Evidently that was Texas’ 900th victory in program history. It was a good one and an important one for a lot of reasons. The Longhorns now have a lot more confidence going into Big 12 play than they would have had if the record read 1-2 and they were dealing with more questions about an inability to win for whatever reason.
Much like last week, I tried to watch and notate every run call that Texas made against Tulsa. Per ESPN’s breakdown I missed three runs that didn’t amount to much, I think those were the plays that had penalties called so I didn’t include them in the tally.
Last year the USC game was probably the first turning point of the Tom Herman era. The first week was a disaster, obviously, that featured horrendous defense and an injury to the starting QB. Week two was a little tuneup against a completely overmatched opponent before heading to Los Angeles to take on Sam Darnold and USC. The Texas defense shined on the road, looking like a completely different unit, while Sam Ehlinger came close to leading a big time comeback before late mistakes (by both himself and others) thwarted it. That kind of performance would define the rest of the season.
The juxtaposition of all of Saturday’s events are not going to give Texas fans much excitement. Texas had to weather a late, second half “surge” from Tulsa to pull out a victory that a good Longhorn team should expect to have locked up before halftime.
Not everyone has been willing or capable of putting their finger on it but there was a fair amount in the Maryland game to suggest that Texas is indeed a team with a ceiling as a B12 champion in the 2018 season. A slow start, bizarre game, and three consecutive turnovers suggested this offense is in pretty poor shape. In reality, Texas was able to attack Maryland in a variety of ways that should translate to success against B12 opponents provided this team can put together a consistent performance from start to finish in weeks to come.
that was a nightmarish week one outcome. You could scarcely have scripted it to include more horrors designed to induce the worst possible reaction from Texas fans. Maryland came out looking like they’d just come off an immensely productive offseason in which they’d nailed down their new offense while integrating fresh blood on defense. Texas came out sloppy and and lacking the kind of confidence and crisp play most of us expected after their own offseason. Naturally the ending was exactly what Texas fans have feared all offseason.
Here are four factors that could drive improvements to the Texas run game ranked by importance.
As Eric has noted at other points this offseason, one way the defense could make up for the losses of Poona Ford and Malik Jefferson is by cleaning up their play on the back end. The difference in the USC and Oklahoma games was absolutely coverage busts and if Texas had lost the Kansas State game the same would have been a worthy culprit to point the finger at.
The practice reports and coming depth chart have really started to clear up the picture on what the Texas offense is going to look like in 2018. The confusing aspect of this team is that with Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey out there running routes, some of the best play-making talent on the team is concentrated at WR. However, the pass protection from the OL is still a question mark and while Sam Ehlinger was effective throwing the ball in 2018 he’s still only a sophomore. Then there’s the preferred philosophy of Tom Herman and the hire of Herb Hand, which all portends a stubborn insistence on bulldozing opponents with the run game.
Going into the 2017 season, the big concern was how well Texas could match up with defenses “at the point of attack” off tackle. Connor Williams was set to be the best player on the roster but TE quickly went from a question mark to a glaring hole when Andrew Beck went down in fall camp. They settled on Elijah Rodriguez at RT and then he promptly went down with injury, then Connor Williams went down and that was that.