Football

Longhorns start 1-0 for first time under Herman after win over La Tech

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For the first time as head coach at Texas, Tom Herman is 1-0.

There was little intrigue to the Longhorns’ season-opening tilt with Louisiana Tech, as Todd Orlando’s defensive starters and major contributors held the Bulldogs scoreless through the first three quarters. Tim Beck’s offense, led by Sam Ehlinger and Keaontay Ingram, accumulated over 454 yards in a comfortable 45-14 win.

Texas played its starters for the majority of the first three quarters, outscoring Louisiana Tech 38-0 before the backups made their way to the field. Ehlinger started the game strong by completing his first five passes, including a touchdown toss on a screen play to Devin Duvernay.

“We were rusty,” Herman said. “Sam missed some throws, we dropped a ball, we had six penalties which, you know, that happens in first games. But I thought we started really, really fast and that’s what helped us overcome some of those miscues.”

Ehlinger’s 28-for-38, 276-yard, four-score effort combined with Ingram’s 121 yards of total offense allowed Texas to comfortably create a multi-possession lead as the first half progressed.

The junior quarterback found several receivers early including Duvernay, Collin Johnson, Brennan Eagles, and Jake Smith. Ehlinger still missed a couple open throws, but overall looked like the top Big 12 quarterback most in the country expected him to be.

Ingram, despite suffering a bone bruise in training camp, didn’t seem to show any effects of his injury. He found holes in the running game, including a 19-yard first quarter scamper to set the tone for the evening. Ingram only had 11 carries but averaged 7.1 yards each time he got the ball.

“I thought he did a really nice job when things weren’t there, certainly, finding the open gap, making guys miss,” Herman said. “He was effective in the throw game as well.”

The Longhorn defense allowed some yards to the Bulldogs as J’Mar Smith maneuvered the La Tech offense down the field in the passing game, but that was the only place they could accumulate yardage. Texas’ defensive front allowed 73 rushing yards on the evening at 2.8 yards per carry.

When the offense did put La Tech in scoring range, Texas’ defense stood strong. Thanks to spirited efforts from Chris Brown, Jeffrey McCulloch, Caden Sterns, and Joseph Ossai, La Tech could not finish drives.

In the first half alone, the Bulldogs had drives stall via a missed field goal, a punt, a fumble, another missed field goal, an Ossai interception, and another punt. Outside of La Tech’s two scores, the Bulldogs ended two possessions with a turnover on downs, and one with an interception from DeMarvion Overshown.

The Bulldogs’ paltry 5-of-14 mark on third downs was due in part to the Longhorns utilizing their anticipated eight defensive back package, named “Cowboy” within the program. Eight defensive backs supported McCulloch, Ossai, and Malcolm Roach’s pass rush efforts, limiting what Smith was able to do on third downs for the Bulldogs.

“That’s complicated in terms of setting your protection,” Herman said. “There’s just so much speed out there. We’ve got to do a better job. I think just initial impressions, when they do complete it short of the sticks we’ve got to do a better job of tackling them.”

Where La Tech couldn’t finish drives, Texas could. Ehlinger found Duvernay, Johnson, and Brennan Eagles for touchdown passes in the first half.

Eagles didn’t start at the Z position as John Burt received that distinction. However, Eagles made the most of his opportunity when he caught a 28-yard pass from Ehlinger on a post route after the safety responsible for him followed Duvernay instead.

After Brown stuffed La Tech on fourth and one during the second half’s opening drive, Eagles picked up right where he left off in the first half, hauling in a pass in the corner of the end zone while essentially uncovered on the ensuing drive.

“Maybe about as selfless of a player we have on this team,” Herman said of Eagles. “After his first touchdown he sprinted to go hug a big guy and that was friggin’ awesome. He is as bought-in as you can be to the way we do things.”

That was part of a 14-point third quarter that bumped Texas’ lead up to a five possession margin. When the third quarter ended, so did the night for most of the Longhorn starters.

One of the notable backups to see time was freshman Roschon Johnson. After fellow freshman running back Jordan Whittington aggravated a groin issue, Johnson saw his number called seven times on the ground and twice through the air.

The former quarterback acclimated well to the position despite his body’s poor condition due to a stomach virus.

“We get to the building yesterday and the trainers say Roschon is throwing up all over the place,” Herman said. “He’s got a stomach virus. We’re going to have to quarantine him Friday at the hotel. When it rains it pours, you know? But Ro did a great job.”

Texas was able to keep most of the starters fresh for next week’s primetime matchup against LSU thanks to heavy rotation and various personnel packages, especially on defense. Fifty-four of Texas’ 110 players saw the field Saturday, including 22 different players who recorded a tackle.

The rotation proved effective as Texas’ average starting field position was its own 39, while La Tech’s average start was on their own 23.

Texas welcomes LSU for one of the most anticipated games in Austin this decade. Despite all the attention paid by fans, Herman claimed no one in the facility save some lower-level staffers have placed any amount of focus on LSU. 

“The letters LSU never came out of anybody’s mouth the entire nine months since we left New Orleans,” Herman said.

But as the clock strikes midnight, Texas will begin to prepare for the visiting Top 10 Tigers. They’ll go into that game 1-0, and seek to go 1-0 against LSU.