The first victory is always the hardest, or so it’s said. Texas coach Tom Herman finally got his with a 56-0 demolition of San Jose State on a sun-splashed Saturday at Royal-Memorial Stadium.
Longhorns fans, not to mention everyone inside the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center, can breathe easy again. Texas (1-1) did exactly what everyone expected against a 26-point underdog.
“That’s what it’s supposed to look like when you’re playing well on both sides of the ball,” said Herman, who presented the game ball to men’s athletic director Mike Perrin.
The Maryland loss is a distant memory now. No pixie dust was needed for this one, either. Ready or not, bring on sixth-ranked USC.
Freshman Sam Ehlinger of Westlake started in place of the injured Shane Buechele and threw for 222 yards and one touchdown. Fan favorite Jerrod Heard also had a smattering of wildcat plays. He scored twice (9 and 3 yards) on runs that looked like souped-up versions of Tyrone Swoopes’ 18-wheeler package from yesteryear.
“Everyone was just ready to have a good time, get back out there and do what we do for Texas football,” Heard said. “Run the ball, throw the ball and have fun doing it.”
For Ehlinger, this day was a dream come true. He learned he would start Saturday morning and praised Buechele for helping him get prepared. “There were a lot of things I can improve on,” he said. “I think accuracy down the field on a couple of passes could have been better.”
Offensive coordinator Tim Beck actually used 250-pound Chris Warren III, who rumbled through and literally hurdled over the Spartans for 166 of UT’s 406 rushing yards. He became the 51st player in school history to rush for 1,000 career yards. The Horns were 10 of 15 on third-down conversions and tallied up 623 total yards.
The Spartans (1-2) took their $1 million paycheck and played gracious visitors. They dropped two sure-fire interceptions in the first half and two long passes, including one down the western sideline that could’ve been a touchdown.
San Jose State’s offense got into UT territory only once through the first three quarters. That lone trip ended with Malik Jefferson and Gerald Wilbon stuffing DeJon Packer on fourth-and-1 from Texas’ 10. San Jose State finished with 171 total yards and only 42 on the ground.
“We needed this shutout to prove to people that we could actually do it and prove to ourselves that we could actually do it first,” Jefferson said.
Cornerback Holton Hill got himself another pick-six with a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown. That’s now three scores for the UT cornerback; through two games, Hill actually leads the team in scoring. “I’m going to try my best to keep it going,” he said.
So what’s the real takeaway from all this rigmarole? Frankly, it’s hard to gauge. Texas came into the game with bigger, stronger, faster players. Even on their worst day, the Longhorns should have been able to manhandle a team from the Mountain West conference.
That was never more apparent than in the third quarter. Texas put together a methodical 16-play, 92-yard drive that gobbled up 6 minutes, 35 seconds. Warren had 16 yards on two carries and Kyle Porter had four consecutive runs for 23 yards and his first career touchdown. That gave Texas a 28-0 lead with 6:48 remaining.
The real gauge of Herman’s coaching acumen will come next week against the Trojans. Big games are supposed to be his thing. Herman was 6-0 against ranked opponents in two years leading Houston.
There’s no reason to promote this as a rematch of the 2005 national championship game. Both programs are vastly different now that more than a decade has passed.
Still, from UT’s vantage, it’s probably equal to the 2015 season opener at Notre Dame. Lots of fans made that trip to South Bend with sky-high expectations. The same will be true next week in Los Angeles.
Who starts at quarterback for Texas against Heisman candidate Sam Darnold? Buechele missed a week of practice with a bruised throwing shoulder but still dressed out against the Spartans. “I don’t know,” Herman said. “I think it would be premature of me to say that today.”
That discussion will begin at 10 a.m. Sunday, Herman said. For now, the Longhorns just wanted to relax. Left tackle Connor Williams said Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were some of the toughest game-week practices he’d ever experienced.
“It’s kind of hard to describe the feeling right now,” nickel back P.J. Locke III said. “I felt the vibe was different. It wasn’t just bundled up in a ball. People were sitting there having fun.”
If the Horns can put it all together next week in the Coliseum, the vibe will be drastically different, indeed.
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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