Devin Duvernay

Getty Images

Texas clamps down on No. 11 Utah to end 2019 with an Alamo Bowl win

4 Comments

It’s been a meandering decade for Texas football but at least the program ended it on a high note.

The Longhorns pulled out their best defensive performance of the year despite a rash of injuries and a huge amount of staff turnover to rout No. 11 Utah on Tuesday night, ending 2019 with a 38-10 Alamo Bowl win.

While UT’s offense has typically carried the team this year, it was the other side of the ball that rose up to deliver a standout performance when most counted them out of the game well before kickoff. Playing just down the road from the 40 Acres, sophomore linebacker Joseph Ossai was borderline unblockable in the game with nine tackles (six for loss) and three sacks in a career outing. Defensive ends Malcolm Roach and Ta’Quon Graham also got in on the action with a sack each to go with an impressive night coming off the edge.

Their ability to keep the Utes from moving the ball much took the pressure off Sam Ehlinger and company for once — not that it mattered much as the ‘Horns were their usual self in making big plays. The quarterback wound up with yet another big stat line by throwing for 201 yards and three touchdowns (one interception) while chipping in with 73 yards on the ground and another score.

Hauling in most of Ehlinger’s passes was none other than top wideout Devin Duvernay, who closed out his time in burnt orange with a terrific all-around effort. He completed a pass for six yards, ran a reverse and caught three passes for an ever efficient 92 yards and a touchdown. Tailback Keaontay Ingram topped the century mark on the ground and scored a touchdown to really twist the knife in the result.

While everything came up Texas in the game, the same could not be said of the folks from out West. Despite coming within a game of making the College Football Playoff, the Utes were throughly whipped from start to finish. The senior backfield duo of QB Tyler Huntley (126 yards, 1 TD) and RB Zach Moss (57 yards rushing) were bottled up completely and end their career on a sour note with two straight blowout losses to end the season.

What really made things tough is that head coach Kyle Whittingham had sported one of the best bowl winning percentages of anybody but instead saw his team barely show up. They also keep a rather unfathomable streak alive as the Pac-12 title game loser (dating back to 2011) has never won their bowl game after falling in the conference championship game. It was still a very good 11 win season for Utah but the ending definitely spoiled the campaign a bit.

That’s not the case for Tom Herman, who was once again money as an underdog. The staff shuffling and numerous injuries had many worrying that a once promising 2019 would end on a thud after such an up-and-down season but that wasn’t the case in San Antonio. Texas may not be back as they proclaimed last year in the Sugar Bowl but they will certainly remember the Alamo (Bowl) as they head into 2020 with some momentum following a big win right down the road from campus.

Texas thumps Texas Tech behind Sam Ehlinger and Devin Duvernay combo

Getty Images
1 Comment

As the rain fell in Austin and the first quarter came to a close, many Texas fans wondered if this team had any fight left in them or if they were just focused on the latest Black Friday deals or recovery from a bit too much turkey on Thanksgiving.

It turns out the Longhorns did, even if the team got off to yet another slow start against an opponent they should have overwhelmed from the get-go. That eventually happened in a 49-24 win over in-state rival Texas Tech on Friday and leading the way were none other than the two offensive stars that have kept the program afloat for much of this season.

QB Sam Ehlinger was terrific with both his arm (348 yards, 2 TDs) and his legs (83 yards, 1 TD) in slicing up the Red Raiders defense. When the dual-threat wasn’t powering through for another first down on the ground, he probably was going to top target Devin Duvernay, who topped 100 catches for the year with a 199 yard, one score effort in his final outing at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium.

Tailback Roschon Johnson chipped in with 105 yards and three touchdowns rushing as well as the ex-high school quarterback was even allowed to attempt a pass on a 4th quarter trick play (it was incomplete).

Despite the lopsided final score, Tech did have their chances but going only 3-of-5 in the red zone and turning the ball over twice hampered their efforts. QB Jett Duffey recorded 399 yards and two scores against a questionable secondary and did well to only take four sacks on the day given how much he was under pressure. SaRodorick Thompson notched 86 yards and a TD rushing while both KeSean Carter (150) and Erik Ezukanma (135) were over the century mark receiving with a score apiece.

