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University of Texas and Coach Tom Herman Discover Burnt Orange Gold in Sam Ehlinger as Freshman Leads Exciting Win
Texas Defeats Kansas State At DKR Memorial Stadium, 40-34
Tom Herman Has Been Here Before As Ehlinger And Shane Buechele Battle For Quarterback Position
The University of Texas fan base may have realized two facts in the wake of the Longhorns thrilling 40-34 double overtime victory against Kansas State Saturday evening in Austin. The first fact is that first year head coach Tom Herman is the man who is destined to lead the Longhorns back to national prominence and probably a national football championship in the not too distant future.
The second fact is that freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger is the gridiron gunslinger who can lead the Steers to the promised land for the first time since Vince Young led Texas to a national championship while winning the "best college game in history" against the University of Southern California a few years ago.
Although, he's only a freshman, Ehlinger played a nearly flawless game following an interception on the first play from scrimmage. The brilliant performance by the Austin Westlake High School graduate places Herman in a familiar position. It wasn't that long ago Herman was an assistant coach at Ohio State University and had to choose between J.T. Barrett and two other outstanding players as to who would start at quarterback.
Who Will Herman Start At Quarterback Against Oklahoma Next Saturday?
With powerful Oklahoma looming on next Saturday's horizon, Herman must decide quickly which of his two outstanding quarterbacks to start in the game which could help determine the Big 12 title in 2017. Herman has been fortunate so far as he has been able to use the "injury excuse" to keep from hurting either quarterback's feelings. While Buechele entered the season as the official starter, injuries allowed Herman to start Ehlinger in three games.
The freshman proved he could play on a bigtime stage as he almost led the Longhorns to a victory against USC in a nailbiter against one of the best teams in the nation. Buechele was healthy enough to lead Texas to a win against Iowa State after that. But injuries plagued Buechele again this week, allowing Herman to start the freshman.
Ehlinger certainly appeared to have the "it" factor against a good Kansas State team as he repeatedly punished the Wildcat secondary with pinpoint passes downfield. When no receivers were open, he was able to exploit the Manhattan, Kansas team's defense by running for first downs in critical situations.
Oklahoma Pass Defense Leaves Sooners Vulnerable
While many observers thought Oklahoma would stroll to the Big 12 title this year, Saturday's stunning upset loss to Iowa State exposed the Sooners' Achilles heel is located in the secondary. Baylor almost pulled off an upset of Oklahoma with its passing game in the Sooners' previous game. A late touchdown pass by the Cyclones ended Oklahoma's hopes for an undefeated season.
So one would think, whichever quarterback Herman chooses to start in the Red River Rivalry, should have a big day. The only question for the Texas coach, is which quarterback is better positioned to rack up enough points to overcome Oklahoma's high octane offense led by quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield Heisman Candidacy Damaged By Iowa State Loss?
Oklahoma quarterback Mayfield was in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race prior to the shocking loss to Iowa State, which at best is in the middle of the Big 12 pack. Mayfield created controversy earlier this season when he planted the Boomer Sooner flag at midfield on the Buckeyes' home field in the wake of that dramatic victory. The confident Mayfield has been heard to taunt opposing players with the phrase, "Who's your daddy?" However, it was the Oklahoma leader who was on the receiving end of the trash talk Saturday in Norman. At least one Cyclone player was heard to confront Mayfield with that question as time expired. Iowa State had never defeated a top five team before in its history.
Tom Herman Shown As Offensive Co-Ordinator For Iowa State
Can Tom Herman Repeat Ohio State National Championship Success At Texas?
It wasn't that many years ago when Tom Herman was calling plays for the Ohio State offense from the pressbox. J.T. Barrett, a quarterback from Wichita Falls, Texas, executed those plays well enough for the Buckeyes to win the Big Ten Championship. However, Barrett went down with an injury in the Michigan game. It was thought OSU's title hopes went down the drain with that injury.
