Texas report card: Defense led the way on the field and in our game grades

Football

Posted November 28th, 2020

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Texas’ 17-13 win over West Virginia — the Longhorns’ third straight victory after back-to-back stumbles against TCU and Oklahoma — may be remembered for the day of Bijan Robinson’s breakout performance. But it was a spirited performance from the defense that was the difference.

Grades for the Longhorns:

Final statistics from Texas’ 17-13 win over West Virginia on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020.

Quarterbacks: C

Sam Ehlinger didn’t look right. He finished the game 15-of-31 for 184 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. He missed a few throws, especially in the first half as the offense sputtered without his usual consistency. The long pass of the day was a 35-yarder to running back Bijan Robinson on the last real offensive play of the game. The only other completion of more than 30 yards was a touchdown to Jake Smith, which proved to be the game-winning score. Ehlinger added 39 yards on 12 carries as a runner. He avoided turnovers and was sacked only once.

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Go figure: It was the 29th time in his career that Ehlinger has thrown for at least two touchdowns, and he’s done it in six of seven games this season.

Season average: B

Running backs: B-

Bijan Robinson arrived on campus to much fanfare as the lone five-star recruit the Longhorns signed in their 2020 class. The No. 1-ranked running back prospect in the country is beginning to find his groove — when he’s allowed on the field. He started for the third straight game and finished with 113 yards on 12 carries, becoming the first Longhorns running back this season with a 100-yard game. He began the game with an electric 54-yard run on the very first play and his 35-yard reception sealed the win at the end. Roschon Johnson had 10 carries for 29 yards. Keaontay Ingram was out with an injury.

Go figure: Robinson’s 113-yard day is the top rushing performance for the Longhorns this season, slipping past Ehlinger’s 112-yard day against Oklahoma.

Season average: C+

Wide receivers: C-

The wide receivers continue to disappoint. Drops were as frequent as big plays for the unit. Smith did come up with a big touchdown reception in the second half, but it was an underwhelming performance for every receiver in the group. Smith had three catches for 59 yards and the touchdown. Brennan Eagles caught four passes for 43 yards and a touchdown. Running backs accounted for five of the 15 receptions.

Go figure: Eagles has a team-high 11 touchdown catches since the start of the 2019 season. That’s also second-most among active Big 12 receivers.

Season average: C+

Tight ends: D

Tight ends accounted for just one catch for three yards. That catch was by Malcolm Epps when he lined up outside as a receiver. Cade Brewer looked injured early in the game. Jared Wiley was reduced to a blocking role.

Go figure: At least seven players have caught a pass in six of Texas’ seven games.

Season average: C

Offensive linemen: B-

The offensive front was solid despite a rough overall day for the offense. Ehlinger was sacked just once. The running game averaged five yards per carry. The line also avoided major penalties and bone-headed mistakes, which was a real step in the right direction. Maybe it’s more about the low expectations most now have for the unit, but it was one of its better games considering that West Virginia’s defensive line is the strength of the Mountaineers.

Go figure: Texas rattled off a 10-play, 74-yard drive in the second quarter that ended with a field goal. There have been 10 scoring drives of 10 or more plays this season.

Season average: C

Defensive linemen: B+

The defensive front continues to be the strength of this team. The defense as a whole put in a winning performance after the opening drive. West Virginia spent most of the game calling plays to limit the potential destructiveness of Joseph Ossai and company, relying on short passes and screens. Ossai finished with three tackles, including one big stop for loss on third down. Moro Ojomo benefited from the attention spent on Ossai, leading the linemen with five tackles. He also had one of Texas’ two sacks. T’Vondre Sweat and Ta’Quon Graham each finished with four tackles.

Go figure: Ossai has now had at least one tackle for loss in seven of his last eight games.

Season average: B

Linebackers: B+

Converted safety De’Marvion Overshown is starting to flash midway through his first season playing linebacker. The junior from Arp led the team with two tackles for loss. He finished with eight tackles, including a sack. He also broke up a pass. Juwan Mitchell finished with a team-high nine tackles. The defense is seemingly improving each week, and the linebacker position is the unit showing the most progression since the Texas Tech game.

Go figure: Overshown has forced a fumble in two straight games.

Season average: B-

Defensive backs: C+

The bad news: West Virginia quarterback Jarret Doege threw for 317 yards, the third-most against the Longhorns this season. The good news: Texas’ secondary didn’t give up a single touchdown pass. The group wasn’t impactful, but it also avoided giving up the big play. Defensive coordinator Chris Ash’s bend-but-don’t-break strategy worked; the Longhorns found ways to get off the field or force field goal tries with solid coverage inside the red zone.

Go figure: D’Shawn Jamison’s seven tackles were the second-most in his career.

Season average: C

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