Football

Saturday was a good day for first impressions

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Plenty of offseason attention on the Longhorns went to fourth-year quarterback Sam Ehlinger, fourth-year offensive linemen Sam Cosmi and Derek Kerstetter, and fourth-year head coach Tom Herman. Saturday night’s 59-3 win for the Longhorns over UTEP wasn’t just a time for established veterans to show off. Several members of the program took the opportunity to make strong impressions on Campbell-Williams Field.

Mike Yurcich

Any coordinator starting his first year at a new school will be faced with questions, but one of the easiest ways to quickly answer those questions is to score a touchdown on the very first play called on the job.

It wasn’t anything more than a simple RPO that Joshua Moore took 78 yards to the end zone, but it set the tone for the evening in that Texas was going to try to get the ball out of Sam Ehlinger’s hands and into those of the Texas wide receivers.

“I thought Mike and the offensive staff had a really good plan,” Herman said. “We were fairly inconsistent at wide receiver heading into the game and throughout training camp. We wanted to make a point to get the ball to them early and often, get them some confidence, find out who’s made of what, and was really, really proud of the way that unit stepped up.”

Texas showed a wide variety of formations Saturday after running an offense with limited variety in 2019. They also brought in different personnel packages, including plenty of 12 personnel with one running back, two tight ends, and two wide receivers on the field..

In the end, a 56-point drubbing in which Ehlinger set school records in one half was as good of a beginning to Yurcich’s tenure as he could have asked for.

Chris Ash

Yurcich wasn’t the only coordinator calling his first game at Texas.

After UTEP was penalized for delay of game before their first offensive snap, Texas forced the Miners in to a three-and-out. Cort Jaquess, DeMarvion Overshown, and Joseph Ossai – Texas’ starting linebacker group on Saturday – were responsible for both tackles to end the series.

Things didn’t improve much for the Miners from there. Ash’s defense kept them out of the end zone the entire night. UTEP QB Gavin Hardison was 12-of-27 for 141 yards, with a single interception coming at the hands of Josh Thompson.

No Miner rusher had more than 35 yards, and as a team Dana Dimel’s squad tallied just 43 yards rushing. Texas’ defense totaled two QB hurries, eight tackles for loss, and two sacks against an overmatched UTEP offensive line.

“This is brand new for our defense,” Herman said. “To have it in brand new with new coaches, a new scheme, no spring ball, no real offseason, guys playing in different positions than what they had in the past, and to go out there and be as dominant as they were, tackle as well as they did, to play the ball for the most part in the air as well as they did, I was really, really pleased.”

The defense was mostly sound, and so too was the tackling. It wasn’t an extremely glaring issue as it was in Texas’ early-season games in 2019.

Ash was brought to Texas to teach fundamentals and help highlight Texas’ pass rush. Progress remains on both fronts, but what played out Saturday was a marked improvement from where the defense stood about a year ago.

Tarik Black and Brenden Schooler

Newcomers don’t have to be young guys. Black, a Michigan grad transfer, and Schooler, an Arizona grad transfer, both caught touchdowns from Sam Ehlinger in their first ever game wearing the burnt orange.

Black earned a starting receiver spot and was a significant part of Saturday’s offense. He caught 5 passes for 80 yards and one score.

Schooler played some outside receiver, and on his two catches avoided tackles. On his second catch, the tackle he avoided was the only obstacle standing between him and the end zone.

Schooler also played the gunner role on Texas’ punt team, a spot he’s more than familiar with from his time playing at Oregon.

Alfred Collins

Herman told Yahoo!’s Pete Thamel that Collins “had superstar written all over him.” The five-star from Bastrop was one of the most sought-after defensive linemen in the nation during the 2020 cycle, and one of Texas’ prized recruits in its 2020 class.

“Told y’all he was going to be a big impact,” Joseph Ossai said. “He proved me right.”

Collins recorded two tackles Saturday, and was responsible for one of Texas’ two sacks. Collins rotated in behind Ta’Quon Graham at defensive tackle, and overall played well in his first outing.

Bijan Robinson

Attention will always follow the stars, and Robinson’s debut had plenty of Texas fans star gazing at the former five-star back..

Robinson, Roschon Johnson, and Keaontay Ingram split carries last night, with Robinson drawing the shortest stick. On his five carries, he rushed for 38 yards and put together some impressive moves to make defenders miss.

There were even some glimpses of his breakaway ability, something that has been missing from the running back room for some time. Even in limited action, Robinson made some exciting plays and gave a peek as to why he was rated so high coming out of high school.

Kai Money

Kai Money probably isn’t an NFL player. Most Texas fans may not have even known who the walk-on from Brownsville was before Saturday’s game. Now, they’ll know him as a receiver who caught a touchdown in a Texas uniform.

When Texas was running the two-minute drill late in the first half, Money lined up on the short side of the field in the slot with a few moments remaining before the halftime gun. The play called was designed for him from the get-go, he just needed to make the catch.

Money broke wide open toward the near sideline, and hauled in a pass from Ehlinger. Even though Money likely won’t be making NFL money, he made sure to get two feet in to secure the score.

“I wish you guys could see the work that Kai Money puts in every single day,” Ehlinger said. “What an incredible team guy. Always puts the team before himself, and works hard every single day.”

He was gleefully mobbed by his teammates and coaches on the sideline, and made sure Texas successfully completed its first live stab at the two-minute drill.

DeMarvion Overshown at linebacker

One of the biggest offseason roster moves wasn’t an addition or subtraction, but a change. Overshown shifted closer to the line of scrimmage from safety to will linebacker.

“The front seven was phenomenal in the run game,” Ossai said. “There’s so much talent in that group of guys. Whoever is playing, I have full confidence in them.”

Overshown had four tackles and a team-high two tackles for loss against the Miners. He was typically around the play, and overall turned in a good first performance at the position.

Photo courtesy of Texas Athletics