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Shoulder injury leaves status of Texas QB Sam Ehlinger up in the air

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In a victory over Iowa State on Saturday night to put Texas in a good spot to clinch a berth in the Big 12 championship game, starting quarterback Sam Ehlinger was forced to leave the game with a shoulder injury. With one game left to play in the regular season against Kansas, it is unknown if Ehlinger will be ready to play this weekend.

Texas head coach Tom Herman said Ehlinger has aggravated his AC joint in his right shoulder, his throwing shoulder that was hurt earlier this season. Herman told reporters Ehlinger would not throw on Monday but the head coach of the Longhorns noted he was hopeful to see Ehlinger be able to do so again on Tuesday as practices resume in preparation for Kansas this week.

The good news appears to be no serious damage was discovered in an MRI Ehlinger underwent. Texas may be fortunate to have a game against Kansas on the schedule this week, as the Longhorns should still be a solid favorite to come out of this game with a win. A win would guarantee a spot for Texas in the Big 12 championship game, which would result in a rematch with either Oklahoma or West Virginia (the winner of this week’s Oklahoma-West Virginia game heads to the Big 12 championship game; Texas is in regardless of who wins that game as long as the Longhorns beat Kansas).

If Ehlinger is unable to play, Texas will continue to roll with Shane Buechele at quarterback. Ehlinger’s status will be monitored throughout the week before any official decision is made.

Texas settles on Sam Ehlinger as starting QB

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Another quarterback decision has been made before the start of the college football season. Texas head coach Tom Herman has settled on Sam Ehlinger to be the starting quarterback for the Longhorns when they open the season on the road against Maryland in Week 1.

Ehlinger was expected by many to win the starting job this offseason as he and Shane Buechele attempted to make their case for the job. Ehlinger and Buechele each played in nine games for Texas last season, with Ehlinger throwing for 1,915 yards and 11 touchdowns with seven interceptions and Buechele tossing for 1,405 yards and seven touchdowns with four touchdowns. Buechele had a higher completion percentage, but Ehlinger made up for it with higher production in passing yardage and with more of an ability to create some plays with his feet.

Ehlinger rushed for 381 yards and two touchdowns, while Buechele rushed for 99 yards and two scores.

Just a few days ago, Herman seemed to suggest he was waiting for one of his options to separate himself from the other in the quarterback competition. If this is any indication, Ehlinger did just that (unless it was more Buechele falling off). Regardless of how it got to this point, Herman and Texas can now begin planning to start the season with a quarterback decision seemingly made.

Texas opens the college football season against Maryland in FedEx Field on September 1.

Maryland spoils Tom Herman debut with 51-41 upset of No. 23 Texas

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This did not go according to plan for Tom Herman. In his coaching debut in Austin, Herman was unable to clean up enough mistakes and shaky play from his team as No. 23 Texas (0-1) dug a big hole early at home against Maryland (1-0). Despite a wild second half, Texas just could not get past Maryland as the Terrapins answered every threat from Texas down the stretch and delivered a knockout blow midway through the fourth quarter in the form of a Kasim Hill touchown. Hill’s fourth-quarter touchdown pushed Maryland’s lead to 44-34, which would end up being the final score. Maryland, who entered the game as an 18-point underdog, celebrated a 51-41 victory.

Hill scored the late touchdown, but the Terps were strong on the ground with Ty Johnson leading the charge with 127 yards and a score, averaging 11.5 yards per rush on the Texas defense, which may not have been as solid as anticipated at the start of the season. Maryland quarterback Tyrell Pigrome also got involved running the ball with 64 yards and a score to go with his 175 passing yards and two touchdowns through the air. It was more the kind of performance you would expect from a quarterback coached by Herman. Longhorns quarterback Shane Buechele had a productive afternoon with 300 passing yards and a touchdown and 21 rushing yards and a score, but too many poor passes soaring high or behind receivers led to near-interceptions and stalled any progress late in the game for a possible comeback.

Special teams gaffes and a defense unable to seize momentum were crippling for Texas (Maryland recovered a kickoff fumble and returned a blocked field goal for a score — although, so did Texas), but the offense was the most disappointing part of the Texas effort on Saturday. The Longhorns scored just 13 offensive points. Holton Hill gave the Longhorns a lead just three plays in the game with a 31-yard interception return for a score, and Hill returned a blocked field goal for another score later on. Reggie Hemphill-Mapps brought the Longhorns within three points in the third quarter with a 91-yard punt return for a score, but the teams traded blows from there to keep Maryland out in front the rest of the way. Texas hurt itself with over 100 yards in penalties as well.

