Austin, Texas – After making a strong debut against the Louisiana Monroe Warhawk with some notable highs and some notable lows, Texas Longhorns New quarterback Quinn Ewers is receiving the full confidence of coach Steve Sarkissian, who named Ewers his starting player less than three weeks ago.
“You can’t expect him to ride this bike and do it with training wheels – I have to let him go, and we did tonight,” Sarkissian said after his 52-10 season opener win.
Ewers finished off a 16-of-24 pass for 225 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception in his first game with the Longhorns. At times, Ewers demonstrated his ability to make accurate off-platform throws, showing poise in following his lead and checking his third or fourth options.
“I’ve rarely felt, man, that the ball wouldn’t get to the right place for the right person,” Sarkissian said on Monday.
But Ewers also made a poor decision about interception, forcing a third throw down into a crowd of defenders, and he missed a few plays.
The first acquisition didn’t go well for Ewers, who put too little air under his first throw, and was meant for sophomore, Xavier Worthy, and failed to ignore the safety, who came in and nearly intercepted the pass. In third, Ewers was taken out of his pocket on his right and tried to throw across his body to find Worthy and the pass was intercepted.
“I think it was a good lesson for him — sometimes you have to earn the right to bet, they say,” Sarkissian said.
Objection aside, the biggest area of concern as Ewers played his first game in burnt orange and white was his inability to connect in pitches.
“We haven’t bred the kind of vertical scrolling game we’d like,” Sarkissian said on Saturday. “I took some shots and it didn’t go the way we wanted it to. So that was a little frustrating. But that’s part of it. We’re going to keep taking those shots when they present themselves and we’re going to hit them.”
Twice on Worthy’s dedicated mail ways, the two weren’t exactly on the same page about where the Ewers was trying to deliver football and both were incomplete. Ewers also missed Worthy in the end zone on the takedown which Sarkissian said was the result of a missed signal by Ewers.
“I think some of the throws on deep balls I think he’d like to just regress from an accuracy standpoint and he’ll fix it,” Sarkissian said. “Sometimes you need to get the full speed rep from the guys running in the field, what it looks like.”
As producer Southlake Carroll evolves into his role as a rookie, Sarkissian has drawn his courage from Ewers’ response to adversity.
“I didn’t feel for a second that he was confused or out of control in any way,” Sarkissian said. “I thought he was very composed. Even the throws he missed, he almost signaled to me like I should have done this or I could have done it and that part was encouraging.”
Indeed, Sarkissian said he was grateful that Ewers did not come out and completed a long string of passes in a row. Instead, Ewers had a chance to show the balanced nature that impressed his teammates during pre-season camp and helped him win the job.
“If he was going out and he was, you know, 17 for 18 or 17 for 19, he wouldn’t have had to respond to some of these things,” Sarkissian said. “And so I didn’t want him to pick his second pass in his career, but I figured it out. I figured he wouldn’t go in on a bump. He wouldn’t hit himself and come down on himself. He would bounce back.”
Ewers flashed his rebound ability on the second drive as he completed a fourth pass down to the tight second end Ja’Tavion Sanders. On the surface, the five-yard finish at 4 and 4 when Sanders opened on the drag road wasn’t particularly impressive, but a closer look at the play reveals that Louisiana Monroe dropped a defender off the line of scrimmage and into a window where Evers needed to hand the football to Sanders. So Ewers got out of the pocket, forcing the defender to commit to him and opening a throwing lane to find Sanders for the first time.
After Bijan Robinson climbed back 13 yards on the next play, Ewers found Sanders wide open down the sideline on a wheel path for a landing, a first for both players in college.
Ewers’ ability to make an off-podium throw made his throwing Robinson for 16 yards down another pass that looked simple but characterized by superior accuracy, hitting Robinson with a stride and over the shoulder of the field.
More clearly, Ewers demonstrated his ability to climb into a pocket and provide a perfect pass for Sanders to the seam even though his feet weren’t pinned.
“Oh my gosh, brother, that was a dime,” Sanders told Ewers after seeing the replay.
“I told you,” Ewers replied, “I’ll put it where it should be every time.”
When Ewers met with the media shortly after Sanders, he was publicly more humble, but the behind-the-scenes description of the Texas tight end provided insight into just how confident Ewers is on the court.
Like I touched on it when we called it starter — we’re going to have some growing pains and had some tonight, but I thought we came out on the other side of it and were better for it,” Sarkissian said.