Losing two of the most prolific receivers in program history left Texas with a problem: Where would senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger throw the ball in 2020?
The transfer market and a receiver who sat out 2019 while suspended quickly answered that question for the No. 8 Longhorns.
Joshua Moore scored on the first play of the season against UTEP, graduate transfers Brenden Schooler and Tarik Black both scored, and even walk-on Kai Money found the end zone as Ehlinger tossed five touchdown passes in the first half.
After a week off in which they climbed back into the top 10, the Longhorns open Big 12 play today at 2:30 against Texas Tech (1-0), which surrendered 527 yards passing yards to Houston Baptist in the Red Raiders’ opener. The game is at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Ehlinger spread his five scoring passes around to five receivers. He had to. His favorite targets last season, Devin Duvernay and Collin Johnson, are now both in the NFL.
“I don’t know if we’ve got the one or two dominant (receivers) we had in the last two years,” Texas coach Tom Herman said. “That’s OK. We’ve got 6 or 7 really, really good players.”
Moore’s 78-yard TD was a triumphant return for a player who had to fight his way out of Herman’s doghouse. Moore was arrested in 2019 when police saw him on camera loading a pistol he was carrying in his waistband. He pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor and avoided jail time, but Herman sent him to the scout team for the season.
Moore called the punishment “what I deserved.”
“To be honest, man, every game that I did not play in last year, I cried,” Moore said.
And the transfer market proved quite helpful for Texas. Schooler first transferred from Oregon to Arizona before settling in Austin, and Black came from Michigan.
Both were ready to plug in and play. Schooler got to the end zone first on a 40-yard catch and run. Black scored 2 minutes later on a 5-yard TD.
“When you get a transfer from places like Oregon and Michigan, they have played a lot football at the highest level. That’s a big-time plus,” Herman said.
Vanderbilt at No. 10 Texas A&M, Saturday at 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network alternate)
The Aggies hope to work out some kinks and play a clean game in the opener in what is their only preparation before a trip to No. 2 Alabama next week followed by a visit from fifth-ranked Florida on Oct. 10.
Key matchup: Texas A&M’s veteran defense vs. Vanderbilt’s new quarterback. Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason wouldn’t say this week who will start at QB, but none of his options have ever thrown a pass in an FBS game. Mason’s options include freshmen Ken Seals and Mike Wright and junior college transfers Danny Clark and Jeremy Moussa. All but one of A&M’s starters on defense are upperclassmen.
Players to watch / Vanderbilt: LB Dimitri Moore. The team’s leading tackler will play this season after changing his mind about opting out because of concerns about COVID-19. Moore, who is a Butkus Award candidate, had 99 tackles last season to rank fourth in the Southeastern Conference.
Texas A&M: QB Kellen Mond. While the Commodores will have a rookie signal-caller on Saturday, the Aggies have a four-year starter in Mond. He has 7,379 yards passing and 1,314 yards rushing in 37 career games to join 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel as the only players in school history to surpass 7,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing.
Kansas State (0-1) at No. 3 Oklahoma (1-0): The Sooners had a five-year road winning streak — until going to Manhattan last October, when Wildcats quarterback Skylar Thompson ran for four touchdowns in a 48-41 win. Thompson is now set to make his 29th career start, this time in Norman, where Oklahoma is 19-1 in coach Lincoln Riley’s four seasons. After that lone conference loss last season, the Sooners went on to win the Big 12 title for the fifth year in a row. Two weeks ago, Spencer Rattler became the first Oklahoma freshman to throw four touchdowns in his starting debut, a 48-0 win over Missouri State. Thompson threw two TDs as K-State fell 35-31 when Arkansas State scored in the final minute.