Defense jumpstarts Longhorn offense

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Photo Credit: Eddie Gaspar

Before its bye week, Texas beat Oklahoma State 36-30. The Longhorns were never truly dominant, had issues on special teams and were less than their best. After the game, head coach Tom Herman spoke about how the elite teams are able to win without putting their best foot forward. Saturday was once again one of those games for the Longhorns. 

West Virginia was able to get up early. Despite being tied at the end of the first quarter, the play did not seem balanced. The Mountaineers had opportunities to extend their lead with several red zone appearances. The Longhorns had other plans for the day.

“Elite,” Herman said about his red zone defense. “Obviously, I think that’s a testament to our 1-0 culture, in terms of, you never want them to get down there.  But good offenses, especially in the Big 12, are going to get down there.” 

Texas was able to keep the Mountaineers out of the end zone in one of the more critical points in the game —  after junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger underthrew a pass to senior receiver John Burt that ended up being intercepted. The Longhorns forced a field goal and managed to not give the lead up.

“But those are huge, especially after the turnover,” Herman said. “That could’ve been a huge momentum swing had we let them score a touchdown there, but we held them to a field goal, and that was a really important stop.”

Outside of the red zone, the Longhorns were elite as well. Texas forced transfer redshirt junior quarterback Austin Kendall into four interceptions. Players all around the defense were able to get their hands on an interception, from freshman linebacker Ayodele Adeoye to sophomore cornerback D’Shawn Jamison— who came down with two.

“Chris Brown going out early certainly wasn’t advantageous in the back end, but the troops rallied well,” Herman said. “(I) wasn’t happy with the first couple of drives in the second half from the offense. But the defense played lights out coming out of halftime.”

Even with the Longhorn offense looking somewhat out of sorts until it exploded in the fourth quarter, they were able to keep the ball moving and focus on the next play.

“I’m just really proud of the way that everyone kind of … kept our head down and kept swinging,” Ehlinger.

For Ehlinger, his game wasn’t the usual high, clean performance that has been the standard for the season. He finished with just over 200 yards passing, two passing touchdowns and one interception. 

The consistency of the offense was freshman quarterback-turned-running back Roschon Johnson. At 6 feet, 2 inches, Johnson still managed ways to sliver through holes and average a great 5.8 yards per carry. 

Johnson was able to carry the Longhorns through the fourth quarter when the Longhorns piled on the score with a trick play including sophomore offensive lineman Samuel Cosmi. 

Ehlinger dropped back and rolled right. He was able to draw the entire defense to him, then threw it back across the field to hit an open Cosmi — who ran it 12 yards for the score.

“I’m seriously so happy for him,” Ehlinger said. “Offensive linemen don’t get enough credit. So any chance they get to get in the end zone, we’re going to take it.”