Steve Sarkisian and the Longhorns had a nice bounce back game last Saturday against Rice. Dominating The Owls 58-0. Texas looked disciplined, tough, and focused. To highlight their discipline: Texas had just two penalties for twelve yards all game. Let’s look at what else propelled Texas to bounce back and get ready for conference play next week. Grab yourself your favorite beer, cocktail, or a cup of coffee and we will get started.
The Longhorns Run Game
Texas might have the most talented backfield in all of college football. Headlined by Bijan Robinson, one of the most talented running backs in college football. Texas also boasts strong compliments with Roschon Johnson and Keilan Robinson, giving Sarkisian balance with toughness and game-breaking speed, respectively. Johnathan Brooks was a four-star running back out of Halletsville, TX. Brooks was someone who no one thought would be a big contributor as a true freshman, but he was given an opportunity Saturday during the blowout. He took it and ran well for 63 yards on 9 carries, good for 7 yards per carry. These running backs are all talented enough to play for conference champions, the only thing holding them back is the offensive line.
Kyle Flood inherited a talented but raw group. They were not developed well with the last regime and Flood is progressing them along slowly. As run-blockers, this offensive line is solid. They had good movement upfront this week against Rice, but overall they will get over powered by better competition. Arkansas proved that in Week 2. Jake Majors, a redshirt freshman, is forming into a good offensive center and leader on this line. Junior Angilau (RG—RS Junior) and Denzel Okafor (LG—RS Senior) have also been solid contributors in the run game. Christian Jones (LT—RS Junior) and Derek Kerstetter (RT—Senior) have been the two weakest links in the run game thus far.
Steve Sarkisian Highlighting Playmakers
Sarkisian did not waste any time Saturday getting the ball into his playmakers hands. Sark called on true freshman wide receiver Xavier Worthy to be his secondary playmaker behind Bijan. Using touch passes, screens, and the quick game, Sarkisian made life easy for Casey Thompson and the offensive line early in the game. Worthy would finish the game with 7 catches for 88 yards and a touchdown.
This was the type of offense I was expecting from Coach Sark to help protect the inexperienced quarterbacks. Quick throws and screen passes that stretch the defense horizontally also help the offensive line in pass protection. The fact that Sarkisian chose to highlight Xavier Worthy over Jordan Whittington was shocking to me. Whittington had an outstanding Week 1 against Louisiana-Lafayette, but struggled against Arkansas. Whittington’s natural yards after catch ability is obvious, something Sarkisian obviously knows how to use. His struggles with drops and ball tracking have seemingly took him out of favor with the offensive staff. Hopefully Whittington has a good week of practice and works hard to earn more opportunities against Texas Tech next week.
The Defensive Front Seven
Keondre Coburn (RS Junior — 6’2” 345 lbs.) is a run stuffing nose tackle. Next to him is Moro Ojomo (RS Junior — 6’3” 290 lbs.). Ojomo has a little more in his toolbox as pass rusher, but is another rock-solid run stuffing defensive tackle. Behind them on the depth chart is T’Vondre Sweat (Junior — 6’4” 335 lbs.) who continues the trend as a solid run stuffer. There were times when all three of these, what I like to call “Hog Daddies” were in the game at the same time. Clogging up all running lanes in the middle of the field. Overshown and Brockermeyer would do a nice job cleaning up and making tackles, but the Hog Daddies upfront are the reason the linebackers don’t get blocked.
As good as Bo Davis and Texas defensive tackles are, they still have some problems on the edges. Ovie Oghoufo had a good game as a pass rusher, accounting for one sack. As a run defender though, Oghoufo was undisciplined. Crashing the edge and allowing the runner to get around them instead of holding the edge and forcing the runner inside, to the teeth of this Texas defense. He also allowed Rice’s quarterbacks to get by him on bootlegs with the same problem. Ben Davis had similar problems. Pete Kwiatkowski and Bo Davis will need to work with the edge rushers and stress the importance of setting the edge, instead of running past their landmarks and allowing a runner to get around them.
Another issue was Texas’ offensive line in pass protection. Even against Rice, Casey Thompson was under pressure often. Christian Jones and Denzel Okafor have been two of the worst pass protectors for Texas. When Rice used stunts or delayed blitzes, the left side of the offensive line was dreadful. Both playing in the left side of the offensive line is also not helpful, teams will continue to attack that side until they improve. Andrej Karic (LT—RS Freshman) and Tyler Johnson (LG—RS Sophomore) both deserve a start, in my opinion. Okafor has been good as a run blocker, but you cannot have two bad pass protectors next to eachother and expect to win many games.
Overall, The Longhorns bounced back in a big way Saturday and should be celebrated. Coach Sarkisian called a great game plan that protected his quarterback and offensive line. Pete Kwiatkowski also bounced back by calling a shut out. Even against Rice, it is impressive. This team has plenty of room to grow with a tough schedule of Texas Tech, TCU, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State all coming up. If they continue to develop and get better we could still see a 9 or 10 win campaign by the Longhorns.
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