Despite a ton of outside noise surrounding the football program, Texas put together one of their best performances of the season in a 69-31 rout of Kansas State. The win improves the Longhorns record to 6-3 on the year and 5-3 in conference play. Here are some quick thoughts and takeaways from a thorough beatdown in Manhattan.
- Today will be remembered as the coming out party for freshman RB Bijan Robinson. The freshman appeared to be building up to this moment considering his strong performances the last few games, but I don’t think anyone expected what he put on display today. Robinson finished with 9 carries for 172 yards and 3 TD’s while also adding 3 receptions for 51 yards. He showed everything that made him a 5-star recruit and much more. The combination of speed, balance, explosiveness and pass catching ability is rare, especially for a freshman.
- Not to be outdone by Robinson, fellow RB Roschon Johnson turned in the best performance of his career, piling up 139 yards on 14 carries and having 3 touchdowns of his own. Johnson looked fully healthy for the first time in a while and his running style showed it. He appears to be nicely settling into a role that features him in a lot of short yardage and goal line situations. Having him and Robinson as a 1-2 punch heading into next season has to have Longhorn fans excited.
- Sam Ehlinger had an efficient day at the office, completing 20 of 27 passes for 274 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Ehlinger connected with 9 different receivers and looked extremely comfortable with the gameplan. The Longhorns did not take many deep shots, instead opting to use the RPO game heavily and get their athletes out in space. As was expected, Ehlinger did anything but mail it in with the season winding down.
- Jake Smith and Jordan Whittington combined for 7 catches for 90 yards. The duo did a lot of damage out of the slot on short routes and screens, with Whittington also adding a touchdown on a reverse. Brennan Eagles (4 catches for 41 yards) did the majority of his damage on slants in the RPO game.
- The offensive line was the biggest surprise of the afternoon. Following Sam Cosmi opting out, most people wouldn’t have expected the unit to dominate the way they did by paving the way for 334 rushing yards. Jake Majors did not look like a freshman at all taking Derek Kerstetter’s spot at center, and Andrej Karic also flashed when he was inserted at LT in the second half.
- Speaking of Kerstetter, his injury in the first half was very tough to see. Kerstetter is a 3-year starter and captain, and it was awful to see him go down with an ankle injury as his senior season was winding down. Tom Herman revealed in his press conference after the game that Kerstetter dislocated his ankle and had it reduced at the hospital. He was able to return to the stadium and celebrate with his teammates postgame.
- Defensively, it was a forgettable game for Texas. The Longhorns struggled with staying disciplined against a Kansas State offense featuring Deuce Vaughn heavily in the zone read game. Vaughn finished with 125 yards on 10 carries and a pair of TD’s. The Longhorns benefited greatly from the 3 turnovers they forced, with all 3 setting up the offense deep in Kansas State territory. Texas also had a lot of plays where they let receivers run freely down the field. It was an unusual performance for a unit that looked like they cleaned up most of their assignment/fundamental issues earlier this season.
- The positives for the defense centered around the play of freshmen Jerrin Thompson and David Gbenda. Thompson was all over the field most of the afternoon. He made a few freshman mistakes, but reeled in his first career INT and was wasn’t afraid to be physical. Gbenda came in and saw extended action following the ejection of Juwan Mitchell for targeting and also had his first career INT. Freshman LB Jaylan Ford also saw playing time and made a few nice plays despite a couple of missed tackles.
The focus will now turn back to Tom Herman’s feature. It is unknown what will happen this week or what Athletic Director Chris Del Conte is thinking. Kansas State is one of the worst teams in the Big 12 so it’s hard to envision this win changing the decision of what the administration wants to do moving forward. The Longhorns still have one game remaining against Kansas in Lawrence next weekend, although the odds of the game occurring are likely 50/50 at best considering the Covid issues the Jayhawks have been dealing with.
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