AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas is bowl eligible in mid-October for the first time in a long time.
It took some tense moments to get there Saturday and there will some anxious days waiting for news on quarterback Sam Ehlinger’s sprained throwing shoulder.
Shane Buechele came on for Ehlinger early in the first quarter and the No. 9 Longhorns had to hold on late for a 23-17 victory over Baylor that wasn’t secure until the Bears’ final pass sailed through the back of the end zone as time expired.
The win came a week after Ehlinger accounted for five touchdowns in an upset victory over Oklahoma that catapulted Texas to its highest ranking since 2010. Ehlinger got hurt on the first drive against Baylor and Buechele had to lead Texas with his first snaps of the season.
“I stay ready with my teammates behind me. They always have my back and I have theirs,” said Buechele, who passed for 184 yards with one touchdown and one interception. “It’s for them. It’s for my teammates. It’s the least I can do, is stay ready for times like this.”
Buechele was the full-time starter in 2016 when he set several school freshman passing records, but couldn’t win the job from Ehlinger. The Longhorns struggled to find any offensive rhythm for most of the game and didn’t score in the second half.
“We knew this wasn’t going to be easy and obviously when your starting quarterback goes out on the first drive, there could have been some panic, a little shock,” Texas coach Tom Herman said.
Buechele took over after game officials made Ehlinger leave because his right, throwing hand was bleeding. Ehlinger first went to the sideline and then the locker room before school officials announced he had injured his throwing shoulder. He returned to the sideline but didn’t play again and changed into street clothes at halftime.
Ehlinger will have an MRI to see if there is any ligament damage, but Herman said he hopes he’ll be throwing again in a few days. Herman said Ehlinger, a powerful runner, got hurt when he was hit on one of his two run plays on the first drive. He still completed a pass after his last run.
Baylor almost snatched the victory. Quarterback Charlie Brewer drove the Bears from their own 3 to the Texas 17 before he had to rush his final three throws under intense pressure. Texas defensive end Charles Omenihu had two sacks and was chasing Brewer on the last three plays.
“Great stop,” Herman said of the final Baylor drive.
Texas (6-1, 4-0) is bowl eligible in mid-October for the first time since 2009, the last year the Longhorns won the Big 12 and played for a national championship.
Texas had consecutive losing seasons from 2014-16 and didn’t get to the postseason in 2015 and 2016. The Longhorns have qualified for bowl games in both of Herman’s seasons.
Brewer passed for 245 yards and a touchdown for the Bears (4-3, 2-2), who were just 1-11 last season.
“We are getting better and we’re getting tougher and we’re starting to figure this out,” Baylor coach Matt Rhule said. “I told them it’s OK this hurts. This should hurt. For the first time since I’ve been here I’ve saw tears in their eyes and I saw the older guys really hurting.”
Baylor: The Bears couldn’t protect Brewer in the fourth quarter. They ended their last three drives with Brewer either sacked or on the run as the pocket collapsed around him. The Bears’ defense, the worst against the run in the Big 12, had a solid game after giving up 300 yards on the ground a week earlier.
Texas: The Longhorns may be on edge waiting to see how serious Ehlinger’s injury is and if next week’s open date will give him time to recover before the next game. The heart and would of the offense, Ehlinger had played every offensive snap until he got hurt and hasn’t thrown an interception in 168 attempts. There had been speculation Buechele could redshirt this season and possible transfer.
Texas likely moves up as at least three teams ahead of them — No. 2 Georgia, No. 7 Washington and No. 8 Penn State — lost. The question will be how far they go if voters are skeptical about the Longhorns with an injured Ehlinger.
Texas freshman Keaontay Ingram had 110 yards on 19 carries for Texas’ first 100-yard rushing game of the season. He’s also the first Texas running back to top 100 yards since Chris Warren against San Jose State in the second game of 2017.
CHARLES IN CHARGE
Omenihu has been a dominant for the Longhorns in a six-game win streak. He has six sacks in the last five games.
“Get to the quarterback and finish the game,” Omenihu said about chasing Brewer at the end. “My whole mindset on the drive was to get there, by any means necessary.”
Baylor is off next week before visiting No. 6 West Virginia on Oct. 25.
Texas is off next week before visiting Oklahoma State on Oct. 27.
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