As the Longhorns walked off the field at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday night after their first win of the season, it was apparent that this wasn’t their best showing. But to them, it doesn’t matter.
“Any time you win, we’re going to celebrate it,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said. “If we ever get to the point in our program where we don’t celebrate wins, then we haven’t done a good job as coaches. Winning’s hard. Really, really hard.”
Texas defeated the Tulsa Golden Hurricane 28-21 after jumping out to a three-touchdown lead at halftime, only to later fall prone to the same level of tightness that the team displayed during their season-opening loss at Maryland.
The first half saw three missed field goal opportunities by Tulsa and a fourth miss that didn’t count officially because of a Texas penalty that allowed for a retry. But as the third quarter wound down and the fourth began, Tulsa running back Shamari Brooks dashed into the end zone twice in less than four minutes, cutting the Texas lead to 21-14.
Though Texas would respond with an impressive, clock-eating 75-yard touchdown drive, Tulsa hit back harder with a touchdown of its own on a possession that spanned only 1:32.
The Longhorns did enough to close out the game after that, but the hesitancy in the second half was obvious. And it nearly cost Texas what should have been an easy win.
“We just tensed up,” sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger said. “I think we started playing not to lose. We played a little conservative, and we didn’t attack like we were in the first half on the field. We need to find the consistency and the mentality to say, ‘We’ve got to keep our foot on the gas and keep moving forward and keep playing like we were in the first half.’”
It won’t be the most impressive win of the season. In fact, there were moments where Texas fans held their breath as the Longhorns struggled to put away a team that hasn’t won a road game in two years, but the positive thing for Texas is that it wasn’t another loss.
The reason that the Longhorns were able to pick up the victory was the trio of freshmen — running back Keaontay Ingram and safeties Caden Sterns and B.J. Foster.
“In terms of those three kids specifically, they are college-ready,” Herman said. “I mean, they are — especially B.J. and Caden, you know, having been in this program and in our strength and conditioning program, going through spring practices. I expect you’re going to see a lot of them for years to come here.”
Ingram racked up 64 yards and a score on 10 carries while Sterns and Foster both grabbed an interception during the team’s quick, first-quarter scoring run.
Sterns left his mark on DKR right away, leaping for the interception on Tulsa’s first offensive play of the game. That put Texas in a strong position to jump out to an early lead. Then, Foster’s interception, coming later in the opening quarter of the second half, shut down a Tulsa drive that lasted just three plays.
“It’s easy to pull those guys under your wing because they’re straight ballers,” senior safety P.J. Locke said. “You know, when you’ve got a big spotlight like this and they’re making their first starts and stuff like that, all I do is tell them, ‘You’ve been playing the same game since you were younger. Nothing’s changed. The competition is better, but you worked your butt off to get here and you’re good enough to sustain that.’”
The Longhorns will take Saturday night to enjoy their first victory of the season, but they won’t celebrate for long as they now have just one week to prepare for the most-anticipated home game of the season in a sold-out matchup against USC.