Quinn Ewers can be the hero Texas football needs vs. OU

Quinn Ewers, Texas football
Quinn Ewers, Texas football /

We finally know who the starting quarterback will be for head coach Steve Sarkisian and Texas football in the Red River Rivalry game this weekend against the Oklahoma Sooners. A report from ESPN’s Pete Thamel on the afternoon of Oct. 6 let us know that redshirt freshman quarterback Quinn Ewers will get the start for Texas against OU at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on Oct. 8.

I honestly didn’t expect to get this news regarding the Texas starting quarterback until Friday night at the very earliest. Sark wasn’t forthcoming in the slightest in terms of updating the quarterback injuries so far this fall.

This news is obviously huge for the Longhorns to get their starting quarterback back in the lineup for the first time since he suffered a sprained clavicle in his non-throwing shoulder against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Sep. 10.

While Ewers was out with a sprained clavicle, junior quarterback Hudson Card took the starting reps. In the three games that Card started in the absence of Ewers, Texas registered a record of 2-1 (1-1 Big 12). Card had the best game of his career to date in Texas’ win last weekend at home over the West Virginia Mountaineers.

But the fact of the matter is that this offense is going to have a different level it can go to against a struggling Oklahoma defense with Ewers taking the reigns. Sark clearly trusts Ewers to open up this offensive playbook to a much greater degree than he did Card.

There is a different dimension that Ewers adds to this offense that will make life difficult for the Oklahoma defense this weekend. Ewers has that insane arm talent to make all the throws. He can take advantage of that questionable Oklahoma secondary by posing the threat of hitting the deep ball to star sophomore wide receiver Xavier Worthy or getting the ball to the sidelines on intermediate and deep passes to the likes of Worthy, Jordan Whittington, Ja’Tavion Sanders, etc.

The quarterback play will obviously be such an important element of this game that getting a healthier and more effective Ewers back in the mix could be the impact on this team needed to get a significant edge over the Sooners this weekend.

And given the status of the current Oklahoma quarterback room, getting Ewers back has to feel that much better for Texas. We don’t know yet if it will be redshirt junior quarterback Dillon Gabriel getting the start for the Sooners on Oct. 8.

But it would definitely be surprising to a certain degree to see Gabriel getting the start in Red River given the apparent concussion he looked to suffer last weekend in OU’s blowout loss in Fort Worth to the TCU Horned Frogs.

So, just how important is strong quarterback play in Red River?

Quinn Ewers set to return at an opportune time for Texas football in Red River vs. OU

Quarterback production was a deciding factor for each team in almost every single edition of the Red River Rivalry game going back almost a decade.

Based on Pro Football Focus offensive grades, six of the last seven editions of this rivalry game saw the team with the higher-graded quarterback take home the Golden Hat. The lone exception to that came when Oklahoma had the superior running quarterback in 2019 when Jalen Hurts led Lincoln Riley and the Sooners to a win over Sam Ehlinger and the Horns.

The deep ball specifically was also a deciding factor in some of the recent editions of this rivalry, which is something that will clearly benefit Texas upon the return of Ewers to the lineup.

Seven of the last eight matchups in Red River saw the team with the better deep passing grade getting the edge. The lone matchup that didn’t see the team with the better deep passing grade getting the win was last season when Casey Thompson and the Horns were topped by Caleb Williams and the Sooners.

It’s worth mentioning, though, that last year’s edition of Red River was the closest discrepancy between deep passing grades in Red River going back eight years.

To sum this up, it’s clear to see the difference that Ewers could make for the Longhorns this weekend. Ewers will be hungry to get the Golden Hat in the same Metroplex he grew up playing football and rooting for the Longhorns in. This is the opportunity that Ewers grew up wanting to have a shot at in Red River wearing the burnt orange.

On paper, Ewers and the Longhorns look to have a big edge over the Sooners. But for anyone that knows the nature of Red River, you can often throw out the pregame assumptions once both these teams take the field at the Cotton Bowl this weekend.

Texas has not won this game since Ehlinger led the Horns past the Sooners during the regular season in 2018. In the last four tries, Texas played Oklahoma very close (three of which were one-possession games) but wasn’t able to get over the hump.

Ewers finally gives Texas a legit quarterback edge over Oklahoma, which could be a factor that finally gets the Horns where they need to be to end this Sooners’ winning streak at four games.

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Texas carries a record of 3-2 (1-1 Big 12) following the convincing 18-point win over West Virginia at home on Oct. 1. Ewers and the Longhorns will kickoff against the Sooners on Oct. 8 at 11 a.m. CT at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.