It may be a new season for Texas, but it was the same result as last year’s opener — an undisciplined Longhorn team getting upset by underdog Maryland.
Saturday’s 34-29 loss had plenty of defining moments, including key fourth-quarter turnovers, a one hour and 26 minute rain delay and the defense’s inability to force turnovers.
Here are three of the biggest takeaways from Texas’ season opener:
Fourth-quarter execution is still a problem
The Longhorns were nearly mistake free on the offensive end. Then, the fourth quarter began.
Sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger took the field with 6:45 to go in the game. Two players later, a costly interception saw the Maryland offense regain possession.
On the next drive, a fumble from Texas running back Tre Watson near the 50-yard line halted another opportunity for the Longhorns to take control late in the game.
To the defense’s credit, Ehlinger and the Longhorns had a third and final opportunity to complete a comeback, only to have it stripped away by junior Maryland defensive back Antoine Brooks Jr. after a an interception on 3rd-and-10.
It’s a story Texas fans are all too familiar with. Late turnovers defined the outcome for the Longhorns.
Ehlinger, who threw for two touchdowns over the first three quarters, said that his game mimicked how the team performed as a whole.
“I thought my individual performance kind of embodied how we did as a team overall,” Ehlinger told Longhorn Network after the game. “We started slow, middle of the game, we finally found our stride and who we needed to be. Then, at the end, we didn’t finish so I think that resembles it pretty well.”
Executing in late-game situations is an issue Texas desperately needs to correct if they want to have any shot at getting close to the top of the Big 12 this season.
Orlando’s defense struggles to take away the ball
Despite having one of the top defenses in the Big 12 last season, the Longhorns struggled to create turnovers. Saturday didn’t prove very different as Texas failed to record a single takeaway.
Early on, the lack of pressure showed as Maryland quickly ran out to a 24-7 lead. Texas recovered down the stretch but eventually gave up 34 points by the end of the game.
The defense’s failure to keep the Terrapins out of the end zone was too much for the Texas offense to overcome. After the game, senior defensive tackle Chris Nelson said that he didn’t approve of the defense’s performance.
“For me, my standpoint, I don’t like it,” Nelson said. “I know we can play better than that and we will play better than that.”
Coaching staff emphasizes running game
Another question following head coach Tom Herman and the coaching staff going into Saturday’s game was the amount of run plays that will be called this season.
Last season’s offensive personnel consisted of a revolving door at the running back position, but one of the more positive aspects from Saturday’s game was the 27 carries by four different running backs. Watson recorded 57 yards on 12 carries and freshman Keaontay Ingram tallied 37 yards on six carries in his first game in burnt orange.
The numbers aren’t eye-popping, but the decision to stick with the run, even when the team found themselves down by three scores, is promising.
The Longhorns showed on Saturday that there’s at least two runners they feel comfortable with. If they want to ease the questions about Ehlinger’s play, Herman should continue to get the running backs involved early and often each week.
Texas kicks off a three-game stretch at home next weekend as the Longhorns will take on Tulsa.