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No. 11 Texas loses two starting DBs for a month, a third for longer, backup LB for the season

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Coming into this season, Texas really liked its depth in the secondary. Heading into the meat of the Big 12 schedule, that faith is about to be tested.

Tom Herman confirmed Monday that Texas will be without starting cornerback Jalen Green and starting safety Caden Sterns for the next month and safety Josh Thompson for even longer. All three were injured during the No. 11 Longhorns’ 36-30 win over Oklahoma State.

Those injuries were in addition to the injuries already sustained by starting nickelback BJ Foster and back-up safety DeMarvion Overshown, who both missed Saturday’s game.

Additionally, freshman linebacker Marcus Tillman, Jr., will miss the remainder of the season with an MCL sprain.

The Green injury is especially painful for Texas given the circumstances that led to it. The ‘Horns were set to take a 21-13 lead into halftime when, with 45 seconds left in the second quarter, punt returner Jake Smith muffed a punt at his own 15-yard line, which Oklahoma State recovered. Forced to defend an extra possession, Green dislocated his shoulder attempting to tackle Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard and did not return to the game. Adding insult to injury, Oklahoma State scored on the possession. (Though Texas obviously won the game.)

Sterns led the Longhorns with 12 tackles on Saturday but left the field seated upright in a cart after spraining a ligament in his knee. Sterns also missed Texas’ win over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl due to a knee injury and sat out spring practice recuperating the knee.

Texas is off this week, accounting for one of the weeks Sterns, Green and Thompson will miss. That’s the good news. The bad: all are certain to miss the ‘Horns Oct. 12 date with No. 6 Oklahoma.

No. 12 Texas opens Big 12 play by halting home losing streak to Oklahoma State

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In a game that was both as close as the final score and not, No. 12 Texas survived a game effort from Oklahoma State, 36-30.

Sam Ehlinger picked up a battered defense, completing 20-of-28 passes for 281 yards with four touchdowns and an interception while rushing 10 times for 70 yards. Keontay Ingram complimented his quarterback by carrying a season-high 21 times for 114 yards.

Texas (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) snapped a 5-game home losing streak to Oklahoma State (3-1, 0-1 Big 12), a Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium opponent record. However, the Cowboys showed flashes of a team that will compete in the Big 12 this year, as Spencer Sanders threw for 268 yards and rushed for 109 yards and a score.

Both teams put up near 500-yard efforts (498 for Texas, 494 for OSU) and were at times their own worst enemies. Oklahoma State kicked two short field goals and came up empty on two deep trips inside Texas territory, while the Longhorns muffed two different punts, both of which turned into Cowboy touchdowns.

Oklahoma State accepted the ball to open the game and, after converting an opening 3rd-and-11 on a 20-yard completion to Tylan Wallace, moved 78 yards to the Texas 1, but two Chuba Hubbard runs were turned away and the Cowboys settled for a 20-yard Matt Ammendola field goal.

Texas moved 35 yards over nine snaps on its first chance, but Texas punted from the Oklahoma State 40. After its defense forced a three-and-out, the Longhorn offense moved the ball again, this time going 66 yards in nine plays to take the lead on a 6-yard toss from Ehlinger to Devin Duvernay on the opening play of the second quarter.

Texas then seized control of the game when safety Montrell Estell caught a Sanders overthrow and returned it 37 yards to the Oklahoma State 28, and two plays later Ehlinger hit freshman Jake Smith for a 17-yard touchdown to put UT up 14-3 with 12:42 left in the first half.

Sanders moved past the interception by finding Wallace for a 35-yard gain to the Texas 38, but the Oklahoma State drive stalled when the Pokes ran Hubbard for a loss of four on 3rd-and-8 from the UT 26, leading to another Ammendola field goal.

Texas looked to increase its lead on its next touch, a 36-yard drive, but Roschon Johnson was stuffed for a loss of one on a 4th-and-3 from the OSU 28. Now trailing 14-6, Sanders hit Braydon Johnston for a 55-yard bomb to the Texas 3, then after two backwards runs, ran it in himself on third-and-goal to pull the Cowboys within 14-13 with 3:07 left in the first half.

That margin wouldn’t last, though, as Ehlinger hit Brennan Eagles for a 73-yard catch-and-run touchdown, pushing the Texas lead to 21-13 with 2:09 left in the first half. The ‘Horns forced an Oklahoma State punt and appeared in position to sit on the ball until halftime, but Smith muffed the Tom Hutton punt at his own 15, which Oklahoma State recovered. Hubbard charged in a 1-yard run with 11 seconds to go to put the score at 21-20 at halftime.

