Since he was a young boy, Sam Ehlinger dreamed of playing football for the Texas Longhorns. For the last three seasons, he’s lived out that dream and inspired Texas fans to believe, under his leadership, it would have a happy ending.
In 2018, after the Longhorns defeated Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, Ehlinger gleefully declared on national television, “We’re baaaack!” It was exactly what Longhorn fans wanted to hear, and it appeared he was ordained to lead them back to national prominence. Now, three games into the 2020 season, Ehlinger and the Longhorns have confirmed the fans’ worst fears.
Sam Ehlinger leads Texas Longhorns in 2018 to Top 10 finish
In 2017, Sam Ehlinger split snaps with Shane Buechele. By the time 2018 rolled around, second-year head coach Tom Herman turned over the reins to the sophomore Ehlinger. It turned out to be the right move as the Longhorns had one of their best seasons in years.
After losing the season opener against Maryland, Ehlinger and the Texas Longhorns reeled off six straight victories with three over ranked opponents, including USC and conference rival Oklahoma. Following a pair of back-to-back losses, Texas won three in a row and finished the regular season with a 9-3 record and 7-2 in Big 12, earning a berth in the Big 12 title game against Oklahoma.
The Longhorns lost to the Sooners but received an invite to face the No. 6-ranked Georgia Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl. In that contest, Sam Ehlinger and Texas dominated the highly-ranked SEC squad, winning 28-21, with the Bulldogs scoring a late touchdown in the final minute of play.
In the postgame interview, an exuberant Sam Ehlinger took the microphone and jubilantly declared the Longhorns were back, much to the delight of the Texas fans in attendance and those watching on television.
Texas has struggles in 2019
Following the big Sugar Bowl win, the Texas Longhorns and their fans were understandably excited about the 2019 campaign with a number of starters returning, including junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger. After a season-opening win over Louisiana Tech, the No. 9-ranked Longhorns welcomed the No. 6-ranked LSU Tigers for a matchup in Austin on national television.
Led by future Heisman Trophy winning-quarterback Joe Burrow, the Tigers and Longhorns battled four quarters as both offenses put on a show, with the eventual national championship-winning Tigers holding on for the 45-38 victory.
Despite that impressive performance, the Longhorns struggled through the Big 12 schedule, losing four times, including a loss to Oklahoma. As it had done the year before, Texas finished the season, winning its bowl game in dominating fashion over No. 12 ranked Utah, 38-10, in the Alamo Bowl. The Longhorns finished the season ranked No. 25 in the final poll.
Sam Ehlinger and Texas Longhorns confirm fans’ fears
Despite 2019 not living up to expectations, the Texas Longhorns were confident heading into the 2020 season, Sam Ehlinger’s senior year in Austin. After the No. 14-ranked Longhorns defeated UTEP in the season opener, Ehlinger led the team in one of the greatest comebacks in Texas history, defeating Texas Tech in overtime 63-56 in Lubbock.
In Week 3, the Texas Longhorns hosted TCU in their Big 12 home opener. The Horned Frogs, which were 6-2 against the Longhorns since joining the Big 12, continued their dominance, winning in a thriller 33-31. After the game, a dejected Sam Ehlinger spoke with reporters.
“Losing. Losing bothers me the most. This university deserves better.”
Whether or not the school deserves better is questionable. That comment comes off as the school is entitled to something it hasn’t earned — a complaint often levied by Texas critics when it comes to rankings. What Ehlinger’s comments and the Texas Longhorns performance against TCU confirms is what Longhorn fans have feared. Texas is not back. Not by a long shot.