5 Observations from No. 21 Texas v. UTSA

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Eric Gay/AP/Shutterstock (13398393h) Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian reacts during the second half of an NCAA college football game against UTSA, in Austin, Texas UTSA Texas Football, Austin, United States – 17 Sep 2022

5 Observations from No. 21 Texas v. UTSA

The Texas Longhorns crossed another big hurdle tonight defeating UTSA 41-20 and surviving a tough test from a seasoned opponent.   Led by their running game and opportunistic plays from the defense Texas continued to mature and grow as they backed up their performance against Alabama last week with a gutsy win.

  1. Hudson Card started at quarterback.  As expected Quinn Ewers did not return from the shoulder injury he suffered against Alabama.  Card’s mobility and accuracy were hampered by his ankle injury and at times his receivers did not help him as much as they could have. Card once again displayed his toughness, running for a crucial first down on 2nd and 22 that led to the game clinching touchdown run by Bijan Robinson. Jordan Whittington had a nice game providing a compliment to Xavier Worthy in the passing game.
  1. The Texas backfield might be the best in the nation.  The combination of Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson consistently makes plays that keep the Horns on schedule and provide offense when there seems to be nowhere else to turn. Robinson went over 100 yards rushing for the game and provided a catalyst for the entire team with his 78 yard touchdown run early in the third quarter, and tagged on a 41 yard touchdown scamper in the fourth. Johnson did not have the stats that Robinson did, but he made several outstanding plays just to avoid the negative, bailing out the offense simply by making it back to the line of scrimmage.
  1. Texas is different. Though it might not have been as pretty as fans would wish, the fact that Texas was able to overcome shows that the change is underway.  Tonight’s game highlighted why it is so difficult to build an elite program.  Based on last week’s performance against Alabama most observers would assume that Texas would have little difficulty putting UTSA away, but the games are not played on paper, and this is the process necessary to become elite.   In the first offensive series Steve Sarkisian made a statement, he called four straight run plays and went for it on fourth and short in his own end.  Texas wants to be a physical football team and has the running game to go with it. Also, Texas took big shots from UTSA throughout the game and fought through in a way that this program might not have in years past.  Texas has also had to overcome several very questionable calls from officials in the last two weeks. A safety that wasn’t and a targeting call tonight, amongst others.  The program is in transition and is growing before our eyes as they battle through adversity and become mentally tougher, a transformation that is necessary to become a championship caliber program. As the game went along it was Texas who made the big plays that turned the game, how many times in the recent past has the opposite been true?
  1. UTSA is for real.  The Roadrunners were 12-2 a year ago, they are a veteran team and they are well coached.They came to Austin with swagger, and an aggressive gameplan.  In the first half UTSA completed an onside kick, a trick play, and the Roadrunners were committed to coming after Texas physically all night long, and they refused to go away, battling right down to the wire.  Despite having a beat up offensive line UTSA was able to manufacture a running game and to utilize their gargantuan tight end to excellent effect.  Also, Frank Harris showcased his ability and his veteran savvy, if a couple dropped passes had been catches the outcome might have been very different.

5. The Texas defense struggled in two key areas containing Frank Harris and tackling in general.  This was billed as a matchup of the UTSA receivers versus the Texas secondary, and Harris is the all-time leading passer in Roadrunner program history, but it was his ability to scramble and that consistently hurt the Longhorns and kept drives alive and UTSA in the game. Several of the Roadrunner drives were aided by poor tackling by the Texas defenders, tackling did improve as the game went along, but this highlights how difficult it is to defend at a high level in big time college football.  These weaknesses are now exposed and must be addressed by the Longhorn defensive staff. With all that said, the Texas defense did make enough plays to win the game, including a pick six by Jahdae Barron in the closing moments of the third quarter.   They were also outstanding in the redzone getting stops that forced field goal attempts and kept the Roadrunners out of the endzone and that proved to be the difference in the game. 

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