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A fresh start: Defense, Sam Ehlinger pace Texas’ 56-0 win over San Jose State

Posted September 9th, 2017

It’s over at Royal-Memorial Stadium. Texas, a 24-point favorite today, has beaten San Jose State 56-0.

You could almost hear the collective “Whew” from the Longhorns fan base that saw (a) Texas win, (b) Texas win in convincing fashion, (c) a freshman quarterback win his debut game and (d) a defensive shutout for the first time since 2014.

And to think, San Jose State got paid $1 million for this one.

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Saturday’s crowd was 88,117. Last week’s opener was 88,396. That means there were 279 fewer fans that saw today’s 56-0 win than there were last week to see the 51-41 loss.

This one will go down as Sam Ehlinger’s first career start, but let’s not overlook what the defense did. Texas shut out a team for the first time since the 23-0 win over Kansas on Sept. 27, 2014.

Ehlinger, as expected, got the start when Shane Buechele was ruled out about an hour before kickoff with a bruised shoulder injury that kept him out of practice all week. We’re assuming Buechele was kept out in order to rest up for next Saturday’s impending road trip to USC, but those Buechele vs. Ehlinger questions surely will come between now and then.

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Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) warms up before the start of Saturday’s San Jose State game in front of Shane Buehcele. (Stephen Spillman/Austin American-Statesman)

Why Texas won: There was a reason why the Longhorns were such big favorites. Texas ran the ball with relative ease, controlled the line of scrimmage, stifled the Spartans defensively and avoided the pratfalls — turnovers, missed tackles, special teams breakdowns — that spoiled the season opener.

Why San Jose State lost: The Spartans were unable to sustain drives — and, thus, unable to score points. That’ll score you a shutout loss every time.

Next up for Texas: At USC, next Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Central time.

Let’s get Ehlinger out of the way first. He started off shaky but settled down, led Texas to a couple of long scoring drives and showed that he can extend and make plays with his ability to tuck it and run. He earned a 136.8 QB rating as a passer, completing 15 of his 27 attempts for 222 yards and a touchdown. He also ran it seven times for 48 yards, averaging 6.9 yards a pop.

Ehlinger, 23-6 as a starter at Westlake, is now 1-0 as a Longhorn.

It wasn’t just Ehlinger back there, however. Jerrod Heard — remember him? — returned for some spot duty to relieve Ehlinger, mostly on third-and-shorts to run it. He was pretty effective too, scoring his first rushing touchdown since November 2015. He finished with minus-5 yards passing but carried it eight times for 39 yards and two touchdowns.

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Texas defensive back Holton Hill (5) and Texas defensive back Kris Boyd (2) celebrate a score against San Jose State in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas Saturday September 9, 2017
RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The defense, meanwhile, held San Jose State to 20 yards in the Spartans’ first three drives, kept them to an even 100 total yards in the first half and pitched a shutout for the first time in 33 games. San Jose State was held to 171 total yards, was only 2 of 12 on third-down conversions, committed two turnovers and produced only eight first downs. The day was summarized in one second-quarter play — Malik Jefferson popping SJSU quarterback Montel Aaron as the redshirt freshman tried to leap over the line on a fourth-and-1 at Texas’ 10-yard line.

That, along with Chris Warren III’s hurdle of a Spartans defender in the first half and Holton Hill’s second pick-six of the season, were the three biggest moments of the game.

Speaking of Warren, he broke off runs of 41 and 26 yards, put up 80 yards on one second-quarter drive alone, and finished with 166 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. He got the start after giving way to Kyle Porter last week; neither of them were effective in the loss to Maryland, though.

Porter also had 16 carries, finishing with 72 yards and a touchdown.

The Longhorns had 32 first downs, produced 623 yards of total offense and held a lopsided advantage in time of possession, 38:59 to 21:01.

Keep in mind, though, that this is Texas and that was San Jose State, and the Longhorns were 24-point favorites.

Still, seeing Texas (1-1) control a game is a welcome sight for fans who spent the past week scratching their heads over the season-opening stumble against the Terrapins.

