Manning dazzles with 3 TDs in Texas' spring game

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AUSTIN, Texas — In his most extensive action since arriving at Texas, Arch Manning put on a show in Texas’ Orange-White game Saturday, and he didn’t take long to do it.

Manning threw a 75-yard touchdown on his first pass attempt, started 10 for 10 and finished the first half 11 for 13 for 189 yards with two TDs. His first incompletion occurred with 12 seconds left in the second quarter, and his second on a throw off the hands of Isaiah Bond in the end zone.

Texas didn’t provide statistics, but according to ESPN Stats & Information research, Manning finished with 355 yards and three touchdowns with one interception while completing 19 of 26 attempts. At least four of those incompletions were catchable passes. His pocket presence and confidence was an important showing considering Quinn Ewers missed five games in the past two years, backup Maalik Murphy transferred to Duke, and Texas returns just 16% of its receiving production from last season after losing its top five pass-catchers.

Sarkisian said the plan all along was to limit Ewers to one or two series, because he’s entrenched as a third-year starter after throwing for 3,479 yards and 22 touchdowns with six interceptions as Texas made the College Football Playoff. On Saturday, Ewers’ first drive ended with defensive end Colton Vasek tipping a pass that was grabbed by defensive tackle Alfred Collins, who ran it back for a touchdown. Ewers said after the game that he knew his time would be short.

“I know what Quinn’s about,” Sarkisian said. “Quinn’s had a great spring.”

After Manning made an appearance in just two games last season, against Texas Tech in a blowout win and in the final series of the Big 12 title game, he got a chance to take the majority of his team’s snaps in this game for the first time.

“I wanted Arch to be able to just go play football. He hadn’t really played in a year,” Sarkisian said. “When he keeps his eyes up and steps up in the pocket, he can deliver those balls down the field the way we like to play. It was good to see and it’s good to see some of the guys around him play with him the way that they did.

“We’re very fortunate at the quarterback position to have a third-year starter to have the backup that we have,” Sarkisian said.

Sarkisian told ESPN’s Chris Low this week that Manning has been patient, despite his famous last name and the proliferation of quarterback transfers around the country.

“The majority of guys like Arch have always been the best their whole life,” Sarkisian said. “Then they get to college and it’s like, ‘Wait, I’m not the starter?’ No, but we’re going to develop you in a way that when you do become the starter, you’re going to play great. You’re not going to have to go through some of these growing pains that some of these other guys go through with their freshman and sophomore year. We’re going to keep training you in a way that when your number does get called, you’re going to play really good football.”

He did that on Saturday, but Sarkisian also praised the performance of true freshman quarterback Trey Owens, a four-star recruit who helped offset Manning’s performance on the other team in a game Sarkisian called “the most exciting spring game I’ve ever been a part of.”

“Not to take a shot of those that put stars on quarterbacks, but I trust our evaluation, and we could probably recruit any quarterback in the country,” Sarkisian said. “But Trey Owens is really talented and can make a lot of throws, so I’m very encouraged with where we’re at, at the quarterback position.”

The Longhorns were excited to see the performance of freshman Ryan Wingo, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound receiver from St. Louis who was No. 33 in the 2024 ESPN 300. Wingo caught two touchdowns. Sophomore DeAndre Moore caught Manning’s 75-yarder to open the game. Bond, the Alabama transfer who led the Crimson Tide with 48 catches last season, worked his way into the offense.

Sarkisian possibly foreshadowed some transfer portal priorities when he said the Longhorns still need more “big humans” along the defensive line after losing NFL draft prospects T’Vondre Sweat, the Outland Trophy winner, and Byron Murphy II. But otherwise, he feels really good about the Longhorns’ outlook.

“I think we’re a very talented football team,” Sarkisian said. “What excited me today is that playmakers made plays and that’s something that you try to recruit to… I think we’re very good. And I think that we have a chance to do some really good things.”

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