Oklahoma State forced another plus-territory punt to open the second half, then swiftly drove 74 yards. After Sanders was stopped for a 2-yard run a 3rd-and-4 from the Texas 11, Mike Gundy played it safe and called for another short Ammendola field goal, giving Oklahoma State its second lead of the game at 23-21.

It wouldn’t last. Texas moved 75 yards in seven plays, scoring on a 25-yard fake reverse throwback from Ehlinger to tight end Cade Brewer, putting Texas up 28-23 with 5:30 left in the third quarter.

Oklahoma State once again drove into the Texas red zone, but this time they came up empty. Sanders ran for 10 yards on a 3rd-and-11 from the Longhorns’ 13, a spot that seemed favorable to Texas and replay could not overturn. Gundy rolled the dice this time and paid for it when Hubbard was stuffed for a loss of a yard.

Texas quickly moved the ball out of the shadow of its own goal post, but on a 3rd-and-7 from his own 33 Ehlinger’s pass was tipped and intercepted by safety Kolby Harvell-Peel, who returned the ball 22 yards to the Texas 31. Given another chance to take the lead, Oklahoma State again came up empty. This time, after Sanders fired incomplete with room to run on 2nd-and-1 and Hubbard was again stuffed on 3rd-and-1, and the Pokes had been flagged for delay of game, Gundy tried a fake field goal which turned into a fumble that Texas’s Malcolm Roach recovered.

Given a second chance to step on the gas, this time Texas capitalized. A pair of Oklahoma State penalties and a 26-yard Ingram catch-and-run put Texas to the Cowboy 2, and converted quarterback Roschon Johnson punched in the score and then a 2-point conversion, putting Texas up 36-23 with 11:44 to play. The Longhorns had a real chance to put the game in a choke hold when safety Chris Brown caught a tipped interception on Oklahoma State’s next drive and returned it to the Oklahoma State 47, but the Cowboys’ defense forced a three-and-out, stuffing Ehlinger for a loss of a yard on a 3rd-and-1 keeper.

Gundy seemed to wave the white flag by punting with 3:44 remaining, but Texas muffed another punt, this time safety Brandon Jones. Hubbard, on his 37th carry of the night, streaked in for a 13-yard touchdown with 1:37 to go, and all of a sudden Oklahoma State was onside kicking with a chance to win the game. On a 3rd-and-9 with 1:24 to go, Ehlinger clinched the game with a 29-yard run, giving Texas its first win over Oklahoma State since 2008.

Texas leads Oklahoma State after up-and-down first half

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A first half of big plays and big mistakes has Texas up 21-20 at the half in Austin.

Oklahoma State accepted the ball to open the game and, after converting an opening 3rd-and-11 on a 20-yard completion to Tylan Wallace, moved 78 yards to the Texas 1, but two Chuba Hubbard runs were turned away and the Cowboys settled for a 20-yard Matt Ammendola field goal.

Texas moved 35 yards over nine snaps on its first chance, but Texas punted from the Oklahoma State 40. After its defense forced a three-and-out, the Longhorn offense moved the ball again, this time going 66 yards in nine plays to take the lead on a 6-yard toss from Sam Ehlinger to Devin Duvernay on the opening play of the second quarter.

Texas then seized control of the game when safety Montrell Estell caught a Sanders overthrow and returned it 37 yards to the Oklahoma State 28, and two plays later Ehlinger hit freshman Jake Smith for a 17-yard touchdown to put UT up 14-3 with 12:42 left in the first half.

Sanders moved past the interception by finding Wallace for a 35-yard gain to the Texas 38, but the Oklahoma State drive stalled when the Pokes ran Hubbard for a loss of four on 3rd-and-8 from the UT 26, leading to another Ammendola field goal.

Texas looked to increase its lead on its next touch, a 36-yard drive, but Roschon Johnson was stuffed for a loss of one on a 4th-and-3 from the OSU 28. Now trailing 14-6, Sanders hit Braydon Johnston for a 55-yard bomb to the Texas 3, then after two backwards runs, ran it in himself on third-and-goal to pull the Cowboys within 14-13 with 3:07 left in the first half.

