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

Tight end JT Sanders is key for Ewers’ offensive success

Lorianne Willett
Tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders blocks a tackle and makes room for quarterback Quinn Ewers to score a touchdown during Texas’ game against Baylor on September 23, 2023. The Longhorns defeated the Bears 38-6 in their first Big 12 conference game of the season.

Sophomore quarterback Quinn Ewers looked like he was going to be forced out of bounds for a short gain on third down and nine. Instead, he turned the corner, beat his defender and tiptoed down the sideline for an acrobatic 29-yard rushing touchdown. 

Staying calm and collected as the play collapsed around him and his receivers stayed covered, Ewers tucked the ball and ran. The longest rushing touchdown of his career was aided heavily by a block coming from junior tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders, clearing Ewers’ path down the sideline.

Ewers trotted in for Texas’ second rushing touchdown of the first quarter, the team’s first multiple-touchdown first half of the season. 

“I just saw an opening, and it was third down,” Ewers said. “I mean, I wasn’t thinking I was going to score. But JT (Sanders) got a good block right off his hip, and I ended up scoring.” 

The quarterback’s ability to adapt the play on the run shows his growth from last season. Ewers is known for his passing ability and has yet to show his full potential on the ground. 

The play before the touchdown run was tipped and almost intercepted by a Baylor defender, which would have been Ewers’ first of the season. Dating back to last season, Ewers hasn’t thrown an interception since Texas’ loss to Oklahoma State. 

In the 38-6 win over Baylor, Ewers threw 18-out-of-23 completions for 293 yards and one touchdown. On the ground, he ran for 16 total yards on five rushes. 

“I feel a whole lot more comfortable (on the field) now this year than I did last year,” Ewers said. “I’m a whole lot more comfortable with my situation.”

To avoid interceptions, Ewers has established a solid connection with his receivers and tight ends, especially Sanders. A 6-foot-4-inch, 243-pound junior from Denton, Texas, Sanders led all Texas receivers tonight against Baylor. 

With 110 yards on eight targets, his longest being a 49-yard reception, Sanders was a vital target for Ewers in the dominating win over Baylor. 

“(JT) did a phenomenal job,” Ewers said. “He came in and did what he expected of himself and what we expected of him. He’s a big time player, and he has the ability to make big plays like he did tonight.” 

While Sanders might not be Ewers’ favorite end-zone target, head coach Steve Sarkisian said that he is key when players such as junior wide receivers Xavier Worthy and Adonai Mitchell are covered. 

Sanders and backup junior tight end Gunnar Helm have made impacts in multiple ways, adding to the Longhorn’s versatility on offense. 

“The more we can do really well, the tougher we are to defend,” Sarkisian said. “We never want to be a one-dimensional team. We want to really be versatile on offense. … We don’t go into games with just simple game plans and simple formations.” 

Ewers figured out how to utilize Sanders in the most optimal way and Sarkisian’s play calling reflected that. Midway through the second quarter, on a double pass, Ewers found Worthy behind the line of scrimmage, and he sent a ball flying toward Sanders. 

Sanders was unable to find the end zone, but his play gave Texas prime field position and set freshman running back CJ Baxter’s first career touchdown. 

“The beauty of our group right now is they love the fact that multiple people are making plays,” Sarkisian said. 

Sanders’s work on and off the ball gives Ewers multiple options on the field at all times, fostering more offensive success. 

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About the Contributor
Lorianne Willett, Double Coverage Photo Editor
Lorianne is a Journalism and Global Sustainability junior from San Antonio, Texas. Currently, she is the Double Coverage Photo Editor. In her free time, she enjoys reading and playing tennis.