Sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger led the Longhorn offense onto the field in the later stages of the fourth quarter with one final opportunity to be the hero.
With a full year of experience under his belt, Ehlinger’s chance to display his growth in decision-making was finally presented to him with the game on the line. Despite turning the ball over in back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter, the Longhorns had one more chance to prove this season would be different.
Ehlinger scrambled out of the pocket and fired the ball to junior wide receiver Lil’ Jordan Humphrey. The ball sailed over Humphrey’s head and right into the hands of Maryland defensive back Antoine Brooks, allowing the Terps to upset the Longhorns with a 34-29 victory.
Saturday’s win marks the Terrapins’ second-consecutive win over Texas in the season opener.
“A lot of people are going to want to say this feels a lot like last year,” Herman said in the postgame press conference. “It doesn't to me.”
As Texas headed back to the locker room, it wasn’t hard to note the similarities to last season’s loss to Maryland: the dejection, the shocked fans, the scoreboard.
But when it came down to who received the blame for Saturday’s showing, Herman refused to place it on his players.
“The slow start was on me,” Herman said. “I feel like our guys were trying so hard to be perfect. We’ve got to find a way to relax our guys coming out of the tunnel.”
When asked if he knew what the coaching staff needs to do for the team to come out loose, he simply said, “If I knew that we would have done it.”
“We’ve got to figure that out,” Herman continued. “We’ve got a week to figure that out because if you had asked me pregame if we were loose, I would have said yes. Then the ball got kicked off, and I could sense guys were trying to be perfect.”
Texas fell behind 24-7 in the first half, but after scoring 22-consecutive points, the Longhorns appeared ready to take over in the second half. That wasn’t the case.
Maryland and Texas traded touchdowns to give the Terrapins a 31-29 lead heading into the fourth quarter. However, as the Longhorns prepared to take the field with 14:25 remaining in the game, a weather delay forced everybody to seek shelter — for 86 minutes.
While both teams returned to the puddle-filled field to resume play, the offense never looked the same, stringing together back-to-back-to-back turnovers to seal their fate.
“To have three turnovers in the last three drives — the first one got tipped, second one a fumble and third one I had to take a chance,” Ehlinger said. “Obviously we need to protect the football more, but before that, we shouldn’t have never been in that position.”
Ehlinger’s ugly game-ending interception begs the question: Will junior quarterback Shane Buechele see the field in the near future?
“It’s too early for me to answer that question,” Herman said.
From the quarterback questions to the concerns surrounding Todd Orlando’s defense and the general discipline of the team after getting penalized 10 times for 102 yards, Herman knows they have a lot of work to do. When it comes to talent level, however, Herman is convinced this team is on another level from last year.
“We know the task at hand,” Herman said. “We know the difficulties that lie ahead of us. We also know how much better we are than we were probably at any point last year. We didn’t show it in the first quarter and the fourth quarter.”
While Herman and the players displayed a level of understanding of what they must correct moving forward, fans, alumni and even former players were vocal as they were forced to relive last year’s nightmare.
“You lost last year. You got embarrassed last year so you had just as much to play for when you talk about pride and you came out and you lost,” former Longhorn linebacker Emmanuel Acho said in a reaction video on Twitter. “…There was no reason you should be trailing the whole game. It shouldn’t have to come down to a fourth-quarter, miraculous 91-yard march to win the game. And again, another fourth-quarter, last-possession turnover. I know I speak for the whole Texas fan base when I say you just can’t do it — not if you want to be good, not if you want to win games.”