That margin wouldn’t last, though, as Ehlinger hit Brennan Eagles for a 73-yard catch-and-run touchdown, pushing the Texas lead to 21-13 with 2:09 left in the first half. The ‘Horns forced an Oklahoma State punt and appeared in position to sit on the ball until halftime, but Smith muffed the Tom Hutton punt at his own 15, which Oklahoma State recovered. Hubbard charged in a 1-yard run with 11 seconds to go to put the score at 21-20 at halftime.

Sanders hit 11-of-14 passes for 180 yards with an interception, while Ehlinger was 10-of-14 for 155 yards and three touchdowns. Hubbard has carried 19 times for 52 yards, while Keontay Ingram leads Texas with nine carries for 51 yards.

Overall, Texas out-gained Oklahoma State 259-252 in the half. The Longhorns will receive to open the second half.

Joe Burrow, No. 6 LSU outgun No. 9 Texas in shootout

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On a 3rd-and-17, with a six point lead and two and a half minutes left in the game, the old LSU would have run the ball, punted and played defense. The old LSU is dead, and the new one is pretty damn scary.

On that 3rd-and-17, Joe Burrow faced a blitz, stepped up and found Justin Jefferson, who raced 61 yards for a touchdown that clinched the No. 6 Tigers’ 45-31 win over No. 9 Texas in Austin.

Burrow played the game of his life, completing 31-of-39 passes for 471 yards with four touchdowns, the second-most passing yards in LSU history, while in the process producing three 100-yard receivers for the first time in LSU history. The trio of Jefferson, JaMarr Chase and Terrace Marshall, Jr. simply torched the Texas secondary, as Jefferson caught snared nine passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns, Chase caught eight for 147 and Marshall caught six for 123 and a score of his own.

Sam Ehlinger posted a career night of his own, throwing for 407 yards, rushing for 60 and accounting for five touchdowns, but it was a play he didn’t make that set the early tone.

LSU opened the scoring with a 36-yard Cade York field goal, but the Longhorns appeared in position to take the lead when Brennan Eagles hauled in a 26-yard pass to put the ball at the LSU 8 on UT’s second possession. The ‘Horns moved the ball to the 2 when Tom Herman characteristically rolled the fourth down dice, which saw Ehlinger find a wide open Keaontay Ingram in the end zone, who promptly dropped the ball.

The Texas defense gave its offense the ball right back, though, when linebacker Joseph Ossai caught a tipped Burrow pass and took it to the LSU 4, but again Texas was denied. This time, Ehlinger ran for two yards on first down and appeared to get in on second, but replay ruled him down inside the 1. The Tigers stuffed Ingram on third down, then stoned Ehlinger on fourth — thereby turning eight snaps in goal-to-go situations into zero points.

After Texas forced an LSU punt, Ehlinger tried two unsuccessful deep shots, then hit on a third when Kristian Fulton misjudged a ball and a wide open Eagles hauled it in to race 55 yards for a touchdown, putting the ‘Horns up 7-3 at the 10:29 mark of the second quarter. The play was Texas’ first of 50-plus yards since the 2017 season.

LSU answered with its best drive of the half: 75 yards in eight plays, most of them Burrow to Jefferson, who had grabs of 17, 12 and six yards, the last of which resulted in a third-and-goal touchdown, shoving LSU back ahead 10-7 at the exact midpoint of the second quarter.

After a Texas punt, Burrow again charged LSU down the field, but this time an Ossai third down sack forced a 33-yard York field goal with 1:41 left in the first half. Texas used two timeouts in forcing that field goal, a move that backfired when its offense went three-and-out and LSU took over at its own 42 with 1:13 still left. They would need only 26 seconds. Three straight Burrow completions, the last to Jefferson from 21 yards out, gave LSU a commanding 20-7 halftime lead.

Teetering on the brink of blowout territory, Texas answered the bell to open the second half. The ‘Horns’ defense forced a three-and-out to open the third quarter, and then the offense went on a 2018-esque 19-play, 86-yard touchdown drive (that saw four stoppages due to injured LSU players) that this time around ended in a successful 2-yard Ehlinger plunge.

After a third York field goal, Texas again drove the length of the field on a winded and bruised Tiger defense, moving 75 yards in seven plays and scoring on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Ehlinger to Jake Smith on a third-and-10, pulling UT within 23-21 with 2:36 left in the third quarter.

And at that point, a game that began an SEC slobber-knocker turned into a Big 12 track meet.

LSU zipped down the field 75 yards in six plays, scoring on a 26-yard strike from Burrow to Marshall. Texas zipped right back, going 75 yards in seven plays and scoring when Devin Duvernay caught a slant on 4th-and-2, slipped a tackle and sprinted 44 yards for a touchdown that brought Texas back within 30-28 with 12:09 to play.

