Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger sucked the air out of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium as he headed to the sideline with blood running down his throwing hand during the first quarter.
But his blood-stained hand wasn’t the only issue. When Ehlinger arrived to the sideline during No. 9 Texas’ 23-17 win over Baylor, head coach Tom Herman realized he was dealing with much more than a minor cut.
“As he's coming off, we thought, ‘OK, he's going to be out for a play, just get the blood cleaned up as they do,” Herman said. “Any time you've got exposed blood, you've got to come off the field. And he came off, he goes, ‘Coach, my shoulder's messed up. My shoulder's messed up.’"
Ehlinger headed to the locker room, and backup quarterback Shane Buechele took off his headset, grabbed his helmet and ran onto the field.
“I just remember Sam looking at me and saying, ‘Hey go in,’” Buechele said. “I said, ‘Alright, I have no choice.’”
Buechele led the offense for the remainder of the first half, giving Texas a 23-10 lead at halftime. But one overwhelming question remained: Who would be Texas’ quarterback in the second half?
Ehlinger was diagnosed with a sprain and given anti-inflammatories during his visit to the locker room, but after he was evaluated at halftime and emerged from the tunnel without his pads on, it was clear it was Buechele’s game.
Ehlinger, the quarterback responsible for Texas’ best start since 2009, traded his helmet in for a headset and spent the second half with a bandage on his right hand and his right arm attached to his side.
“You never want this to happen,” Buechele said. “You never expect this to happen. Just talking with my family and teammates, they said, ‘Just stay ready, and be the best teammate you can be.’ I’m thankful for everybody around me.”
Buechele helped Texas drop 23 points in the first half, but the second half had the Texas defense hanging on for dear life and the Longhorn faithful begging for a breath of fresh air — a sigh of relief they wouldn’t get until the clock hit triple zeros.
Buechele ended up throwing 20-for-34 for 184 yards and a touchdown, but none of this added up to the Texas offense recording a single point in the second half, allowing Baylor to hang in the game for all four quarters.
“When Shane went in, I did notice he was a bit anxious, and that's to be expected,” Herman said. “Here's a guy, he literally has not taken a snap in the football game the entire season. So for him to be anxious was definitely expected.”
After cutting the score to 23-17 with a touchdown in the third quarter, Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer and the Bears offense stood 97 yards away from winning the game with 1:43 remaining in the game.
Brewer led a near perfect two-minute drill, placing the Bears 17 yards away from the end zone with one second left in the game. Brewer took the snap, rolled to the right side of the pocket and heaved the ball just before getting driven to the ground by defensive end Charles Omenihu.
“My mindset on that whole drive was to get to the quarterback at any means necessary,” Omenihu said.
Omenihu disrupted the pass, which was then thrown toward the end zone and harmlessly flew over Baylor wide receiver Jalen Hurd’s head and out of bounds. By the time the ball hit the turf, the clock hit zero, allowing Texas to remain undefeated in the Big 12 and storm the field in celebration.
Despite the defense shutting the Baylor offense down to the tune of seven points in the second half, it was backup quarterback Shane Buechele who demanded the majority of the attention in the postgame press conference.
“I don't think there was any doubt in anybody's mind how prepared he was because they watch him every day, and what an unbelievable teammate he has been; especially considering, you know, what's going on other places in the country,” Herman said. “… I can't thank Shane enough, and I probably don't enough. But after today, I certainly will.”
As for Ehlinger, Herman announced the quarterback sustained an AC sprain and is set to get an MRI to ensure that there is no ligament damage in his right shoulder.
Texas enjoys the luxury of a bye week after going 6–1 through the first seven games, but for now, Ehlinger is required to rest and receive treatment. Ehlinger won’t throw a football until at least late next week. Until further notice, Buechele has returned as Texas’ starting quarterback.