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Quarterback to Back: Can the Cowboys Corral Sam Ehlinger?



The 5-1 Cowboys are off to Austin to face a 3-3 Longhorn team with a true freshman quarterback starting in just his fifth game. And they’re led by the program’s all-time leading passer who’s got a chance to add a handful of other school records to his mantle on Saturday.

Let’s see how the two QBs stack up.

Back to Back Att Comp Pct. Yards Yards/Att TD INT Rating Total QBR
Mason Rudolph 204 136 66.7% 2368 11.6 19 4 191.00 90.6
Sam Ehlinger 156 85 54.5% 1178 7.6 6 3 126.76 59.7

On one side you have a senior quarterback who leads the nation in passing yards, is second in yards per attempt, is third in passer rating and second in total QBR. On the other, you have a true freshman with a suspect arm who can beat you with his wheels.

An experienced pocket passer with the best deep ball in college football against a spark-plug dual threat x-factor with four games worth of experience — and who’s out-gained his leading tailback by over 150 yards in the last two.

Rudolph and Ehlinger couldn’t be more different. But don’t underestimate the freshman who captained his team to a win over Kansas State and was just a play here or there from getting wins at USC and against Oklahoma.

In a simple QB-to-QB comparison, there is none. At least not at this point in the two players’ careers. But the more pressing concern for each team is how its defense matches up with with the others signal caller.

Let’s not forget the stress facing a mobile quarterback has put on OSU’s defense this season. Tulsa’s Chad President and TCU’s Kenny Hill made getting off the field on third downs a sore subject for Glenn Spencer.

And Mike Gundy is well aware of the challenge Ehlinger’s dual-threat abilities present.

“We’re going to need to tackle well in space because their quarterback is playing well,” said Gundy. “He can throw it, run it and does a little bit of everything…

“They’re using the quarterback as a running back in my opinion and getting 4.5 yards per carry, so we have to be able to get him down.”

First-year head coach Tom Herman would prefer not for his QB to lead the team in rushing but everything comes secondary to his top priority — winning.

“I do. I worry about it,” said Herman. “I mean, we don’t want our quarterback carrying 20, 22 times. Now if you’ve got to have it to win the game, you know, we’re going to do whatever it takes to win the game.

“But I think I said on the conference call, you know, he’s like a wild horse right now that you’re trying to tame him a little bit. But you don’t want to take away his energy and one of the things that makes him so effective — we had a conversation, him and myself yesterday, that right now it’s about pocket presence.”

While that is Herman’s preference, forcing Ehlinger to beat you with his arm should be a goal for Glenn Spencer and Co. He’s only completing 54.5 percent of his passes and has a 2-to-1 TD-to-interception rate on the year.

Across the field, Texas has shown a much stouter defense than the one it debuted in a 51-41 home loss to Maryland. But that group still has youth in the secondary and has been susceptible to giving up the big passing play, somewhat of a specialty of Rudolph’s.

The ‘Horns have give up 26 pass plays of at least 20 yards which is tied with Texas Tech and better than only Kansas in the Big 12. Rudolph has completed 40 such plays and leads the nation with in pass completed of at least 30 yards (25) and 40 yards (15).

The strength of the Longhorn defense is up front and it will try to control the run game with the likes of Poona Ford and Malik Jefferson, who will also do his best to turn the screws on Rudolph. As is normally the case, winning in the trenches will be paramount.

A week ago, Todd Orlando’s defense was able to sack the elusive Baker Mayfield twice and force him into his first interception of the year and a season-worst 63-percent completion rate. And it did that against one of the best offensive lines in the nation.

If OSU can be decent on the ground and protect Rudolph enough to allow him to burn the Horns deep, this should be a one-sided affair. If that white No. 2 jersey sees the turf too many times, look out for a fight.


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