When Texas pulled close, LSU again pulled away with yet another 6-play, 75-yard drive. Clyde Edwards-Hellaire did the damage this time with a 12-yard run to push the cushion to 37-28 with 9:58 remaining.

On the ensuing possession, Texas finally blinked. And by blinked, they broke a string of four straight touchdown drives (and three touchdowns in their last three possessions) by settling for a 47-yard Cameron Dicker field goal to cut the deficit to six with 3:59 left.

After an incompletion on 1st-and-10, Brandon Jones sacked Burrow on 2nd-and-10 to set up a 3rd-and-17 with 2:27 to play, needing only one stop to potentially send its offense on the field with a chance to win the game. Instead, Jefferson beat single coverage from Texas safety Caden Sterns and was off to the races.

Texas answered with another Ehlinger-to-Duvernay touchdown, but it came with just 22 seconds remaining.

The Longhorns had a golden opportunity to recover the onside kick, but the ball rolled off Collin Johnson‘s fingertips and he could not recover the ball, allowing LSU to hold on for the win.

Sirens flashing in Texas RB room as Jordan Whittington out 4-6 weeks with groin injury

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All the emergency sirens are currently flashing in the Texas running back room as Tom Herman announced Monday that freshman running back Jordan Whittington will be out 4-6 weeks with a groin injury.

He will fly to Philadelphia as soon as possible to surgically repair a torn abductor suffered during No. 10 Texas’ 45-14 win over Louisiana Tech on Saturday night. Whittington has dealt with nagging groin injuries since high school, and a cut he made during a 14-yard reception on Saturday night appeared to tip the scale from “nagging” to “fully injured.”

While this may seem like an overreaction to losing a true freshman running back who has never carried the ball in a live college game — he caught two passes for 17 yards in his one series before the injury — and did not play running back in high school, the 5-star athlete was expected to be a major player at running back this season partially because of his talent (he was a 5-star, after all) and largely because, well, there’s no one else.

With Whittington out, Texas is currently down to one (1) healthy scholarship running back. That would be sophomore Keaontay Ingram, who bulked up to 220 pounds in the offseason to prepare for an increased workload, but has also battled nagging injuries throughout his career. Ingram missed two weeks of training camp due to a bone bruise, but he was healthy enough to rush 11 times for 78 yards and a touchdown on Saturday night.

Whittington joins a running back infirmary that already includes senior Kirk Johnson, who has battled numerous injuries throughout his career and is currently out due to a joint sprain in his shoulder, and Daniel Young, a junior who sustained a high ankle sprain in late August. Texas signed 4-star Derrian Brown in its 2019 class, but he is working to get back to football after suffering a stroke in February.

Texas also recruited 4-star running back Noah Cain in the 2019 class, but he picked Penn State over the Longhorns on Signing Day in February.

As for who will carry the ball outside of Ingram, well, that’s an interesting list. Texas moved true freshman quarterback Roschon Johnson to running back late last month, a move that was sold as temporary at the time but now appears permanent. Johnson acquitted himself well on Saturday, rushing seven times for 26 yards and showed himself a willing blocker but, still. Texas is set to play No. 6 LSU on Saturday and its backup running back is a true freshman who never played running back in a game until three days ago.

Herman also announced true freshman linebacker David Gbenda has been moved to running back; he’ll be third string on Saturday.

Obviously, the elephant in this room is quarterback Sam Ehlinger. He’s a willing (to say the least) runner who is certainly a large part of the Longhorn running game, but the larger he becomes the greater the chance he takes the wrong hit to the wrong part of his body, and then Texas will enter Defcon 1 offensively.

Behind Ehlinger is redshirt freshman Casey Thompson, whose five passes on Saturday night represent the only passes of his college career.

Slot receivers Devin Duvernay and Jake Smith could also garner carries to diversify the ground game — Duvernay carried the ball twice on Saturday; Smith rushed for 741 yards as an all-purpose back en route to Gatorade National Player of the Year honors at Scottsdale’s Notre Dame Prep last year — and safety BJ Foster could represent an emergency, emergency option after rushing for 952 yards and 18 touchdowns on 9.5 yards a carry as a senior at Angleton (Texas) High School, but clearly the most sensible, rational option for Texas is to call in every shaman, faith healer and witch doctor on Earth to cast a protective spell on Ingram’s joints for at least the next four-to-six weeks.