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Initial thoughts from Texas’ 52-10 win over Louisiana-Monroe

The Ewers era is underway, and he might have found his early safety net. That and more from Texas’ 42-point win.

NCAA Football: UL Monroe at Texas Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Longhorns’ 2022 season is underway and for all intents and purposes, it was as good of an outcome as the Horns could ask for, simply overwhelming Louisiana-Monroe en route to a 52-10 win.

Of course, you can’t put too much stock into a game that Texas entered with a 99 percent chance to win, per ESPN’s FPI, but here are a few initial thoughts from the Longhorns’ 42-point win.

The Quinn Ewers era is underway. Sark expected there to be some first-start jitters for QB1, and for obvious reasons — Ewers hadn’t played a meaningful snap of football in about a year and a half. The jitters were obvious his first time out, as Ewers trusted his arm entirely too much and threw an interception into heavy traffic. After that, though, with the help of what seemed to be some fairly vanilla play calling at first glance (a bit more on that in a moment), Ewers settled in. In an encouraging sign, as the risk with Ewers was that he’d trust his arm too much and not take what’s given, he relied almost exclusively on the checkdowns and quick screens, with a side arm slant sprinkled in a bit. All told, after the 0-2 start on his first drive, Ewers completed 16 of his final 22 attempts for 225 yards and a touchdown. He missed on a few deep touchdown strikes that he — and Xavier Worthy — would love to have back, but with the win secured, they’ll be learning opportunities for the young gunslinger as he settles into his role.

Ewers might have his safety net in Ja’Tavion Sanders. More than a third of Ewers’ 16 completions were to Sanders (6), which the true sophomore turned into 85 yards and Texas’ first offensive score of the night. But situationally, when things got tight, Ewers turned to Sanders, as the two turned a 4th and 4 into a five-yard pickup to move the chains, and towards the end of the first half, turned a 4th and 7 into a 10 yard gain to give Texas a shot at a field goal. Elsewhere, the two connected for a pair of 25-yard gains. As Ewers gains more comfort with his receivers, we’ll certainly see more shots to Worthy and Jordan Whittington, but if Saturday was a sign of things to come, Ewers will be looking to Sanders a lot.

14 points while the offense is sidelined? For a Texas team in dire need of multiple steps forward in the win column, that’s one way to do it. Just moments into the game following a ULM three-and-out, D’Shawn Jamison sped in to block the punt, which Keilan Robinson scooped up and returned 12 yards for a score. Then early in the third quarter, Jamison again made his presence felt, turning a poor pass into a pick six. Of course, multiple non-offensive touchdowns each time out shouldn’t be an expectation, but as the competition increases and games get tighter, having just one can be the difference in a win.

The offensive line has room for growth. On one hand, that much was to be expected with the Longhorns deploying three first time starters in true freshman Kelvin Banks (LT), sophomore Hayden Conner (LG), and true freshman Cole Hutson (RG), and that group should start to show improvement pretty quickly as they gel. And they didn’t even necessarily play poorly, but there were some clear moments early where blocks were missed that led to a sack or pressure. On the other hand, the youth can’t be an excuse when much better teams such as Alabama bring top-tier pass rushes to town. Simply put, Kyle Flood recruited a ton of talent along the offensive line, and in starting a few of his young guys for the very first time, there’s naturally going to be growing pains. Now, Texas will need to work to ensure it doesn’t become a theme that starts leading to losses.

Barryn Sorrell is going to be a dude. The sophomore was everywhere early, nearly matching his 2021 total (7) with six tackles on Saturday night. Much more notably, he noted 1.5 sacks and two tackles for loss. Consistency is key, but Sorrell’s made his pretense felt with force in the opener and in his role on the edge, that’s exactly what the Longhorns need going forward.

Jaylon’s Guilbeau’s flashes were encouraging. Getting the start at the SPUR nickel position, the true freshman made some inspiring plays that had a direct impact on possessions and the scoreboard. I’d need to rewatch the film to catch everything, but Guilbeau was in on a tackle on the first drive and then forced a pass breakup to force the punt that Jamison went on to block. Later, his pressure off the edge forced a throw into the dirt, and then yet again, his pressure forced a poor pass, which Jamison returned for a pick six. If Guilbeau can consistently be this impactful and more for Texas, that’s major for the secondary.

This story will be updated.