From nearly three hours before kickoff until the final whistle, Texas wanted to send a message — and that didn’t have to necessarily be left solely on the field.
Two concerts, a live radio show and a postgame player autograph session were part of just some of the festivities at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium during Saturday night’s Orange-White spring game. The White team took home a 23-13 win to wrap up the 15th and final practice of the spring season.
“I need to thank our fans … showing out as well as they did, as enthusiastic as they were … really felt it,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said. “I think we’re slowly but surely getting to the point where I think we’re going to see the stands packed the way that we all hoped that they do.”
Saturday night’s game focused primarily on the offense and its ability to make big plays in both phases of the game. While the Longhorns didn’t unveil their entire offensive package, they did pull a few tricks out of the bag.
Texas’ running game found an unexpected spark from junior wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey. Humphrey was prominently featured in Texas’ goal-line packages, running in for two touchdowns on the night.
Humphrey also tallied 100 receiving yards on seven catches, linking up with sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger on multiple occasions.
“(Humphrey) is about as versatile an offensive player as I’ve ever been around,” Herman said. “When you see a guy like him have the amount of catches he has, that means the quarterbacks believe in him.”
On the other side of the ball, junior wide receiver Collin Johnson had his fair share of highlights. Two tip-toe grabs — one in the back of the end zone for a touchdown and another along the sideline — showed fans what they missed last year.
A six-catch, 91-yard performance with many big grabs showed why Johnson is one of the best one-on-one receivers in the country. His ability to form chemistry with any quarterback, including freshman Cameron Rising, will make him an even bigger threat in 2018.
“I don’t know that we ever didn’t see that version of Collin Johnson,” Herman said. “You get your best players the football.”
Behind those receivers, fans also got to see how the quarterbacks have developed over the spring. Neither disappointed, as junior Shane Buechele and sophomore Sam Ehlinger combined for 281 yards through the air.
In Saturday’s affair, both quarterbacks earned their stripes with the long ball. Seam routes down the middle, deep posts and a few go routes in the mix provided a measuring stick as to where each quarterback was.
“I told the quarterbacks, experiment, rip it in there, man,” Herman said. “Try to fit it in the tight windows, because I want you to have that confidence when you do.”
Texas’ early enrollees also got their first glimpse of in-game action since coming to Austin. Freshman defensive back B.J. Foster made his presence known early, nearly reeling in a one-handed interception in coverage. The duo of freshman quarterbacks, Casey Thompson and Cameron Rising, also made their respective debuts with a couple of nice tosses on the run.
“They’re a really good group,” senior tight end Andrew Beck said. “None of them are problem guys. They all came in and put their nose to the grindstone and just went from day one.”
Through the stats and impressive plays Saturday night, it wasn’t difficult to tell Herman, the players and his staff had the culture in place to help Texas turn the corner.
“We’re excited about what we have going on right now,” Beck said. “We’ve seen the fruits of our labor, how good we can be and now it’s just continuing to develop.”