Ehlinger leads Texas to grinding win over Tulsa 28-21

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              Texas lineman Breckyn Hager (44) hits Tulsa quarterback Luke Skipper (13) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in Austin, Texas. Hager was called for roughing. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Their lead and momentum nearly gone, Texas turned to the arm and legs of sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger to avoid a potentially crushing home loss.

Ehlinger, who had already run for a touchdown and thrown for another in the first half, engineered a 13-play drive to a fourth quarter score that proved to be the game winner in a grinding 28-21 win over Tulsa Saturday night

Ehlinger completed seven straight passes and ran for two first downs in a 13-play drive capped by his 11-yard touchdown throw to running back Tre Watson. The drive chewed up six minutes and gave the Longhorns a 28-14 lead.

“He made some really good throws. He made a great decision on the touchdown throw to Tre,” Texas coach Tom Herman said. “He’s really growing in terms of seeing the game.”

The drive proved crucial when Tulsa quickly responded for a touchdown. Texas followed it with another long drive that wore out the final five minutes of the game.

The Longhorns (1-1) needed the boost after a season-opening loss at Maryland burst the expectations of a big second season under Herman and they had a fight on their hands with a team they were expected to handle with ease.

“Anytime you win we’re going to celebrate it,” Herman said. “Winning is hard. Really, really, hard. We’re going to get everybody’s best shot.”

Tulsa (1-1) rallied behind two Shamari Brooks touchdown runs. The Golden Hurricane also dropped two passes in the end zone and missed three field goals.

THE TAKEAWAY

Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane won just once in 2017 and will rue lost chances for a huge upset in this one. And there were many. An interception on the first play set up Texas’ first touchdown, and Tulsa kickers missed field goals attempts of 43, 29 and 36 yards in the first half. The dropped passes in the end zone loomed even larger when the Golden Hurricane started getting late momentum.

“Obviously those (missed kicks) are costly. But we shouldn’t leave it in the kicker’s hands,” Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said. “Those nine points are crucial as we look back on it now, but I expect us to get it in.”

Texas: The Longhorns won’t like how this one ended. They were cruising before the offense stalled in the third quarter and the defense started giving up big plays in the fourth. What Texas avoided was the sort of critical late turnover that doomed the Longhorns against Maryland.

“A lot of the responsibility for the way we played in the third quarter and early fourth was on me,” Herman said. “I was pretty hard on our guys at halftime. You sensed a little of that pressing again.

TEXAS YOUTH

The Longhorns got big games from a trio of freshmen. Safety Caden Sterns‘ first career interception came on the first play from scrimmage and set up Texas’ first touchdown. Keaontay Ingram’s 29-yard scoring run made it 14-0 before safety B.J. Foster snagged Texas’ second interception in the second quarter.

Ingram didn’t get the ball in the second half of Texas’ loss to Maryland but has shown the best instincts and burst among Longhorns running backs. He was out of the game late against Tulsa because of a knee injury that Herman said will have to be evaluated Sunday.

“Those three kids are college ready, I expect you are going to see a lot of them for a lot of years here,” Herman said.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

It’s probably too early and the win too unimpressive to get Texas back into the Top 25 after the loss to Maryland knocked them from No. 23 to unranked. Beat Southern Cal next week and the Longhorns maybe get back in the conversation.

UP NEXT

Tulsa faces Arkansas State next Saturday.

Texas hosts No. 17 USC next Saturday in a rematch of last season’s 27-24 Trojans win in OT.