Humbled and unranked again, Texas takes on Tulsa
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Humbled again and dropped back out of the Top 25, Texas will try to regroup against Tulsa on Saturday.
If Tom Herman’s rebuilding project wants to be taken seriously, the Longhorns can’t afford yet another in a game they’ll be heavily favored to win.
“We told the guys that this one game will not define us,” Herman said of Texas’ season-opening loss at Maryland. “Week one will never define anybody.”
Herman’s problem is that the first game was defined by the same problems that have dogged Texas for years: a slow start on both sides of the ball and a flurry of late turnovers. It was quite a shock for a program looking to break out of a nearly a decade of mediocrity — or worse.
“I saw people really, really hurt. More than ever,” senior defensive end Breckyn Hager said. ”(But) the determination of a re-born look in their eyes the next day was one of the most refreshing things I could have seen. Right now, we need to keep our mouth shut, show up and I believe you’ll get a performance by our team that will dictate the rest of our season.”
Texas hasn’t started 0-2 since 1992. The Longhorns will face a Tulsa team that went 1-10 last season and rallied to beat Central Arkansas in its opener last week. The season won’t get any easier for Texas from here. After Tulsa, the Longhorns host No. 17 Southern Cal and No. 16 TCU.
“It’s a great opportunity to put a mark on things,” Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said. “I can promise you our guys are going down there with the mindset to get a win.”
Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger struggled again with two fourth-quarter interceptions. He’d been good until then, checking Texas out plays and scrambling into open space. Herman said he remains the starter.
“A lot of people probably forget we snapped the ball about 90 times. They always want to remember the last one if it didn’t go how they planned it to go,” Ehlinger said.
Look for both teams to throw deep a lot. The Tulsa offense is similar to the one Texas had in 2016 and looks for quick-strike deep routes. Tulsa’s first touchdown last week was a 49-yard pass. Texas’ first score against Maryland was a touchdown strike from Ehlinger to Devin Duvernay.
“We have told Sam, launch that son of a gun, because that dude is really fast out there,” Herman said.
FAST START/FAST PLAY
Texas trailed 24-7 last week before a switch to an up-tempo offense pulled the Longhorns back within 24-22 by halftime. Herman abandoned the tempo offense in the second half. Look for him to keep up the pressure this week.
TEXAS OFFENSIVE LINE
Texas’ depth on the offensive line took a big hit when reserve guard Patrick Hudson was hospitalized with a heat illness and starting center Zach Shackelford sprained a foot in practice. Neither will play. Line play has been the Longhorns’ weakest link in recent seasons and their ability to protect Ehlinger against Tulsa and going forward will be key to their season.
Freshman running back Keaontay Ingram led Texas with 37 yards and a nifty 6.2-yard rushing average against Maryland. But Herman said he didn’t want him touching the ball in the second half of a tight game on the road. Why not? Senior transfer Tre Watson fumbled in the fourth quarter and junior Kyle Porter dropped a late pass. Ingram could be the most dynamic back on the team if he gets the ball.
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