AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Kickoff was still more than two hours away when Texas freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger sent a message to the masses: he was ready.
“Here we go,” Ehlinger tweeted before taking the field for his first college start, a 56-0 rout of San Jose State on Saturday.
Getting the start because of Shane Buechele’s bruised throwing shoulder, Ehlinger passed for 222 yards and his first career touchdown as the Longhorns bounced back from a season-opening loss to give first-year coach Tom Herman his first Texas victory.
Ehlinger had practiced with the first team all week but wasn’t announced as the starter until an hour before the game started.
“It’s such a surreal moment for me. Being at the games growing up, literally growing up, maturing in that stadium, literally from when I could walk until now, it was a great feeling,” Ehlinger said.
He also had a big supporting cast.
Chris Warren III ran for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Jerrod Heard, a wide receiver and former starting quarterback, also took some snaps and ran for two touchdowns in the first half.
Texas ran for more than 400 yards and had more than 600 yards of total offense. And after giving up 51 points in a loss to Maryland, the Texas defense got its first shutout since 2014 and first at home since 2012.
“Our guys flew around, they cut it loose, they played with confidence and swagger,” Herman said.
Warren’s first touchdown came on a 41-yard burst off a direct snap in the second quarter. Defensive back Holton Hill scored his third touchdown in two games with an interception return for a score in the third.
“We played a lot harder this week. We played for each other,” Warren said. “I like what I saw from Sam. I’m proud of the kid.”
SAN JOSE STATE: The Spartans (1-2) were overmatched, particularly at the line of scrimmage. The 250-pound Warren smashed through tackles and even hurdled over one for a first down in the first half. Freshman quarterback Montel Aaron also was victimized by several dropped passes in a game.
“(Aaron) just needs to keep growing. I thought our inability to run the football makes it harder on a young quarterback,” San Jose State coach Brent Brennan said. “They beat us fair and square at the line of scrimmage.”
TEXAS: Herman likes to call Ehlinger an “alpha” and the freshman’s burst with his legs gives the Texas offense a new wrinkle that’s missing with Buechele. Ehlinger’s passing has room for growth as he was 15-of-27 with several misfires and drops. All of it means Texas will face new quarterback questions about who to start — assuming Buechele is healthy enough to return — when the Longhorns next face Southern California.
Herman wouldn’t project his starter for next week.
“Sam played good for that being his first collegiate start. I thought he was very poised in the pocket,” Herman said.
Ehlinger and Buechele were roommates at the team hotel Friday night.
“Shane and I are great friends. He told me just play football, relax and do what you do. His advice really helped,” Ehlinger said.
Hill’s interception return made him the first Texas player to do that in consecutive games since 1971. He now has three in his career, one shy of former All-American and Thorpe Award winner Michael Huff.
TEXAS: travels to play Southern California on Sept. 16
SAN JOSE STATE: plays at Utah on Sept. 16