Herman was smart enough to adjust his play calling for new quarterback Cardale Jones well enough so that the Buckeyes won a national championship. It was then that people around the country began to realize there was something special about the offensive co-ordinator for Ohio State.
But there was no upward mobility for Herman in Columbus, Ohio, as Urban Meyer was firmly ensconced as the head coach there. The University of Houston was smart enough to hire Herman as its head coach.
With amazing success at Houston during his tenure there, Herman was in the running for the Texas job as the head coach who could hopefully return the Longhorns to the pantheon of great college teams. Darrell Royal had won national championships in the 1960s and 70s. Mack Brown followed that up with a national title in more recent days as well as a berth in a national championship game against Alabama.
No one blamed Brown for the loss in that national championship game. Texas starting quarterback McCoy was knocked out of that game early, and the Horns had to rely on their second string QB.
But several years followed that tough loss without a national championship, and the Texas faithful became restless. Winning at UT is not enough. Winning national championships is required at the state capitol of Texas.
The hiring of Herman promises to bring a return to national prominence for Texas. Whoever made the final decision to hire the Houston coach, deserves a pay raise. While no one expected Texas to be in position for a national championship this year, the Horns have surprised most by being in contention for the Big 12 championship during Herman's maiden voyage at the helm.
Ehlinger Proved Ready For Challenge Against Kansas State
Ehlinger's dazzling performance last night proved he's ready for the big time. By completing 30 of 50 passes for 380 yards and running for 107 yards against a respected Kansas State team, he earned the starting quarterback position against OU.
The Texas running game led by Chris Warren III and Kyle Porter combined for 27 yards on 14 carries. Toneil Carter gained 32 yards in six attempts.
The statistics show Ehlinger was the key to victory in last night's critical victory. Without the freshman quarterback's dominating performance, the Longhorns easily could've lost and been relegated to the Big 12 pack. The Westlake product ran for six first downs to keep drives alive.
Ehlinger Passing Yardage Most Since Colt McCoy
The 380 yards Ehlinger amassed is the most by any Longhorn quarterback since Colt McCoy threw for 396 yards against Kansas in 2009. When Herman and his staff gather around the conference table this week to determine who will start in next week's headline game against OU, the statistics show Ehlinger has earned the chance to go head to head against Baker Mayfield. While the Texas offensive line has suffered from injuries this season, Ehlinger showed against K-State he is the man who can overcome those types of problems.
Oklahoma National Title Hopes Still Alive
There is a lot on the line for both teams during T-O weekend. Despite the hiccup against Iowa State, Oklahoma could conceivably still win a national championship in Lincoln Riley's first season were the Sooners to run the table. A Big 12 championship for a program which has as many national championships as does OU, would still probably allow the Norman contingent to slip into the Final Four playoffs, depending on how the other national powerhouses do. Mayfield is still one of the top candidates for the Heisman Trophy.
Bud Wilkinson put Oklahoma on the college football map from 1947-1963 with three national championships. Those titles were won in 1950, 1955 and 1956, according to Wikipedia. It was between 1953 and 1957 that Wilkinson really made history with a 47-game winning streak which still stands as the longest ever.
Barry Switzer later added to the Sooners national championship trophy case before coaching the Dallas Cowboys to a Super Bowl. Bob Stoops added yet another national championship before he stepped down last year, making way for Riley.
A big game against UT, would restore Mayfield's place as a serious challenger for the Heisman. The remarkable story of the Oklahoma quarterback is one which reminds one his talent and determination have overcome long odds before.
Coming out of high school, he originally played for Texas Tech. Through sheer determination he played remarkably well for the Lubbock team. However, when Tech coach Klif Kingsbury elected to go with someone else as the starter, Mayfield took his self-confidence to Norman where he had to sit out a season.
He persevered through the adversity though, and beat out several other candidates for the starting position. Mayfield proved last year he has the ability to lead the Sooners to victories in major showdowns.
A showdown this week between Mayfield and Ehrlinger would undoubtedly promise to be one of the best quarterback showdowns of this year's college football season. Both quarterbacks could end up playing on Sundays in the near future.