The play took just under seven seconds or so. Six-point-seven-eight seconds, to be exact. A simple handoff, like thousands of others you’ve seen. Ball is shotgun-snapped to the quarterback, quarterback hands ball to running back. Simple.
And then, Keaontay Ingram happened.
The Texas true freshman broke the line of scrimmage heading due north, then quickly turned east. Just as quickly, Ingram juked a defender, a move that was almost imperceptible to the camera’s lense. In a blink, he stepped east again to the boundary, then punched his motor north up the sideline.
A couple of poor Tulsa defenders appeared to have, ever-so-briefly, an angle on the freshman from Carthage.
And then, again, Keaontay Ingram happened.
Cue Smokey the Cannon.
Texas fans have longed for a back like Ingram since Mr. Jamaal Charles used to run the rock. Yes, D’Onta Foreman was awesome, but he played on a cursed team. And Ingram is…different.
Fast, seemingly with eyes on the sides of his head, he’s a 205-pound home run hitter, a don’t-you-dare-go-get-a-beer-when-Texas-is-on-offense running back that if he remains healthy can leave a searing legacy on the 40 Acres.
Keaontay Ingram is happening.
He first happened, technically, in the opener against Maryland, yet was held out late in the game as Tom Herman chose experience over raw talent at running back in going with Tre Watson. But the true announcement of his arrival came for good with the run against Tulsa when he showed the gifts that Texas fans hope will keep giving for another three years: vision, slippery feet, power to break tackles and breakneck speed.
And he followed that introduction by solidifying his position as the best running back on the team when he stepped off 68 yards on 10 carries, including several when the Longhorns needed him in the fourth quarter to keep the Purple Wizard of Kansas State from beating the burnt orange yet again in Manhattan.
In addition to his 68 yards rushing, he caught five passes for 27 yards. A wondrously-talented but limited-carry young back who couldn’t be trusted has transformed himself into a four-quarter stick of Keaontay Dynamite in the last month.
“We felt like he would be really good at breaking the tackles of the extra guy,” a relieved Herman said after the game against the Wildcats, a 19-14 gut-wrenching win in which the Longhorns didn’t score at all in the second half. “He gave us the best opportunity to make the extra guy miss when they knew we were going to run the ball.”
Ingram’s success is certainly no surprise, considering how heavily he was recruited. His talents in high school were obvious and coveted. He was All-American and All-State in high school, had 76 career rushing touchdowns, stepped off a pair of 2,000-yard seasons, and finished his time there with over 5,000 yards. Oh, and he also won two state championships, so there’s that.
His high school career was nothing short of legendary. He has followed that with what is, admittedly, a very small sample size of college work that has shown clear bursts of brilliance.
What’s next for Ingram?
Anyone who knows anything about anything knows that to truly cement your place as a Texas running back, you must confront and conquer the Sooners. Think Earl Campbell in 1977. Think Edwin Simmons in 1983. Think Ricky Williams in 1998. Think Jamaal Charles in 2005.
Ingram will walk down the tunnel for the first time Saturday at Fair Park. Texas fans are in “heavy like” with Ingram right now. He’s got everything Texas fans – and fans of all teams – covet. They know he’s got the ability. They want “like” to become “love.”
Tom Herman and your mom has won the same number of games against the Sooners: big, fat zero. Texas folks LOVE to beat Oklahoma, except for the Texas folks who allow themselves to be kidnapped by the land barons so they can play football in Norman and ensure the crimson and cream can be competitive on the field.
We see you, Keaontay. We like all of your gifts. We dream of who you can become, and what it could eventually mean for the Longhorns. We want to love you.
But Oklahoma awaits. When your teenage self takes the walk down the ramp toward your destiny, realize that in order to truly – truly – make your mark at Texas, you need to run like hell against and over Oklahoma. You need to go swag-stepping down that ramp and brazenly believe you are the best player on the field.
You need to see, and cut, and hold on to the ball, and sprint and find the end zone, preferable the red one surrounded by all of their fans.
You need – we need – to make Keaontay Ingram happen.