Longhorns Stampede Alabama

Coach Steve Sarkisian prepared the Texas Longhorns to beat Alabama.  He has been preparing to beat them since Texas suffered the one-point loss to Alabama last year in Austin.  It helps to have experience on the roster.  The Longhorns offense returns all five starters on the offensive line, Quinn Ewers, Ja’Tavion Sanders, Xavier Worthy and Jordan Whittington.  Their experience was needed against a stout Alabama defense.  Sark leaned heavily on his veterans to get the job done.

The first half of the game was an old school SEC defensive slug fest.  Only Texas managed to score a touchdown as both squads traded two field goals each.

Though Sark leaned heavily on his offensive veterans, it was the defense that set the tone for the day.  After the Longhorns first punt, Jahdae Barron intercepted Jalen Milroe seven plays into Alabama’s opening drive.  This early turnover set the Longhorns up to eventually kick their first field goal of the day, taking the early lead.

Jalen Milroe, though young and inexperienced, is highly talented.  He has a strong arm and one of the best deep balls in college football.  Yet, he struggles with reading a defense in the moment.  He threw two egregious interceptions in this game.  His feet can get him out of trouble at times, especially when being chased by defensive linemen.  Most of his 44 yards rushing came because of the Texas defensive line pressure.  With seasoning, he can become Alabama’s next great quarterback.

Alabama received the ball in the second half.  They needed to score a touchdown and the Longhorns defense held them to a field goal.  After trading several punts, Milroe shocked the Longhorns with a 49-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Burton, giving Alabama the lead.

Quin Ewers and company finally said enough was enough.  Ewers hit Sanders for a massive 50-yard play.  Then Ewers tossed a seven-yard touchdown pass to Adonai Mitchell.  The Longhorns were back in the lead.

Jalen Milroe wasn’t the only quarterback with a good long ball.  Quinn Ewers was the best long ball quarterback on the field today.  Ewers, who shaved his hair and 15 pounds in the offseason, is fit to fight this year.  His first touchdown throw in the second quarter was a 44-yard bomb to Xavier Worthy.  The ball sailed high into the air and came down into Worthy’s arms as he crossed the goal line.  Ewers last touchdown pass of the game was another 39-yard bomb to Mitchell who caught the ball just as he was about to cross the goal line.  The only difference in the two plays was where the defenders were at.  Worthy had one defender draped all over him, while Mitchell had broken free.  On Mitchell’s play, the rest of the receivers ran underneath routes, causing the Tide safeties to come up and allowing Mitchell to easily blow by his man cover defender.  It was a great play design.  Both plays were beautiful examples of on target high flying passes.

The most impressive aspect of this game was Texas defensive line.  They consistently pressured Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe.  Alabama suffered from several holding calls on their offensive line and there were many more that were missed by this SEC crew.  Yet the Longhorn defensive linemen kept coming.  Milroe was sacked at least five times.  Both Ethan Burke and Anthony Hill Jr. sacked Milroe twice.

Texas tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders (0) gets loose for a long gain against Alabama during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

My favorite player on the Texas offense is tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders.  Sark lines him up everywhere on the field.  He lines up as an inline tight end, at fullback, in the slot, in the y and the z.  Sanders has a wide skill set.  He quietly led the Longhorns receivers in receptions and yardage.  On multiple occasions Sark called on Sanders to lead block.  Sanders even wham blocked a few linebackers and defensive ends.  Sanders rarely gets beat and he knows how to find the open holes in the zone.  After Ewers, Sanders is the most important offensive weapon the Longhorns have….in my humble opinion.

Texas showed great resiliency today.  They played a stingy Alabama defense and an opportunistic offense and won.  They lost the lead at the end of the third quarter and still won.  They went on the road to the most hostile stadium in college football, and beat Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide by ten points.  No one can remember the last time Saban and the Tide were beat by double digits.

It is still early in the season to crown Texas as Champion of the Big 12.  However, it is clear they are salivating at the opportunity to leave the Big 12 as champions before taking their seat in the vaunted SEC.  Alabama is breaking in a new quarterback and a new left tackle among other positions.  Texas used and abused the inexperienced Alabama line, but that doesn’t mean Alabama is through and it certainly doesn’t mean that Texas is back.  It has been a long time since Texas hoisted a championship trophy.  There is no time for celebrating the battle won when the war is still going on.

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