From a defensive perspective, Tom Herman sees this week like it’s a scene from Armageddon.
As No. 12 Texas prepares to open up Big 12 play against Oklahoma State on Saturday night at DKR, the Longhorns have to try and slow down the nation’s leading rusher, an All-American wide receiver and a dual-threat quarterback.
“Scariest environment imaginable,” Herman said.
Oklahoma State is 3-0 this season, and currently holds a four-game winning streak against the Texas. The Cowboys won 38-35 in Stillwater last season.
Running back Chuba Hubbard has 521 yards and seven touchdowns this season and ran for 253 yards and three scores in the Cowboys’ 40-21 win over Tulsa last weekend. He was named the Big 12 Player of the Week.
Quarterback Spencer Sanders has thrown for 622 yards and seven scores this year and is the No. 2 rusher with 219 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Tylan Wallace has 15 receptions for 390 yards and six touchdowns so far.
“It’s going to be a challenge, for sure, but you can’t sell your soul to stop one, because they’re so proficient in the other that you’ve got to be sound,” Herman said. “When you think of (Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy), you think of his talent evaluation on the recruiting end and the development once they get there. Obviously, his offenses speak for themselves.”
As for the Longhorns, they answered plenty of questions last week with a dominant 48-13 win over Rice.
Sam Ehlinger finished 23-of-27 passing for 279 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His 11 passing touchdowns through three games is tied for the best start for a Texas quarterback in school history.
Herman said the most impressive thing Ehlinger has done through three games is being able to control the offense.
“Knowing where to go, getting us out of bad plays and into better ones and being on time with his throws,” Herman said. “We have high expectations for him. He has that of himself. That’s just a testament to him.”
Ehlingher’s strong season has been mirrored by true freshman receiver Jake Smith, who had six catches for 53 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
With All-American receiver Collin Johnson battling an injury for most of the season, Smith and fellow receivers Brennan Eagles and Devin Duvernay have been able to step up and make big plays for the Longhorns’ offense.
“He wasn’t an early enrollee, so his first taste of college football was training camp, and it hit him like a shovel in the face,” Herman said of Smith. “We still kept it fairly simple for him, we don’t ask him to memorize the entire playbook just yet.”
Herman said on Monday that Johnson was probable to play against the Cowboys on Saturday. He gave the same diagnosis to lineman Zach Shackelford (foot) and linebacker Joseph Ossai (shoulder).
The running back position is also trending in the right direction, even if that is helped by a converted quarterback.
Roschon Johnson scored his first touchdown with Texas last week on a 25-yard catch out of the backfield. Daniel Young returned to the field after missing the first two games and had four carries. And Keaontay Ingram continued to be the leading rusher, finishing with 74 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
It was a bounce-back game for the sophomore, who was held to. 29 yards in the loss to LSU a couple of weeks ago.
Herman said he has to tell the running back that he can be too hard on himself sometimes, but that’s a good trait to have.
“He’s very self-critical, and every successful person in life that I know at least is very self-aware and self-critical,” Herman said. We tell him he’s going to go 0-1 now and again. The mark of a champion, the mark of an elite player is not going 0-2.”