Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Third-down woes continue to plague Longhorns in season opener

Peyton Sims
Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers throws the ball at the UT vs. OU game on Oct. 8, 2022.

Despite a comfortable victory over Rice in the scorching Austin heat, Texas’ third-down struggles were, again, apparent.

With one week separating kickoff between No.11 Texas and No. 4 Alabama, imperfections that haunted the Longhorns a year ago are rearing their ugly heads early on. In last year’s one-point loss to the Crimson Tide, the Longhorns posted a 25% conversion rate on third down, including three missed conversions in the fourth quarter with just one extra score needed for the win.

On Saturday against Rice, Texas began the game 0-6 on third down and 0-2 on fourth down, resulting in multiple turnovers on downs and field goals. Despite being a 35-point favorite, Texas went into the locker room with just a 13-point lead. Texas would finish the afternoon with a much more comfortable 6-14 completion rate on third downs, but the majority of conversions came in the second half.

“We did not start how we wanted,” said Quinn Ewers, sophomore Texas starting quarterback. “It’s unacceptable to go 0-6. You can’t win football games doing that.”

Texas converted on just 38.8% of third downs last season, ranking 63rd in the nation in third down completion rate. Conversely, Alabama sat at 46% at 17th in the nation. 

In the four regular season games the Longhorns lost in 2022, Texas was a combined 10/51 on third down conversions, a woeful 20% conversion percentage that would’ve been second worst in FBS over a whole season. Alongside just two fourth down conversions during that span, the Longhorns were at their weakest when Ewers and the rest of the offense weren’t able to finish out drives.

“A year ago, if he got sacked a couple of times in the first half, I don’t know what might’ve happened coming out in the second half,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said about Ewers. “Today, he comes out in the second half looking much more comfortable. He was able to re-center himself.”

Ewers exited the game after three quarters of play, having converted four touchdowns, three with his arm and one with his legs. All four came on early down plays where Sarkisian was able to dial up plays that resulted in big gains, like sophomore running back Jonathon Brooks’ 37-yard touchdown reception.

“I’m always striving for it to be better,” Sarkisian said. “But I do understand where some of the mishaps might have come up, and we’ve got to get that cleaned up.”

On the defensive side, the front seven excelled. The Longhorns gave up just 2.7 yards per play in the first three quarters and recorded three turnovers while holding Rice to two total scores, one on its first and one on its last drive of the game.

“I think the majority of people that walked in the stadium thought that game was going to go a certain way,” Sarkisian said. “When in reality, our defense played a fantastic football game. There’s not always a lot of talk about how good we are defensively.”

With less than a week to prepare for one of the hardest road tests this season, Sarkisian and his Longhorns have a big slate ahead of them before a rematch against the 2021 SEC champions.

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About the Contributors
Evan Vieth, Senior Sports Reporter
Evan is a junior journalism major and the sports editor for the Texan. He is originally from Washington DC and has covered UT sports for 4 semesters and counting. He has covered the Men's Tennis, Soccer, Baseball and Football teams and had the opportunity to write about the 2023 Longhorns in the Sugar Bowl.
Peyton Sims, Associate Photo Editor
Peyton is senior journalism student at UT Austin. During this fall semester, she's an Associate Photo Editor for The Daily Texan and she's a true crime Podcast Producer for The Drag Audio Production House.