Ehlinger’s 4 TD passes lead No. 10 Texas over Louisiana Tech
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — It took three years to get there, but Texas is finally 1-0 under coach Tom Herman.
Sam Ehlinger threw four touchdown passes and the 10th-ranked Longhorns rolled past Louisiana Tech 45-14 on Saturday night, giving Herman his first season-opening victory with the program.
Texas had started each of the past two seasons with losses to Maryland, but had no trouble overwhelming the Bulldogs from Conference-USA in this one. Ehlinger was coolly efficient from the start with scoring passes on three of Texas’ first four possessions.
Herman dismissed the previous bad starts as “irrelevant,” but those losses had hung over his first two seasons, even when Texas finished 2018 with a Sugar Bowl win over Georgia.
His players were more willing to acknowledge just how significant getting to 1-0 meant.
“It’s a testament to the maturity or our team,” Ehlinger said. “The confidence we have to just let loose in the opener after the last two years.”
Offensive lineman Sam Cosmi called the win good for the soul.
“Getting a win is really good for our heads, our morale and confidence,” Cosmi said.
Texas is one of the favorites to challenge Oklahoma for the Big 12 title as long as Ehlinger can keep delivering touchdowns like he did last season and Saturday night. The junior passed for 25 TDs and ran for 16 more last season, and his four scoring thrown against the Bulldogs tied his career high. Ehlinger left the game at 38-0 and did not play in the fourth quarter.
Devin Duvernay caught nine passes and Ehlinger’s first touchdown, and Brennan Eagles caught touchdowns of 28 and 25 yards in the second and third quarters.
Texas could have easily looked past the Bulldogs to next week’s big matchup with No. 6 LSU in Austin. Herman said there was no chance of that after the last two years.
“The letters LSU never came out of anybody’s mouth the entire nine months since we left New Orleans,” Herman said. “The leaders in the locker room know how the openers turned out the last couple of years.”
Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs (0-1) needed senior quarterback J’Mar Smith and his top playmaker, Adrian Hardy, to have big games and neither could deliver against a swarming Texas defense. Smith was under regular pressure and missed some open looks, most notably a wild pass in the first half that missed an easy touchdown when the game was still close. Hardy didn’t have a catch in the first half.
“Poor Adrian, that guy is going to have bruises all over his body the way he got tackled tonight,” Bulldogs coach Skip Holtz said. “They weren’t going to let him free.”
Texas: The Longhorns had eight new starters on defense from a year ago and got off to a good start behind a dominant effort with so many fresh faces. Texas used a mix of looks that even included eight defensive backs on some plays, and forced three turnovers. Refine that scheme, and having that kind of coverage speed all over the field could have a big impact when Big 12 play starts.
There’s no reason to drop Texas down after a methodical dismantling of a Bulldogs team that has been known to give bigger programs fits.
Ehlinger was well protected for most of the night but still took a couple of big hits in the first half on a run and a sack. He missed games each of the last two years with injuries and Texas only has freshmen with no experience behind him this year. Casey Thompson ran for a touchdown after Ehlinger left the game.
A key concern for Texas is keeping sophomore running back Keaontay Ingram healthy. After nursing a knee bruise out of training camp, Ingram rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown and caught three passes. Ingram is Texas’ leading returning rusher from 2018 and is packing an extra 20 pounds on his frame.
“I feel like I need to take another step, not leave any yards out there, be perfect in everything I do,” Ingram said. “My body is good.”
Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs head back to Louisiana to face FCS opponent Grambling.
Texas: The Longhorns host their biggest non-conference game of the year: No. 6 LSU (1-0), which beat Georgia Southern 55-3 behind five touchdowns passes from Joe Burrow.
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
Follow Jim Vertuno at https://twitter.com/JimVertuno