Texas entered week two of the season still riding high from their double overtime victory over Notre Dame this past Sunday, but with a short week on deck they had to refocus quickly as they welcomed the UTEP Miners into town on Saturday. On top of the short week, Texas was without several starters on the offensive line, including All American left tackle Connor Williams, and was also without starting safety Dylan Haines, starting running back D’Onta Foreman, and starting tight end Caleb Bluiett.
Coming off a roller coaster and emotional victory on a short week of practice can be a bit of a task for a young football team with a young quarterback at the helm and that goes double when you are down several guys who are in charge of protecting the quarterback, but Charlie Strong and his staff had his team prepared and ready to go on Saturday.
The Miners entered the matchup 1-0 after a 39-22 victory over New Mexico State in week one and junior running back Aaron Jones was coming off a monster performance that included 249 yards rushing and two touchdowns. With starting quarterback Zack Greenlee missing the game with an injury, Jones was the focal point of UTEP’s offensive game plan coming into the game, as sophomore Kavika Johnson got the start in place of Greenlee.
The Miners went to Jones early and often, but ended up finding themselves in an early 10-0 hole, which would’ve been 17-0 if Texas wide receiver Jacorey Warrick doesn’t fumble the ball into the end zone while crossing the goal line. The Miners showed signs of life on offense in the second quarter when Jones busted a 51 yard run for a touchdown to make it 10-7, but that is where the positives stop for the Miners offensively.
Outside of Jones’ long touchdown run, the Miners never really got going on offense. The Texas defense made life hard for Johnson all night long as he struggled to a 9 for 15 performance for only 42 yards (2.8 yards per completion, 22.8 QBR) through the air. Jones finished the night with 123 yards on 18 carries, but if you take out that one big run his night decreases considerably to 72 yards at 4.23 yards per carry.
On the other side of the coin, the Texas offense and Shane Buechele had another productive day at the office. After a coming out party against the Fighting Irish, Buechele had another productive outing as he completed 22 of 27 passes to the tune of 244 yards and had a touchdown/INT ratio of 4 to 0. On top of that Buechele also chipped in with 34 yards on the ground and found ways to move the sticks while playing a very clean game. When you take into account that Buechele had to operate behind a makeshift offensive line that makes his stat line even more impressive for just being a freshmen in his second start of his career.
With Foreman sideline for the game, sophomore running back Chris Warren carried the load on Saturday (20 carries, 95 yards, 1 touchdown) and true freshman Kyle Porter also chipped in as well (8 carries, 31 yards). At wide receiver, Warrick (7 catches, 73 yards, 1 TD) and Jerrod Heard (6 catches, 46 yards, 2 TDs) both had very nice days, as UTEP struggled to matchup with the Longhorns on the perimeter all night long.
While the offense experienced a good amount of success on Saturday, the Longhorn defense came very close to pitching a shutout against the Miners. Outside of the one big run by Jones, the Miners didn’t experience much success moving the football and if I remember correctly they only cross midfield two to three times due to constantly being backed up by Texas punter Michael Dickson. The Longhorn defense held UTEP to 208 yards of total offense as they showed the flashes of talent that has Charlie Strong and his staff excited about the future going forward.
With this week in the books, the Longhorns now look forward to their first road trip out to Berkley to take on Cal, who is coming off a heart breaking loss to San Diego State, and the Miners are moving on to a matchup against Army. The Longhorns will have a chance to notch another revenge victory after losing a close one to Cal in Austin in 2015, but with it being the first true road test for a young team it could be very interesting. One thing is for sure, the Longhorns are off to a very nice start in 2016 after missing a bowl game altogether last year, and they have a chance to make some real noise in the Big 12 if they stay on this trajectory.