Losing two of the most prolific receivers in program history left Texas with a problem: Where would senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger throw the ball in 2020?
The transfer market and a receiver who sat out 2019 while suspended quickly answered that question for the No. 8 Longhorns.
Joshua Moore scored on the first play of the season against UTEP, graduate transfers Brenden Schooler and Tarik Black both scored, and even walk-on Kai Money found the end zone as Ehlinger tossed five touchdown passes in the first half.
After a week off in which they climbed back into the top 10, the Longhorns open Big 12 play on Saturday at Texas Tech (1-0), which surrendered 527 yards passing yards to Houston Baptist in the Red Raiders' opener.
Ehlinger spread his five scoring passes around to five receivers. He had to. His favorite targets last season, Devin Duvernay and Collin Johnson, are now both in the NFL.
“I don’t know if we’ve got the one or two dominant (receivers) we had in the last two years,” Texas coach Tom Herman said. “That’s OK. We’ve got 6 or 7 really, really good players."
Moore's 78-yard TD was a triumphant return for a player who had to fight his way out of Herman's doghouse. Moore was arrested in 2019 when police saw him on camera loading a pistol he was carrying in his waistband. He pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor and avoided jail time, but Herman sent him to the scout team for the season.
Moore called the punishment “what I deserved."
"To be honest, man, every game that I did not play in last year, I cried,” Moore said.
And the transfer market proved quite helpful for Texas. Schooler first transferred from Oregon to Arizona before settling in Austin, and Black came from Michigan.
Both were ready to plug in and play. Schooler got to the end zone first on a 40-yard catch and run. Black scored 2 minutes later on a 5-yard TD.
“When you get a transfer from places like Oregon and Michigan, they have played a lot football at the highest level. That’s a big-time plus,” Herman said.
Texas Tech quarterback Alan Bowman was one of the top freshman quarterbacks in the country in 2018 only to have part of that season and much of 2019 wiped out by injuries. He's back and threw for 430 yards against Houston Baptist. Bowman gives the Red Raiders the best chance for an upset.
The Texas offense was a slow starter in 2019 and it proved especially problematic on the road. Herman stressed this week the Longhorns need to be sharp right from kickoff Saturday. Texas scored only 54 points in the first quarter in 2019, but led UTEP 21-0 after one quarter in the opener.
Texas rush linebacker Joseph Ossai is still waiting for his first sack of 2020 but freshman defensive tackle Alfred Collins already has one. A five-star recruit, Collins is an emerging force and got his first career sack against UTEP. An inside-outside tandem of Collins and Ossai could be a huge development for a Texas defense that struggled badly at times last season.
RUSHING RED RAIDERS
Texas Tech has said running back SaRodorick Thompson can play this week after his misdemeanor arrest Monday related to a street racing incident in June. Texas Tech's leading rusher last season ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns against Houston Baptist.
Texas had five scoring drives of under 2 minutes against UTEP. Texas Tech surrendered four scoring drives of under 2 minutes against Houston Baptist.