No. 10 Texas looks to keep momentum going in opener

Field Level Media

August 27, 2019 at 8:05 pm.

Texas is riding its highest preseason ranking in nine years, but the No. 10 Longhorns will be taking nothing for granted when they host Louisiana Tech on Saturday in Austin in the season opener for both teams.

The Longhorns have faltered in their past two openers, losing to Maryland at home in 2017 and on the road to the Terrapins last year despite being heavily favored to win both games.

That trend will have to end if Texas, which enters 2019 with a head of steam built on a 10-4 campaign that concluded with a win over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, wants to truly be “back,” as its Heisman Trophy-candidate quarterback Sam Ehlinger proclaimed after the victory over the Bulldogs on New Year’s Eve.

The Longhorns are talented, hungry and well-prepared, with third-year coach Tom Herman saying Monday that the team accomplished all of its goals in preseason camp.

“Starting 1-0 would be nice,” Herman said. “We’re as fast as a football team as we’ve been since we’ve been here. And as strong. I don’t think there’s a glaring deficiency at any certain position.”

The Longhorns’ ranking in the Associated Press poll is the program’s highest in the preseason since 2010, the season following their BCS title game loss to Alabama. Texas is 103-20-3 all-time in season openers.

The Longhorns have been hampered by injuries to their running backs in the preseason, with presumptive starter Keaontay Ingram and true freshman Jordan Whittington scheduled to play on Saturday through knee and sports hernia injuries, respectively.

They have been wearing green “no-contact” jerseys in practice.

“We need them — they have to go,” Herman said. “They’re our only two, so I don’t know how you’d limit both of them, or what that would even entail for a game. I don’t think the officials are going to let them wear green on Saturday night.”

Junior short-yardage specialist Daniel Young, who recently suffered a high ankle sprain, will not play against the Bulldogs. Nor will redshirt senior running back Kirk Johnson, who continues to rehab a shoulder injury.

Herman said Monday that Louisiana Tech would create issues for his team, singling out quarterback J’Mar Smith as being “very experienced” and opining that Bulldogs’ junior receiver Adrian Hardy has the talent to play anywhere in the country.

That tandem, and the Bulldogs’ spread passing attack, will be a challenge for the youthful cornerbacks of Texas. Jalen Green and Kobe Boyce will start, with D’Shawn Jamison and Anthony Cook backing them up. All are sophomores, and Jamison played on offense last year.

“We’re hungry — every day we come out here to compete,” Smith said. “We understand what we have to do to stay ahead of the chains, keep the ball moving. Try to minimize the things we do to hurt ourselves and maximize our opportunities to make the offense better.

“The offense is better, the defense is better, the whole team is better. We just have to keep pushing forward and get ready.”

Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz lauded the camp performance of his offensive line, which has to hunker down to give Smith time to work.

“We’ve got about nine guys that are good enough to play for us up front, which is a far cry from what we’ve had in the past,” Holtz said.

Louisiana Tech, which plays in Conference USA, was 8-5 last season and beat Hawaii 31-14 in the Hawaii Bowl. The Bulldogs have played in bowl games in the past five seasons, winning all five. Louisiana Tech and Wisconsin are the only schools to have won five bowl games in the past five years.

This game marks the first meeting between Texas and Louisiana Tech.

— Field Level Media