|Left Outside||Left Middle||Right Middle||Right Outside||Total|
|20+||0/1||1/1 (TD)||1/1||2/3 (TD)|
|16-20||1/2 (INT)||1/2 (INT)|
|11-15||1/3||2/3||3/3 (TD)||1/3||7/12 (TD)|
|1-5||2/4 (TD)||2/2||4/6 (TD)|
|0||2/2 (TD)||3/3||1/1||6/6 (TD)|
Outside the Pocket: 2/5 (plus two throwaways)
Under Pressure: 4/9 (2 TD, 1 INT)
Red Zone: 5/9 (3 TD)
3rd/4th Down: 9/12 (6 conversions, 2 TD)
Forced Adjustments: 1
Explosive Plays (25+ yards and/or touchdown): 6
Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger stops completing passes for one Saturday a year. Since taking over the job in 2017, the senior Longhorn has had one game each season in which he failed to complete half his passes. First it was against the Baker Mayfield era Sooners as a freshman, then a ranked USC squad as a sophomore, followed by a miserable four-interception performance against TCU as a junior. Ehlinger got that game out early this year, again versus Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs.
Ehlinger completed 17-of-36 passes for 236 yards (6.56 yards per attempt) with four touchdowns and an interception. The touchdown-interception ratio does not really match Ehlinger’s completion percentage, but upon charting/watching the game again, it makes some sense as to how he arrived at such a weird box score.
For one, Ehlinger did not enter the day 100% healthy. A quadricep contusion and a left hand injury from the aftermath of last week’s comeback win over Texas Tech were still troubling him. He could still move around and throw well enough to not be a liability or anything, but some of Ehlinger’s juice just was not there on outside throws. Ehlinger has a long release and middling arm strength as is, so losing any amount of power or throwing comfort is a major hit. While it did not show up on every throw, Ehlinger missed on a few throws that he probably could have completed if he was in full health.
This throw, for example, should be a completion. Technically it was still catchable, sure, but Ehlinger left this ball really low because it died out on him. Again, Ehlinger does not have the strongest arm to begin with and is not immaculate with his accuracy, but the way this ball nose-dived as soon as it left his hands just didn't feel right. It’s tough to say whether that is a result of him not being able to draw as much juice from his legs while throwing or whether he was bracing for impact more than usual because he was already hurt, but Ehlinger’s base level of play suggests he should not be missing a throw like this.
Texas’ receivers also did Ehlinger close to zero favors. Not that Ehlinger had his best day slinging the ball around, but he did give his guys some chances. It was just one of those days where no ball that was even sort of contested or tough to bring in got caught. Ehlinger needed to be all the way on his game in terms of ball placement because he did not get bailed out otherwise.
Though I only came away with two “blatant drops” for Texas’ receivers, I came away with another six “contested drops.” To me, a contested drop means a receiver should not necessarily be expected to bring the pass in with certainty, but the ball was in a reasonable enough spot that they could have. 50/50, if you want to call it that. Given Ehlinger finished this game with six contested drops to just one “forced adjustment” catch, where a receiver actually won in one of those situations, it’s clear he was not getting a ton of help.
Check this deep throw, for instance. Honestly, this is on the higher end of what I would even consider “contested” because the receiver really should have this one. Ehlinger delivers a perfect ball over the receiver’s outside shoulder. Regardless of the quality of coverage or receiver’s efforts, that is exactly what you want to see from the quarterback on this throw. Unfortunately, the receiver lets the ball bobble around for a second even though he initially got his hands on it uncontested. The slight bobble gave the cornerback time to reach in and rip the ball out.
In other instances, it did not seem like Ehlinger and the receivers were on the same page. That is normal to some degree this early in the year. It especially makes sense for Texas given they lost their best two receivers (Devin Duvernay and Collin Johnson) to the NFL this past spring. One of those miscommunications led to a costly interception just before the half.
Ehlinger wanted to throw a bender/dig. Wide receiver Joshua Moore, who redshirted all of last season, wanted to run the vertical. Who exactly is at fault is tough to say. My best guess is Ehlinger saw TCU’s field safety roll down, so he may have assumed the boundary safety would spin more aggressively to a deep middle assignment to try to take away the vertical down the middle. That, in tandem with needing to get the ball out relatively quickly because of the blitz, gave Ehlinger the impression that the bender/dig was the move. The receiver thought differently and TCU was gifted an interception, which they eventually scored a field goal off of.
The final lackluster aspect of Texas’ passing offense on Saturday was that their quick game meant almost nothing. Some of that was Ehlinger’s fault, some of it was play calling, some of it was the receivers being incapable of making people miss. So while Ehlinger was accurate on nine-of-12 throws of five yards or less, only five netted “successful” plays. Two failed to convert on a third down, one was a loss, and another went for no gain. Between a useless quick game and receivers not making any tough catches anywhere on the field, it isn’t too tough to see why the Texas passing offense had no ground to stand on.
Ehlinger’s saving grace was hitting on a few key explosive plays to get the Longhorns into TCU territory (or better yet, the end zone). Texas will surely be wanting more stable production moving forward, but at least there is a silver lining to be had with them still hitting some big plays.
This was Ehlinger’s best play of the day. With as up-and-down as he was against pressure (well, and just in general), it was refreshing to see Ehlinger hit this one. Ehlinger did a wonderful job stepping up in the pocket to avoid the rush before making the throw from a bit of an awkward platform that did not really let him step into this. Sure, that pass is clearly wobbling around by the time it gets to the receiver, but that Ehlinger had the presence of mind to know that receiver had to get vertical late in the down and find him while under pressure is a hell of a play. Hopefully Ehlinger can show more of that when he is 100% healthy.
In all honesty, Ehlinger is probably going to be fine. While he struggled some on his own, much of Texas’ downfall was also related to poor and inexperienced receiver play. Whether or not the latter works itself out, who knows, but Ehlinger should be able to get back closer to 2019 form with another week to recover from his minor injuries.
As far as Ehlinger’s draft stock goes, this does not look like the kind of season that does much to help him. Ehlinger was a Day 3 pick coming into the year. It does not look like Texas is equipped to help him ascend higher than that, nor does it seem like Ehlinger has made phenomenal strides in his own right. Ain’t no Joe Burrow story coming out of Austin this year.