Sam Ehlinger walked onto the field three times in the final minutes of Texas’ season-opening game against Maryland with a chance to lead the Longhorns to a victory. Each attempt ended in failure.
As a result of two crucial interceptions by Ehlinger and a fumble from running back Tre Watson, the Longhorns lost the game and began the season 0–1. Fans erupted on social media, mocking how each player and coach proclaimed this team was different, only to see the same results.
Head coach Tom Herman wanted to make things clear to his quarterback after the game: He wasn’t the reason they lost.
“There were two things I told him. One after the Maryland game was, ‘You don’t need to look over your shoulder. I’ll tell you when you do, but we believe in you. You didn’t lose the Maryland game for your team. You didn’t. That was coaches, players, offense, defense, special teams, we all lost that game,’” Herman said Monday during a press conference.
Fast forward six weeks and Ehlinger has emerged as one of the most poised and efficient signal callers in the entire country.
Since the Longhorns’ loss at FedExField on Sept. 1, Ehlinger has thrown for 1,236 yards and 15 total touchdowns over five games, demonstrating the level of confidence the quarterback is now displaying in his second season at Texas.
“He gets some swagger going when he gets hit or he runs somebody over or something like that. You see him, and he starts playing with confidence,” said Tim Beck, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. “He’s a lot better when he plays that way than he is when he plays cautious.”
The key for Ehlinger has been ignoring any voices outside the locker room and instead trusting in himself.
“I think confidence is a huge thing in whatever industry you’re in,” Ehlinger said. “After the Maryland game, I could’ve gone in different directions with my confidence. I could’ve listened to the outside noise. Whatever I wanted to listen to and whatever I wanted to put my mind to was what was going to happen. I understood that continued confidence is the only way to get better.”
Fresh off Texas’ biggest win in a decade, Ehlinger prepares to square off Saturday against the Baylor Bears, led by quarterback Charlie Brewer — a former Lake Travis student whom Ehlinger says he has been friends with since middle school.
Against Baylor, the red-hot Sam Ehlinger will continue to have the green light to keep firing away from his teammates, Texas fans and his head coach, who has remained one of Ehlinger’s constant voices of support, even at his lowest point this season.
“I think having the head coach believe in you allows you a little more confidence,” Herman said. “We made the decision for him to be our starting quarterback, and we made that decision for a lot of different reasons and one game, one quarter in a game was not going to deter us from that decision.”