In a surprising turn of events, the Texas Longhorns’ triumphant road win over Houston was overshadowed by an unexpected twist.
Star quarterback Quinn Ewers, ranked eighth in the nation, had to leave the game in the third quarter due to a shoulder injury, leaving the Longhorns and their fans in a state of uncertainty. What led to this abrupt exit, and what does it mean for the Longhorns going forward? Let’s dive into the details.
A Heroic Attempt Cut Short
As the game progressed, Ewers displayed tremendous resilience by attempting to play through the discomfort of his shoulder injury. Head coach Steve Sarkisian explained, “He tried to play through it, but we didn’t feel comfortable enough with his ability to continue, and that’s when Maalik went in the game.”
However, the defining moment came in the closing minutes of the third quarter. On a crucial third-and-6 play, Ewers scrambled for four yards before colliding violently with Houston linebacker David Ugwoegbu. The impact left Ugwoegbu down on the turf for a few moments, but Ewers continued to play.
The Turning Point
The game’s turning point arrived when, with just four yards to go for a touchdown, Ewers fired two incomplete passes from the Cougars’ 7-yard line. Despite a valiant effort by Savion Red, the Longhorns had to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Bert Auburn, giving them a three-point lead at the end of the third quarter.
Following this drive, Ewers entered the medical tent on the Texas sideline for evaluation. Murphy, the backup quarterback, began warming up in anticipation of entering the game. Murphy eventually replaced Ewers when the Longhorns regained possession with 12:41 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Maalik Murphy Takes the Helm
Murphy’s entrance into the game brought a new dimension to the Longhorns’ offense. Although his passing performance was limited, completing only one of two attempts, it was a connection with Jordan Whittington that marked his presence. The 7-yard pass was part of a 6-play, 53-yard drive, initiated by a spectacular 33-yard kickoff return by Keilan Robinson. CJ Baxter then sealed the deal with a 16-yard touchdown run, putting the Longhorns in the lead.
Notably, during this crucial drive, Coach Sarkisian opted for a more ground-based strategy, allowing Jonathon Brooks to make significant contributions. Brooks recorded three carries out of his 20 rushing attempts and gained 30 of his 99 yards on that day, pushing the offense closer to a score.
Ewers’ Stellar Performance
Quinn Ewers’ absence is a major concern, especially given his stellar performance during the game. At one point, he completed an impressive streak of 14 consecutive passes, finishing with 211 yards and two touchdowns on 23-for-29 passing. His noteworthy plays included a 14-yard strike to Adonai Mitchell early in the first quarter and a 42-yard bomb to Xavier Worthy, showcasing his prowess with 13 touchdown passes in seven games.
A Season of Ups and Downs
Ewers’ overall season statistics are equally impressive, with a completion rate of 70.9% for 1,915 yards, completing 151 out of 213 passes. However, this season has not been without its challenges. Ewers had started 15 games in a row after suffering a left sternoclavicular injury in the second game of the 2022 season, resulting in a heart-wrenching home loss to No. 1 Alabama.
The Backup Plan
Saturday marked Maalik Murphy’s fourth appearance this season, with a 4-for-8 performance through the air, accumulating 47 yards. Arch Manning, the top prospect for 2023, has yet to make an appearance this season. If Ewers’ absence becomes prolonged, Manning could become the No. 2 quarterback behind Murphy.
Coach Sarkisian remains confident in his quarterbacks, stating, “I think that the one thing about this team and the way we practice, the team’s got a lot of confidence in Maalik and, really, Arch because I know how well those guys competed.” He reassures fans that the Longhorns are well-equipped to face the challenge ahead.
The Road Ahead
The unforeseen twist in the game has cast a shadow of uncertainty over the Longhorns’ season. While Ewers’ health remains a concern, the team is ready to adapt and continue their pursuit of success. With a talented roster and a strong supporting cast, including a solid offensive line, skillful runners, and reliable receivers, the Longhorns are poised to face the next game head-on.
In times of adversity, the true character of a team shines through, and the Texas Longhorns are poised to face this challenge with determination and resilience.