Hill’s strong effort lost in opening-day defeat

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Photo Credit: Gabriel Lopez | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorn faithful flung cardboard fans onto the field at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday as the fourth quarter dwindled down and took away any hope of a Texas win. The frustration was palpable.

Four hours after the opening kickoff, Terrapin fans chanted “overrated” following their sixth touchdown of the game. The Longhorn fans fled the stadium early, while others watched on in disbelief of the 51-41 final score.

And the players didn’t seem to believe the result either.

“I really don’t know what to say about the result right now,” senior linebacker Naashon Hughes said. “We’ll probably watch film a thousand times just to see what we could have done, what I could have done, what anybody could have done to stop it from happening.”

Texas looked overmatched in all three facets on Saturday. Its offense failed to sustain drives for points, the defense unable to contain the run. The Longhorns also fumbled a kickoff and had a field goal attempt blocked and taken back for a touchdown.

But despite the struggles, one player’s performance did stand out: cornerback Holton Hill.

The junior registered Texas’ first two touchdowns of the season against Maryland, returning an interception 31 yards for a touchdown in the first series of the game, and one quarter later, recovering a blocked field goal 65 yards for a touchdown.

“I just saw green ahead of me and I just went,” Hill said. “Luckily Poona (Ford) got the block and it was right in front of me to take it right to the house.”

Hill’s 31-yard interception return for a TD is Texas’ first since 2015 when Hill returned another interception against Oklahoma State during his freshman year. Expectations for Hill were high following his freshman campaign where he played in all 12 games, and even started the last eight.

Following his stellar freshman campaign, Hill’s sophomore season was a let down. He saw the field in just five games – only starting in three before getting benched.

“It was hard for me not playing as much as I wanted to,” Hill said. “But I just put it in God’s hands and I’m back out there now.”

But it now appears Hill is back, and perhaps for good following Saturday’s performance.

And for the Houston-native, his strong effort came at the most opportune time.

Hill, who spent the week preparing for Maryland and going to school, was unable to be with his family back in Houston this week as his family dealt with the wreckage induced by Hurricane Harvey.

“Most of y’all may know I’m from Houston,” Hill said. “And looking at the tragedy these past few weeks, I wasn’t able to be there for my family…so I just had a chip on my shoulder from that.”

Hill said he feels blessed that his family is safe and was even able to make it to the game. However, he didn’t spend too much time acknowledging his performance.

“It’s never a good day when you lose,” Hill said. “We just got to go back to the drawing board and take it one practice at a time, and hopefully we’ll go undefeated for the rest of the season.”

Texas must return to the drawing board, and fast. The burnt-orange faithful arrived at DKR in hopes of seeing a different team, but the mental mistakes and special teams blunders of the past three seasons still remained.

Hill’s performance was a positive note on Saturday. But as the thrown fans and empty seats at the final buzzer indicated, what ultimately mattered was the Longhorns’ record: 0–1.