It was all for not in the end however, as they closed out the first campaign under head coach Matt Wells at 4-8 with a number of encouraging close losses outside of this one. The flip side is that the result, amid a sparse crowd for the home finale, should help take at least a little of the heat Tom Herman has been feeling from his fan base after thumping a conference and in-state rival to move to 7-5. There’s still plenty to clean up for the ‘Horns but at least on Friday the team got back on track a little after looking like the wheels were going to fall off early.

Biletnikoff Award whittles hunt for nation’s top receiver down to 12

Getty Images
5 Comments

The Biletnikoff Award on Monday announced its list of 12 semifinalists for the 2019 award. The award specifies that any player who catches a pass is eligible to win — not just wideouts — but only wideouts have won the award through its 25-year history.

And for what has to be the first time in Biletnikoff history, both LSU and Alabama have two semifinalists, including 2018 winner Jerry Jeudy.

The semifinalists are:

Rashod Bateman, Minnesota: 44 catches for 945 yards (21.5 yards per) and seven touchdowns
Omar Bayless, Arkansas State: 73 catches for 1,262 yards (17.3 yards per) and 14 touchdowns
Ja'Marr Chase, LSU: 57 catches for 1,116 yards (19.6 yards per) and 13 touchdowns
Antonio Gandy-Golden, Liberty: 64 catches for 1,244 yards (19.4 yards per) and eight touchdowns
Isaiah Hodgins, Oregon State: 73 catches for 1,021 yards (14 yards per) and 13 touchdowns
Justin Jefferson, LSU: 71 catches for 1,010 yards (14.2 yards per) and 11 touchdowns
Jerry Jeudy, Alabama: 64 catches for 867 yards (13.6 yards per) and nine touchdowns
CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma: 44 catches for 983 yards (22.3 yards per) and 12 touchdowns
Michael Pittman, Jr., USC: 82 catches for 1,118 yards (13.6 yards per) and nine touchdowns
James Proche, SMU: 88 catches for 1,008 yards (11.5 yards per) and 12 touchdowns
Devonta Smith, Alabama: 56 catches for 1,026 yards (18.3 yards per) and 11 touchdowns
Sage Surratt, Wake Forest: 66 catches for 1,001 yards (15.2 yards per) and 11 touchdowns

The notable snub here is Devin Duvernay of Texas, who is one off the lead for catches (87) but could not crack the voters’ top 12. (Full disclosure: I am a Biletnikoff voter and had Duvernay on my semifinalist list.)

The 12 semifinalists will be chopped down to three next Monday, with the winner announced at the Home Depot College Football Awards on Dec. 12.

No. 19 Texas watches Big 12 title hopes die in walk-off loss to Iowa State

Getty Images
3 Comments

No. 19 Texas went to Ames on Saturday afternoon knowing a win over Iowa State and a No. 10 Oklahoma win over No. 13 Baylor tonight meant a de facto Big 12 semifinal between the Longhorns and Bears next Saturday.

However, a season-high nine punts, eight three-and-outs, a failed fourth down try and a catastrophic offsides penalty conspired to cancel that semifinal before it began, as Iowa State beat Texas, 23-21.

The win is sweet triumph for Iowa State (6-4), whose four losses came by one, two, seven and one point.

Despite the 2-point margin, Iowa State dominated the first three quarters of the game.

It appeared Iowa State would take a 10-0 lead into the break, as Texas took over the ball at its own 25 with 47 seconds left in the first half, having gained 59 yards on their first 24 snaps. Instead, the Longhorns briefly came alive, covering 75 yards in alternating passes to Devin Duvernay and Brennan Eagles, bridging the gap to 10-7 and giving the visitors momentum heading into the break.

