TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Texas fans have been waiting for a savior for the better part of two decades.
They found one Saturday night maybe where they least expected it.
Right before their very eyes.
All it took was a coming-of-age performance by a third-year sophomore who came into a place where the home team never loses and calmly pulled off Texas’ biggest win since 2005.
He might be a somewhat reluctant hero, this introverted, soft-spoken quarterback who never raises his voice but does raise an eyebrow or two with some off-kilter games that make his audiences a bit skeptical.
Not on this night. Not in this house of horrors.
“He’s a dog,” defense tackle T’Vondre Sweat said of Ewers. “I’m not surprised.”
Nobody in the visitors’ locker room was. That said, Ewers was borderline spectacular in an electrifying 34-24 upset of No. 3 Alabama, throwing for 349 yards and three touchdowns to pace No. 11 Texas to its biggest nonconference win since a victory over Ohio State on the way to its last national championship.
How good was his outing?
Was it a breakout performance?
“Maybe so,” Ewers said with a slight nod. “That’s up to you guys.”
We guys say it was.
Why, Ewers was even spotted with a wide smile afterward. Those have been as few and far between as on-the-money deep passes from the Longhorns' reserved, tight-lipped leader. But Ewers torched the Tide secondary for touchdown strikes to Adonai Mitchell and Xavier Worthy to stun the crowd of 100,077 and keep 2-0 Texas unbeaten.
“I think Quinn had a really good understanding of what we were trying to do,” said head coach Steve Sarkisian, who earned the first huge signature win of his 27-game UT career. “He got through his reads and never got stuck on his first read and was able to bounce back when we needed him.
“It can be a springboard for Quinn if he can recreate the habits he showed tonight.”
Vince Young: 'I'm proud of him'
So early in a season when college football has been fixated on the likes of Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders and Florida State’s Jordan Travis, Ewers had his own special, coming-out moment on a muggy Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
With poise and precision and without much semblance of a running attack — Texas averaged just 2.8 yards a carry for 105 yards with no run longer than Jonathon Brooks’ 14-yarder — Ewers pulled it off in Alabama’s first home loss since 2019 to eventual national champion LSU and its own standout quarterback Joe Burrow.
No one’s saying quite yet that Ewers is the next Joe Burrow. But he answered a heckuva lot of questions. He admittedly put a lot more loft on the ball on his deep balls after going 0-for-7 on passes beyond 20 yards against Rice and struck gold with intermediate throws to Ja’Tavion Sanders and Jordan Whittington and Mitchell after Alabama took to double-teaming Worthy.
Another Longhorns hero certainly took notice.
“I’m proud of him,” a jubilant Vince Young said on the sidelines. “I told him to enjoy it and have fun. This is a huge win for the entire state and sends a message. They just needed to finish. This was Ohio State right here.”
Ewers rose when it counted
Maybe it is a precursor to something truly epic. Who knows if Ewers can repeat the magic that Young showed game after game, none bigger than when he found Limas Sweed in the end zone in Columbus to ignite the 2005 Longhorns.
And as one savior to another, Young was impressed with the way Ewers rallied the Longhorns after they fell behind 16-13 on the next-to-last play of the third quarter.
In the final 15 minutes, Ewers assumed complete control of this game. He threw a couple more scoring passes to Mitchell, the long bombs that had fallen incomplete so regularly before, led a 21-8 surge and kept the Longhorns on the field to kill the final seven-plus minutes of the showdown.
“I was blowing kisses (to the crowd),” said Mitchell, the Georgia transfer who caught a touchdown in a title game against Alabama. “But they were nice kisses. I love everybody.”
Some of those need to be sent Ewers’ way because he may have kissed Alabama’s championship hopes goodbye and fueled Texas’ own. After two games, his stat line reads 609 passing yards, six touchdown throws and, best of all, zero turnovers. Hard to get more impressive than that.
“Just awesome,” crowed UT athletic director Chris Del Conte. “It wasn’t a fluke. We’re making good progress.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called it “a phenomenal victory” and just “an old-fashioned win.”
“I felt we owed ’em this,” Worthy said, “after Quinn got hurt last year (against Alabama in a 20-19 loss.) We showed college football we’re something to be reckoned with. We’ve built a foundation and we got something going.”
What Quinn Ewers is, and what Quinn Ewers isn't
For Ewers? Well, the always-understated quarterback isn’t one to gush or say I-told-you-so, even after getting sidelined after one solid quarter against the Crimson Tide in last year’s narrow defeat.
“It’s a really cool feeling,” he would humbly say.
Longhorns posed for pictures. They pranced on the sacred turf of Bryant-Denny. They hugged and screamed and took it all in and didn’t really want to leave.
In the middle of all of it was the young quarterback, who admitted in August that he feels so much more comfortable this season than last as a mid-term transfer from Ohio State and had to deal with a new coaching staff, a different system and the monstrous expectations of a starving fan base with its ravenous appetite to return to national prominence.
To that end, he shed almost 20 pounds to dip below 200, avoiding the clog at Chick-fil-A. He shaved the mullet and showed up with a buzz haircut and a serious demeanor befitting his team’s new leader. And he accepted the responsibility and welcomed the pressure.
For his first season and the sluggish season opener against Rice, too many focused on what Ewers isn’t.
He isn’t the strong-armed Maalik Murphy or the St. Arch Manning, who many can’t wait to lead Texas to the promised land. But he’s got a quick release and an easy throw, even while often throwing off his back foot.
He isn’t any more that long-haired, mullet man with the aloof demeanor and a physique that didn’t remind of a sculpted model. But he’s lean and more nimble and committed. “Quinn wanted it,” said right tackle Christian Jones, part of a line that kept Alabama without a sack. “He’s hungry.”
And he isn’t — and probably never will be — as good or celebrated or electric as Young, who was on the scene where Texas fans were deliriously chanting “S-E-C, S-E-C” in mock derision of the Crimson Tide faithful.
He doesn’t have to be another Vince Young. He’ll never have VY’s wheels or his follow-me persona, but he can still deliver a championship-caliber performance when it’s called for.
And now everyone just needs to call him a winner.
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: After a so-so year last year, Texas' Ewers has showcase performance