Dominant defensive performances aren’t anything new for Texas this season, but freshmen running backs Toneil Carter and Daniel Young are.
As the Longhorns headed down the tunnel following their victory in Waco Saturday afternoon, not many people in McLane Stadium looked twice when the scoreboard read Texas 38, Baylor 7.
It wasn’t the score that jumped out. It was who did the scoring and how they did it –– on the ground. Texas’ run game, which has been absent for the majority of the season, finally gained a glimpse of traction in the Longhorns’ victory over winless Baylor.
But it wasn’t the 250-pound junior running back Chris Warren III who put the Longhorn running game back on track. It wasn’t even sophomore Kyle Porter, who sat out for the second-straight game due to injury. It was two freshmen: Toneil Carter and Daniel Young, who have seen limited playing time thus far, and even spent time on the scout team.
“Those kids get better everyday. It’s incredible how hard they work and how hard they run,” junior linebacker Malik Jefferson said. “They were scout team at one point and now they're starters and trading in and out. I commend them for everything they're doing. They've been patient with it and let the process take care of itself and you see the success they had on the football field.”
Neither Carter nor Young broke the century mark in the blowout victory, but both proved efficient. Young averaged 8.6 yards per carry after bouncing out to the sideline for a 31-yard touchdown which gave Texas its 38-7 lead in the final moments of the fourth quarter.
And he wasn’t the only freshman running back who had a breakout performance. Toneil Carter averaged 4.7 yards per carry and emerged as the Longhorns’ leading rusher –– just the second time this season a non-quarterback has led the team in rushing.
“They broke tackles, which was encouraging to see,” Herman said. “They slivered around in there when things weren't blocked perfectly … I was proud of them. They protected the football which is always a concern when you're playing true freshmen at running back but I loved what I saw.”
The Longhorn offense wasn’t clicking early, especially in the first quarter where Texas’ only points came after junior defensive back DeShon Elliott returned an interception for a touchdown.
The offensive woes peaked in the second quarter after the defense recovered a Baylor fumble inside the red zone. The Longhorn offense not only failed to get in the endzone, but also saw the field goal attempt blocked to keep the score at 7-0.
However, once Buechele and the offense found its rhythm, it didn't look back. The Longhorns went to the quick-tempo offense early and often. And it not only led to points, but also confidence.
“When we can go fast, it helps a lot with our offense especially just keeping the defense off the field,” Buechele said. “They played a lot of snaps today, they played unbelievable. It was really good to see our running backs and offensive line work the way they did. “
The Longhorn offense now looks forward to its next challenge: a road test against No. 10 TCU. But even after the win Saturday, the 4-4 record is still in the back of some players’ mind.
“It sucks,” Jefferson said. “Because we should be a lot better honestly. But we’re not gonna play like we’re 4-4. We’re still gonna play like we're contending for something.”