Ehlinger’s rise: From heartbreaker to playmaker

Ross Burkhart

Will Grier, a former SEC prodigy turned West Virginia transplant, and Kyler Murray, the 4.7 million dollar man from Allen, Texas — those are the two quarterbacks everybody mentioned in the top tier of Big 12 passers last summer.

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger was easily left out of that conversation, perhaps because he wasn’t even named a starter yet. 

However, Ehlinger has quickly risen through the ranks this season and shown he’s fully capable of going toe-to-toe with many college football heavyweights.

“He’s checking out of different looks and changing the run to put us in the best position to be successful,” running back Tre Watson said. “Having him has been amazing. His development and growth and controlling the offense has been great.”

The sophomore signal caller now holds a streak of 246 consecutive passing attempts without an interception, just 27 passes shy of Geno Smith’s Big 12 record.

“It’s something that definitely we all knew that I was capable of …” Ehlinger said.

During the Longhorns’ signature win against Oklahoma, which was their biggest of the decade, Ehlinger paved the way to victory by tacking on 314 passing yards, 72 rushing yards and five total touchdowns — the same number of times Murray found the endzone. 

Ehlinger then continued his red-hot streak of games weeks later by outplaying Grier on the statsheet when the Longhorns hosted West Virginia in their most important test yet.

Although Grier’s Mountaineers threw the knockout punch, Ehlinger had arguably the best game of his career, throwing for 354 yards, running for 52 yards and scoring four touchdowns in the last-second loss.

“I think the biggest thing is just experience and the game slowing down,” Ehlinger said after the West Virginia game. “That’s every level of sports and when you get more experience, it slows down for you and you’re able to comprehend more and it’s definitely helped a lot this year.”

Both the Oklahoma and West Virginia game have been examples of Ehlinger’s ability to shine brighter each time the lights come on.

“I’m proud of him,” offensive coordinator Tim Beck said. “I think he’s worked really hard to get to that point. He studies the game, I give him that. He’s a grinder.”

Ehlinger’s contribution to the offense has been elemental in the program’s strides during head coach Tom Herman’s second season at the helm.

The Longhorns now shift their focus to Texas Tech in an attempt to save their promising season in a primetime game in Lubbock. Last year’s game against the Red Raiders was a huge disappointment for Texas fans, as they watched their team suffer a blown lead in the fourth quarter and fall to an unsatisfactory 6–6 record to end the regular season.

When asked about last year’s loss, Ehlinger characterized the game similarly to the way he does many others.

“Oh man … just another game that we had the opportunity to finish and we didn’t,” Ehlinger said. 

Nevertheless, Ehlinger has seemingly put last year’s demons to rest, reaching heights Texas fans haven’t seen in quite some time. Looking ahead prematurely to next season, Ehlinger could find his name being thrown around in the same way Grier’s and Murray’s were prior to this season.

“He’s gonna have a great future,” Watson said.