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QB Comps: Spencer Sanders Squares Off Against Sam Ehlinger

A pair of touted Texas QBs will lock horns in Austin.

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[USATSI]

One was a former Texas Player of the Year who made a splash with his state school as a true freshman, the other was the all-Texas everything who never received an offer. This Saturday Sam Ehlinger and Spencer Sanders will square off on somewhat home turf with more than bragging rights on the line.

As we continue our quarterback-to-back series, let’s start with the two passers’ 2019 stat lines and how they stack up through three games.

QB2B Sanders Ehlinger
Att. 64 112
Comp. 43 82
Pct. 67.2 73.2
Yds 622 956
Yds/Att 9.7 8.5
TD 7 11
INT 1 0
Rating 181.8 177.32
Total QBR 78.1 (19th) 86.7 (10th)
Rushing Yds 219 121
Rushing TDs 1 1

 

Sanders got his first taste adversity in his third career game. He and OSU’s offense struggled through a disappointing opening half in Tulsa, but rebounded enough in the second to help push the Cowboys to a win. Ehlinger, now in his junior season, has enjoyed the best statistical start of his career.

Mike Gundy points to the difference in experience and his oft-quoted 15-game quarterback development theory when juxtaposing the two QBs.

“Sometimes early in a quarterback’s career, in my opinion, the game moves really fast for ‘em,” Gundy said. “After they mature — which looks like where Ehlinger is right now — the game slows down for them. And so Spencer’s game hasn’t slowed down yet. And it won’t for another 10 games, in my opinion. He stays healthy and continues to work and improve, it should start slowing down for him about this time next year.”

Throughout his career, Ehlinger has been branded a run-first QB with a penchant for timely throws, more than a polished pocket passer. But it’s hard to look at his tape or his numbers through three games and call him anything but the latter.

“I don’t know what they are doing or what his reads are, I just know that he is much more productive than he was in the past,” said Mike Gundy. “You hear people talk about his throwing and I don’t see any issues with his throwing. I think he throws pretty good. I see him as a better throwing quarterback.

“He is in game number 20 now or something like that, so from my history at that position, he is three or four games into the part where the game slows down for him. You can tell he is a pretty good college quarterback.”

Ehlinger’s own head coach Tom Herman also points to that experience, his control of the offense and leadership for UT’s success on that side of the ball.

“Completion percentages are great and all that stuff, but knowing where to go, getting us out of bad plays and into better ones and being on time with his throws,” said Herman. “It’s a testament to him to be honest with you, that we were — Sunday after last week’s game, we were, like, Sam, probably wasn’t his best game and you look up he’s got 400 yards of total offense and five touchdowns, and you’re talking about that not being his best game.

“So we have high expectations of him; he has that of himself, but the thing that stands out the most is just his management of the game.”

Of course this game will come down to more than just dueling dual-threat QBs. Each team’s defense has shown to be suspect at times in the early going, and both Sanders and Ehlinger will need to depend on their playmakers to do their jobs. Sanders, especially will need to lean on his teammates. Fortunately, he’s got a dynamic duo to that can each make a play any time he touches the ball.

Herman recently likened the trio of Sanders, Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace to “the scariest environment imaginable.”

“They’ve got the nation’s leading rusher, an All-American wide receiver, a quarterback that cannot only throw it to that receiver, but is a threat with his running ability, too,” said Herman “It’s going to be a challenge, for sure, but you can’t sell your soul, I guess, to stop one, because they’re so proficient in the other that you’ve got to be sound.”

Sanders will be making his Big 12 debut and will be playing on Lone Star turf for the first time since high school. This will be a primetime matchup that can get personal on both sides. OSU has won four straight against UT and a record five in row in Austin. It will also be Sanders’ biggest stage to date.

How well he plays on Saturday will have a lot to do with his ability to handle all of that pressure and the limelight.

“If you’re not nervous, then I take it as you’re not really ready to play, you don’t really care,” Sanders said. “I’ll probably be a little nervous, but I’m just gonna go out there and play, and we’re gonna do what we know how to do.”

 

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