College News & Analysis

QB Quinn Ewers could finally have Texas 'back'

2RT4Y3X Texas running back CJ Baxter (4) and quarterback Quinn Ewers (3) wait for a play during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Alabama, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Also pictured are Texas offensive linemen Kelvin Banks Jr. (78) and Hayden Conner (76). (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

• Is Texas finally back? The Longhorns are now the fourth-ranked team in the country after taking down then-No. 3 Alabama, 34-24.

• Quinn Ewers was surgical: The redshirt sophomore earned a 90.2 passing grade in the victory with 349 passing yards and three touchdowns.

• Is a playoff run now likely? Texas plays only two more ranked opponents this season and should be favored in every game.

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

Following Texas' Sugar Bowl win over Georgia in 2018, then-quarterback Sam Ehlinger infamously declared Texas to be “back.”

The four following seasons turned the Longhorns’ rallying cry into a joke for the rest of college football. Texas finished 28-20 in that span and ended only two of those years in the rankings, both at No. 20.

Now, that phrase could finally prove to be accurate as then-No. 11 Texas upset then-No. 3 Alabama 34-24 on Saturday in Tuscaloosa. With the win, the Longhorns moved up to No. 4 in the AP poll, their highest ranking since 2009, when they lost in the national championship game. That team was led by Colt McCoy, one of the best quarterbacks in program history. The 2023 Texas squad will hope its signal-caller, Quinn Ewers, can lead them to similar heights.

The redshirt sophomore was surgical in the Longhorns’ upset over the Crimson Tide. He earned a 90.2 passing grade in the victory with three big-time throws and no turnover-worthy plays. He was just as successful in last year’s 20-19 loss to Alabama, before being knocked out of the game in the first quarter due to an AC sprain in his non-throwing shoulder. If he doesn’t go down, it stands to reason that Texas wins that game.

Following that injury last year, Ewers wasn’t nearly as dominant. He posted just a 66.7% adjusted completion rate, the 11th-worst mark among Power Five quarterbacks in that span. His Longhorns went just 5-3 in that span.

Texas is hoping this version of Ewers sticks around the whole season. If it does, this offense could prove difficult to stop. The Longhorns boast a top-tier receiving corps, a stellar offensive line and an elite offensive mind in head coach Steve Sarkisian. That’s not even mentioning the defense, which features one of college football’s best secondaries and stars in the front seven, such as interior defensive linemen T’Vondre Sweat, Byron Murphy II and linebacker Jaylan Ford.

All of the ingredients are there for Texas to win the Big 12 and make it to the College Football Playoff. The Longhorns play only two more currently ranked opponents the season, No. 19 Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl and No. 15 Kansas State at home. Now, it’s just about whether Texas can avoid slipping up like it has in previous years.

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