There may not be many more oft-discussed position groups in college football than that of running back at Texas. In the Longhorns’ Week Two shootout loss to LSU, the room that was struggling with depth got even more interesting.
In his first start against a premier team , sophomore running back Keaontay Ingram’s Saturday night began with disaster. Standing wide open in the end zone on fourth and goal, Ingram dropped a pass from junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger. After the early blunder, Ingram never truly got going as a ball carrier, finishing with 10 carries for just 29 yards.
“That’s (about) maturity and continuing to keep his head up when things go bad,” Ehlinger said. “That was kind of his first taste of big adversity. Just learning from mistakes and understanding that ultimately you can’t do anything to change the past.”
While Ingram’s mistake was crucial in what ended up as a seven-point loss for the Longhorns, it wasn’t the be-all, end-all. Texas had plenty of chances to win the football game, and that was made clear to Ingram by his veteran teammates.
“What’s different about this team is Keaontay was like, ‘Man, that game was my fault. I let y’all down,’ just on that simple mistake, the drop in the end zone that we all saw,” senior receiver Collin Johnson said. “But I was like, ‘Bro, it’s not your fault. One play, it’s not why we lost the game.’ I personally felt like, ‘Man, it’s my fault, I left a couple plays out there.’ Sam says man, it’s his fault, he didn’t start fast enough. If we all have that mindset and that accountability, that’s special. ”
While Ingram struggled against the Tigers, freshman running back-convert Roschon Johnson looked more than solid. In his second week at the position, Roschon ran for 32 yards on seven carries and caught three passes for 17 yards.
More importantly, he looked comfortable making plays that even more established backs sometimes miss. He caught the ball well out of the backfield, picked up blitzing linebackers and, simply put, looked like a running back when carrying the ball.
“I just like his attitude towards the whole transition,” senior offensive lineman Zach Shackelford said. “Obviously everyone knows he’s a very good athlete, but just his commitment to the team, to be able to switch positions on a whim, take it in stride and just do really well with it just speaks high volumes to his character.”
As Texas prepares for a matchup with Rice on Saturday, Roschon will continue to play a large role in this offense. Freshman Jordan Whittington, junior Daniel Young and senior Kirk Johnson won’t return to the running back room for weeks, so as the season wears on, it will be up to Ingram to rebound and Roschon to steamroll ahead as the Longhorns’ only two backs.