That momentum did not last. Brock Purdy found Deshaunte Jones wide open behind the defense on the first play from scrimmage of the second half, putting the Cyclones back up 10. Brayden Narveson then pushed the lead to 20-7 on a 48-yard field goal with 12:09 to go in the third quarter, and Texas answered by registering its sixth and seventh three-and-outs of the day.

The Longhorns finally got off the mat late in the third quarter, moving 80 yards in 10 plays and scoring when Sam Ehlinger hit Keontay Ingram on 3rd-and-10 for a 21-yard touchdown, a play when he leaked out of the backfield and punished a zero blitz.

When the Texas defense forced a punt with 12:20 to play, the Longhorns took over at their own 11 and put together a marathon, miracle 15-play, 89-yard touchdown drive in which Texas overcame a 2nd-and-35 and, later, took the lead when Ehlinger found Malcolm Epps for a 7-yard touchdown on 4th-and-goal, giving Texas a 21-20 lead with 5:37 to play.

Iowa State gained a first down on the ensuing possession, and prepared to go for a 4th-and-5 from midfield, but a delay of game forced Matt Campbell to send the punting unit on the field, giving Texas the ball and the lead for the first time of the game. The Longhorns did nothing with it, running for no gain on first and second down and throwing incomplete on third, marking their eighth three and out of the game. Chris Naggar‘s ninth punt, a season high, sailed and rolled 67 yards, pushing the Cyclones back to their own 18, but they were in Texas territory in two plays thanks to a 15-yard strike to Jones and a 22-yard grab by La'Michael Pettway, while fighting off pass interference.

Jalen Green eventually forced an incompletion on 3rd-and-4, setting up a 44-yard field goal with 2:16 to play. But Narveson’s try never happened, because Texas linebacker Joseph Ossai jumped offside, putting the Iowa State offense back on the field.

Having exhausted all its timeouts to set up the first try, Texas could not stop as Iowa State ran the clock down to just four seconds. This time, Connor Assalley tried from 36 yards, and it was good, clinching Iowa State’s first walk-off field-goal win since 1983.

The loss drops Texas (6-4, 4-3 Big 12) out of Big 12 title contention and will send them back to Austin wondering what might have been. In addition to the Ossai penalty, Texas also blew an opportunity in the second quarter, when D'Shawn Jamison intercepted a Purdy pass at the Iowa State 39 but Texas stubbornly refused to throw the ball on the possession, running sight straight times, including for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-2 from the Iowa State 22.

For the game, Texas ran for 54 yards on 26 carries, 27 of them by Ehlinger, who completed 22-of-40 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns.

Iowa State leading No. 19 Texas at the break

Getty Images
2 Comments

Iowa State holds a 10-7 lead over No. 19 Texas at the half in Ames, and the game has played out exactly as the score indicates.

The Cyclones zipped down the field on their first possession, moving 59 yards in eight breezy plays, as Brock Purdy found tight end Charlie Kolar wide open in the back of the end zone for a 2-yard score to open the scoring. The Cyclones then closed their half with a 35-yard Connor Assalley field goal with 47 ticks left before halftime.

In between, Iowa State went three-and-out twice, turned it over on downs at the Texas 31 and threw an interception.

Texas has simply not been able to get the ball going, and they’ve hardly tried to throw the ball down field. The ‘Horns went three-and-out on four of their first six possessions, and one of the other two ended in disaster. After D'Shawn Jamison intercepted Purdy at the Iowa State 39, Texas picked up one first down but could not get another. Facing a fourth-and-2 at ISU’s 21, Sam Ehlinger kept it and was stuffed for a loss of a yard. The Longhorns did not throw the ball on any of their six plays in the drive.

Ehlinger went 4-of-7 for 26 yards while Texas rushed a combined 17 times for just 33 yards over UT’s first six tries. After taking over at its own 25, down 10-0 with 47 seconds left in the first half, Ehlinger hit Devin Duvernay for 17 yards, Brennan Eagles for 33, Duvernay again for 11, Eagles again for a 14-yard touchdown.

After gaining just 59 yards on their first 24 snaps, Texas suddenly moved 75 yards in five plays to make it a game again.

Iowa State will receive to open the second half.