Texas loses season opener to Maryland for second straight season

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Texas quarterback <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/ncaaf/players/275098/" data-ylk="slk:Sam Ehlinger">Sam Ehlinger</a>, left, looks for a receiver as he is pressured by Maryland defensive lineman Byron Cowart in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger, left, looks for a receiver as he is pressured by Maryland defensive lineman Byron Cowart in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Maybe Texas isn’t back.

For a second year in a row, Texas, after an offseason of hype, dropped its season-opener to Maryland. After losing last season in Tom Herman’s debut in Austin, the Longhorns dropped another one to the Terps, this time a 34-29 decision at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.

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The Terps controlled things early — thanks to three touchdowns from freshman Jeshaun Jones — and jumped out to a 24-7 lead. But Texas showed fight and was able to quickly make up ground, cutting the deficit to 24-22 at halftime.

Following some adjustments, the defenses played better to start the second half. Three punts opened the third quarter, and Maryland turned it over on downs in Texas territory later in the quarter. That allowed the Longhorns to take their first lead of the game, 29-24, on a Kyle Porter touchdown run.

But the Texas defense could not hold up its end of the bargain.

On the ensuing possession, the Terps marched right down the field, covering 75 yards in the span of 11 plays to re-take the lead with a 17-yard touchdown run by Tayon Fleet-Davis with 14:25 to play.

That’s when the rains came and a delay of 86 minutes halted the game. When play resumed, the Terps marched deep into UT territory again, but this time settled for a chip-shot field goal to increase the lead to 34-29 with 6:45 to play.

Texas blew three chances to win the game

Texas would have three opportunities to reclaim the lead but was doomed by turnovers all three times times.

First, UT quarterback Sam Ehlinger was hit as he threw, and the ball fell right into the waiting arms of Maryland linebacker Tre Watson.

On Texas’ next drive, it was a play by a different Tre Watson that doomed the Longhorns. Texas’ Tre Watson, a graduate transfer running back from Cal, fumbled on a third-down run — a run that would have been good enough for a first down near midfield.

Texas would regain possession one more time. Again, the drive ended in an Ehlinger interception. This time, Ehlinger looked for Lil’Jordan Humphrey deep in Maryland territory, but he overthrew his target and the pass was picked off by Maryland’s Antoine Brooks.

It was a turnover that sealed the win for the Terps, and another difficult loss for the Longhorns.

What does this mean for Texas?

It’s been a decade of mediocrity and Texas fans are just starving for a resurgence under Herman. This will certainly not fulfill that hunger.

Frankly, this game resembled a lot of what made the Longhorns an average team in Herman’s first season. There was a hole-filled defense that struggled with Maryland’s speed. There was an underwhelming running game (just 3.9 yards per carry). And there were costly turnovers from the quarterback position.

And with all of that, Texas still had three — three! — chances to win the game late, and couldn’t do it against Maryland, a team mired in scandal that is expected to be among the worst in the Big Ten.

With a game against USC and the Big 12 slate on the horizon, this is not the way Texas wanted to start its 2018 season.

What does this mean for Maryland?

First of all, it had to be great for Maryland just to get back to football. The Terps lost a teammate earlier this offseason in Jordan McNair. And the administrative fallout from McNair’s death has been wide-reaching.

The Terps played this game without their head coach, D.J. Durkin, who is on administrative leave. Matt Canada, the first-year offensive coordinator, ran the show. After the game, Canada was quick to mention McNair. He was on the minds of the entire team, he said.

Moving forward, Maryland has winnable games against Bowling Green and Temple before entering the juggernaut Big Ten schedule. After a win like this, the Terps won’t — and shouldn’t — be taken lightly.

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