So the Tom Herman run in Austin has some work to do. Transforming Texas into a Big 12 contender was not going to happen overnight anyway, and there are still 11 more games to play. Odds are we will still see a good number of positive developments from Texas moving forward, but a loss at home to Maryland is still a sour way to get things started. One thing you can say about a game like this from Texas is you have a laundry list of items you now know can be addressed. Let’s see how much of that laundry gets cleaned up in the next few weeks.

Maryland, however, showed some more reasons to be optimistic about the season than many probably thought possible. Wide receiver D.J. Moore (133 receiving yards) showed why he is one of the top receivers in the Big Ten, and Pigrome ran the offense well to keep things mixed up. This is a team that is still not on the same level as Ohio State or Penn State or Michigan, but it could end up being a team that could cause a few problems for any of those three at the top of the Big Ten East. This was a solid victory for D.J. Durkin.

Texas will host San Jose State next week before preparing for a major road test in Week 3 at USC. Maryland will be home next week for a home opener against in-state FCS opponent Towson.

Shane Buechele is almost Facebook official as starting Texas QB

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The college football season officially gets underway this week, but Tom Herman has another week to make some decisions about the starting quarterback for the Texas Longhorns. If he had to make that call right now, Shane Buechele would be getting the starting nod in Austin.

“I’ve said over and over again that if we played a game tomorrow Shane Buechele would start,” Herman told reporters on Saturday, seemingly a bit frustrated with the question once again being asked, according to The Dallas Morning News. “We’ll get a depth chart to make it Facebook official, I guess. Is that what we’ve got to do?”

It is expected Herman will make a decision on his starting quarterback within the next week ahead of Texas’ season opener at home against Maryland of the Big Ten. Buechele was the full-time starter for the Longhorns last season, but a new coach taking over at a program tends to wipe the slate clean to start from scratch. Buechele has faced his stiffest competition for the job from freshman Sam Ehlinger, who enrolled in January and was able to work with the team in the spring.

Whatever his decision ends up being, Herman has not been overly optimistic about his offense. Instead, Herman has been praising the defense as the key to the upcoming season. For a team that allowed 448.3 yards per game last season to rank seventh in the Big 12 in total defense, and 31.5 points per game (8th in the Big 12 ahead of only Kansas and Texas Tech), Herman is either suggesting the defense has taken some strides in practices this year or the offense really does have a long way to go.

It should probably not come as a great surprise Texas may be better off on defense, given the brief Charlie Strong tenure. Strong was always known more for his defense so the seeds for a reputable defense may have been planted in Austin prior to Herman’s hiring. Now it is up to Herman to get the offense in gear.

Davey O’Brien Award watch list highlighted by former finalists, semifinalists and SEC

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The Davey O’Brien Award (top quarterback) took the spotlight in the ongoing college football watch list tour on Wednesday morning. A total of 30 quarterbacks were named to the initial watch list for the award, including six from the SEC along with a few potential Heisman Trophy candidates and a Heisman Trophy winner.

Highlighting the watch list are two finalists from last season; Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. Mayfield has been a two-time finalist for the award. Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Washington State’s Luke Falk are also on the watch list and are each two-time semifinalists for the award. Joining them on the watch list are former semifinalists Jake Browning (Washington), Sam Darnold (USC), Jalen Hurts (Alabama), Josh Rosen (UCLA), Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State)m and Wilton Speight (Michigan).

While the SEC led the way with six watch list players, the ACC, Big 12, and Pac-12 each had four players named to the watch list. The Big Ten had three, with Penn State’s Trace McSorley joining Barrett and Speight.

Clemson’s Deshaun Watson won the Davey O’Brien Award each of the past two seasons, becoming the second two-time winner of the award (Oklahoma’s Jason White in 2003-04). A player does not need to be included on the watch list in order to win the award, but only quarterbacks from the 130 FBS programs are eligible.

2017 Davey O’Brien Award Watch List

Austin Allen, Arkansas
Josh Allen, Wyoming
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Jake Bentley, South Carolina
Jake Browning, Washington
Shane Buechele, Texas
Sam Darnold, USC
Eric Dungey, Syracuse
Jacob Eason, Georgia
Jesse Ertz, Kansas State
Luke Falk, Washington State
Riley Ferguson, Memphis
Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
Quinton Flowers, USF
Deondre Francois, Florida State
Jalen Hurts, Alabama
Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Daniel Jones, Duke
Tanner Mangum, BYU
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Trace McSorley, Penn State
Shea Patterson, Ole Miss
Josh Rosen, UCLA
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Brett Rypien, Boise State
Brandon Silvers, Troy
Wilton Speight, Michigan
Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee
Mike White, WKU
Logan Woodside, Toledo

The Davey O’Brien Award will be trim its watch list down to a handful of semifinalists on November 7. Finalists for the award will be unveiled two weeks later on November 21, and the winner will be announced on December 7 at the annual Home Depot College Football Awards show on ESPN.