so that way you are able to chew up clock on those long, methodical drives but if the passing game is gutting Tech then you need to stick with it until they figure out a solution.
Evan — I think with this game being a lot closer on paper in terms of talent than the UTEP game, the choice of which playmaker gets the ball will lean more on game flow and less on scripted plays. I think Texas will look to exploit Texas Tech’s passing defense early, but shift to a more running game centered play style by utilizing their three backs later in the game.
Kyle — Why not both? Based on Herman’s reaction at half-time and in just about every media appearance since, he suggested he wants a more efficient and concerted focus on the run game. I’d expect something closer to 160-180 split between those 3, but a still very robust passing attack against a Tech secondary that struggled with Caden Sterns’ little brothers.
Prediction time: Does Texas kick its Big 12 slate off with a road win over TTU?
Cody — Fairly easily. 48-27 Texas.
Gerald — 45-24 Texas.
Daniel — Tech’s opener against HBU was alarming on several levels. I think Texas rolls in and takes care of business. 52-35 Longhorns
Evan — We’ve been down this road before where Texas is heavily favored against a Big 12 opponent and it ends up being a close game or even a loss for the Horns. But this team just feels different than years’ past. Texas 41-21
Kyle — Before last year’s resounding 4-score victory for the Horns, the previous 4 meetings were decided by a margin of 7, 4, 8, and 3. That said — this is going to be AT LEAST four scores as long Texas doesn’t do the bizarre thing of the past where the overlook teams they are markedly more talented than.