For you history buffs, this win breaks a string of recent Texas coaches’ early stumbles in their first seasons. Since Fred Akers, the last four Longhorns coaches — David McWilliams, John Mackovic, Mack Brown and Charlie Strong — suffered back-to-back losses early in their first years:

  • David McWilliams, 1978

First loss: 1st game (at No. 5 Auburn, 31-3)

Followed by: 22-17 loss to BYU

  • John Mackovic, 1992

First loss: 1st game (No. 21 Mississippi State, 28-10)

Followed by: 31-21 loss at No. 9 Syracuse

  • Mack Brown, 1998

First loss: 2nd game (No. 6 UCLA, 49-31)

Followed by: 48-7 loss at No. 5 Kansas State

  • Charlie Strong, 2014

First loss: 2nd game (BYU, 41-7)

Followed by: 20-17 loss to No. 12 UCLA, in Arlington

  • Tom Herman, 2017

First loss: 1st game, (Maryland, 51-41)

Followed by: 56-0 win over San Jose State

The first play of the Sam Ehlinger era was a Warren run up the middle, for 7 yards. The second play was an Ehlinger misfire to Lorenzo Joe. Heard came into the game on third-and-3 and he kept it for 9 yards and a first down. Ehlinger’s first deep shot was a 35-yard pass to Armanti Foreman, who was breaking free over the middle on a post. But it went incomplete. It was a combined incompletion — we’ve seen Foreman make tougher catches, but the pass was a bit behind him and Foreman had to go low for it while on the run.

Ehlinger’s first completion came on Texas’ second drive, a nice 18-yarder to Foreman. The pass was thrown into coverage, but well-placed.

Foreman, not Reggie Hemphill-Mapps, returned punts today. Hemphill-Mapps ran one back 91 yards for a touchdown against Maryland but was suspended for the first half. He played the second half, notching his first catch with 3:56 left in the third quarter, a 12-yarder for a first down.

Breaking down Texas’ drives:

First half

Drive 1: Several Ehlinger misfires.

Drive 2: Porter in for Warren. Got to midfield. Punt.

Drive 3: Started at UT’s 43. One fourth-down conversion and Warren hurdle later, Heard scored from 9 yards out. Texas 7, SJSU 0 (9 plays, 57 yards, 4:12)

Drive 4: Warren had 80 yards rushing on that one drive, the last 41 for a touchdown. Texas 14, SJSU 0. (6-89-2:58)

Drive 5: Spoiled by a Zach Shackelford holding call. Punt.

Drive 6: A long pass to Jerrod Heard (reviewed and upheld) set up Heard’s second TD run of the day. Texas 21, SJSU 0 (10-77-2:11)

Second half

Drive 1: Started at the 8. No huge plays, but the longest drive of the day ending with a Kyle Porter TD run. Texas 28, SJSU 0 (16-92-6:35)

Drive 2: A missed field goal. That old chestnut.

Drive 3: Ehlinger had throws of 27 and 23 yards and Warren finished things off with his second score of the day. Texas 42, SJSU 0 (4-67-1:34)

Drive 4: Working a short field thanks to a fumbled kickoff, Armanti Foreman scored on a short “pass” from 1-yard out — Sam Ehlinger’s first career TD pass. Texas 49, San Jose State 0 (3-19-:54)

Drive 5: Up 49-0 with a little more than 8 minutes left, Heard took over in mop-up duty. Freshman Toneil Carter scored from 4 yards out with 2:46 left to go (11-79-6:34)

Observations:

Through two games, junior cornerback Holton Hill is Texas’ leading scorer. He’s produced 18 points — two pick-sixes and a blocked field goal return.

And Jerrod Head is the second-leading scorer.

After a first-game push, Chris Warren III stepped up today in the starting running back sweepstakes. Looks like he and Kyle Porter will go back and forth, but Warren was the clear winner today.

Where was John Burt today? And Collin Johnson?

Lorenzo Joe benefited the most from Reggie Hemphill-Mapps’ first-half suspension (a violation of team rules). Joe was in on a lot of snaps.

Armanti Foreman fumbled a punt (but recovered it) and dropped two passes that could have gone for touchdowns.

Joshua Rowland’s struggles continue. He missed a 43-yard field goal try in the third quarter to pair with his 42- and 44-yarders he missed against Maryland.

The post A fresh start: Defense, Sam Ehlinger pace Texas’ 56-0 win over Sam Jose State appeared first on HookEm.

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