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Ask the Expert: The Longhorns are iffy on this one too

We connected with our friends at Burnt Orange Nation to talk about the game this weekend.

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Texas Bethany Hocker-USA TODAY Sports

Another week, another collapsed lung for freshman-phenom Alan Bowman. It’s easy to look back now and wonder what could have been, but we lost to the Sooners and there’s nothing we can do now. This week we catch a reeling Longhorn squad in Lubbock, and they’re likely dealing with as many notable injuries as we are. Sam Ehlinger isn’t 100% (as you’ll learn below), Texas might be on their 3rd-String rush-end, and it’s possible we’ll be facing off with some 2nd/3rd string defensive backs as well. I anticipate this game could be ugly, and I’m hopeful we’ll come out on top.

As always, I like to thank my counterpart before hopping into the questions. Toss Gerald Goodridge a follow on Twitter, and check out Burnt Orange Nation for your opposition coverage of Texas. This ought to be a fun weekend, so let’s dive into the questions below!

1. Sam Ehlinger has been solid this year, but has dealt with a few injuries. Do you think he’s operating at 100%, and what can we expect to see from him against Tech?

The biggest injury Sam dealt with was the AC sprain against Baylor. It’s cliche, but having the bye week was helpful and giving him that week off was helpful. The coaches would not have gone with him against Oklahoma State if the injury was hampering him, and last week against West Virginia he played one of his best games of the season. As far as what to expect, Ehlinger really excels at the short to middle-distance passing game, and more than ever he is using his feet to create more time for himself to go through his progressions. His favorite passes this year have been to find his big receivers, LilJordan Humphrey and Collin Johnson, on drag routes underneath, or the play-action pass down the middle to tight end Andrew Beck. Obviously, quarterback power is always on the table from a play calling standpoint, but it’s been on the table less after the injury for obvious reasons.

2. The running back by committee approach has been interesting to watch as an outsider. What’s been holding Tom Herman back from running Keaontay Ingram 20+ times per game? How has Tre Watson been so far as well?

If the legends are to be believed, Keontay Ingram has a ton of wear on the tires already. I’ve heard numbers as high as 2000 carries in his time at Carthage. Talent-wise he is as good as advertised, but I think his workload this year is completely based on the fact that he was a guy that carried the load for four years and needs a little bit of the weight to be evenly-carried. Really when you look at it, there’s only a two carries per game difference between him and Tre Watson. Generally the strategy has been to feed the hot hand in the first three quarters, and go with Watson in the fourth. Watson has been inconsistent, but the game against West Virginia really showed what he is capable of when playing at his best. He’s not the guy to break a ton of tackles, but if he finds space anywhere in the defense he’s going to stick his nose in it and take all of the yardage he can get. He’s been stellar as a pass blocker and has emerged as a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield, especially on a wheel route or delayed pattern away from where Ehlinger is rolling.

3. It seems like solid offenses have gotten to the Longhorns lately. How are teams putting points on the board against UT? Via pass or run? Big plays or stringing drives together? Specifically, how has UT fared against mobile quarterbacks?

It’s honestly been three different situations. Against Baylor, Texas played bad in most phases of the game and Sam Ehlinger got hurt. Against Oklahoma State, Tylan Wallace took advantage of suspensions and inconsistent play in the secondary to gash that Texas secondary. West Virginia scored on two long passes, but the majority of their ability to move the ball came through the running game. Really the tie between all three of them really was team’s ability to attack the middle of the defense, as the Texas defense has struggled at linebacker and safety.

4. Who do Tech fans need to keep an eye on that we’re not already aware of?

Texas has been awful on third downs defensively. In the last three games, opponents are converting on 51% of their third down attempts, an embarrassing number of them coming from five or more yards. The Longhorns have done an incredible job on first and second downs putting teams in a hole on the first two downs, only to allow them to convert on back-breaking third downs. If Texas can capitalize on the favorable position on third down to bring that third down number down, they will have a much better showing.

5. What are the best matchups for UT heading into this game?

Wide receiver is always going to be my answer to this question. In a league full of incredible receivers, the fact that Texas can trot out two guys with the skillsets and physical attributes of Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey seems unfair. Where Johnson is your control receiver who wins the physical matchups and 50/50 balls, Humphrey loves having the ball in his hands in space. Lining him up in the slot is really unfair.

6. Any key injuries/suspensions to track?

Texas got beat up against WVU. The three biggest ones to injuries are Breckyn Hager with a dislocated elbow, Davante Davis with a neck and shoulder sprain, and Brandon Jones with an ankle injury. If Jones is unable to play, the way the secondary fits together changes pretty dramatically, shifting PJ Locke III from nickel back to safety and forcing Caden Sterns into a more coverage-centric role in the pass defense. Marquez Bimage, who played in relief of Hager against West Virginia, dislocated his shoulder in the game. Davis missing time brings talented freshman Anthony Cook into the mix, who gives up a bit of size and two years worth of experience.

7. Score Prediction?

I suck at score predictions, but recent history makes me think this will be a bit of a shootout. I’m not sure who wins, but I think it’s a 38-35 game.