Texas football: Ehlinger, young players shine in dominant season opener
For the first time in three years Texas is 1-0 thanks to a dominant performance on both sides of the ball in a 45-14 victory over Louisiana Tech.
After playing in 10 one-score games last season, the Longhorns showed a sign of program growth by taking control early and imposing their will on the Bulldogs.
"The progress was shown throughout preparation," head coach Tom Herman said. "You know, the progress was shown in the mental makeup of this team leading up to the game. I wasn't surprised by the way that we started."
Sam Ehlinger was 28-of-38 for 276 yards and four touchdowns and added another 40 yards on the ground as the Longhorns attacked the Bulldog defense with several different personnel packages.
"Sam checked us into some really good plays," Herman said. You know, it was good to see the entire offense, staff included, adjust to what we were seeing."
Texas led 38-0 in the fourth quarter before sitting their starters and allowing the Bulldogs to spot a quick 14 points late.
"You know, it's a product of coming out and starting fast more than it is how we called or managed the game in the second half," Herman said. "38-0 is a gigantic lead in the second half. It made that decision a little bit easier."
Devin Duvernay was the main target for Ehlinger, hauling in nine passes for 55 yards and a touchdown. He had four catches on the first drive alone, including a 4-yard scoring toss to cap off the drive.
"He has taken to the slot position better than probably any of us could have imagined," Herman said.
Colin Johnson was his usual productive self with four catches for 59 yards and a score and redshirt freshman Brennan Eagles burst onto the scene with a three catches for 59 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
"I swear he's made the most strides," Herman said of Eagles. "I think it's just the speed of the game and the knowledge of his assignment. I mean, this is a 228, 230 pound young man that can run 21 miles an hour and he's 6'3"."
On defense the Longhorns bent, but didn't break as the Bulldogs moved the ball between the 20s only to get shut down when they reached scoring range. The first three trips inside the Longhorns 35 resulted in two missed field goals and a failed fourth down attempt.
Joseph Ossai had a breakout performance on defense, notching five tackles, one for loss, a forced fumble and an interception.
"It was awesome," Ossai said of his team's performance. "It showed us and proved to ourselves that we could do it. It gives us a lot of confidence going into week two, week three, week four and week five."
Jalen Green stood out as well, blanketing top Bulldogs receiver Adrian Hardy and helping the Longhorns hold him to just three catches for 38 yards.
Running back Keaontay Ingram led the team in rushing with 11 carries for 78 yards. Texas concentrated on the short passing game in the first half, leaned heavily on the sophomore running back to help close things out in the third quarter.
Freshman No. 2 running back Jordan Whittington was injured during the game, meaning quarterback-turned-running-back Roschon Johnson was called into action. He recorded seven carries for 31 yards.
Herman said after the game it was a mild groin strain and that Whittington could have returned if needed.
Texas is now headed for what should be a top 10 matchup against LSU this coming weekend. ESPN College Gameday has already announced it will be at the game, the show's first appearance in the Forty Acres since 2009.
“We’re all so excited. It’s what you come to the University of Texas to do," Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger said. "Compete against extremely good programs and do it in front of a lot of people.”