It’s easy to point to the fact that Bijon Robinson and RoShaun Johnson duked it out in favor of saving themselves for the NFL draft as the reason for Texas’ disappointing performance at No. 12 Washington in the Alamo Bowl on Thursday night. Because yes, that is probably the biggest culprit.
Without Robinson, their Doc Walker Award winner, and Johnson, the versatile running back and team leader, the Longhorns’ bread-and-butter running game appeared stale in San Antonio. Quinn Ivers finished his first season as Texas’ starter in strong fashion, and the defense disrupted things enough to throw Husky quarterback Michael Penix Jr. off his game, but the defense eventually wore out. And the lack of running punch was too much to make up for.
Our takeaways from the 27-20 loss to Texas:
what does this damage mean
Texas ends their season with an 8-5 record, which certainly doesn’t sound as good as 9-4. This would mean that the 20th-ranked Longhorns would finish the season outside the top 25. Now there are question marks over running backs and linebackers, who have been Texas’ top two positional units all season. We’ll likely see some heavy Portal action, whether it’s current players like Xavier Worth or Jordan Whittington moving elsewhere for a change of scenery or cases where the Longhorns will be at receiver, running back, linebacker and defensive back. Bring ready-made starters. That means Steve Sarkeesian’s first year will be remembered for going 5-7 and his second year could be a bowl loss. And that means the Big 12 is now 1-5 in bowl games with two to go.
Who will lead Texas in 2023?
Chances are very good he isn’t even on campus right now. Five-star running back Cedric Baxter Jr. — like Bijon Robinson in 2020, the No. 1 high school running back prospect in the country — dropped out of Florida last week, and who knows if tonight’s stellar performance means Steve Sarkeesian How does it work? Transfer Portal.
Keelan Robinson, with questions over his durability, started and finished with 8 carries for 27 yards. Jonathan Brooks, who was expected to be Texas’ lead back, had 18 yards on six carries. He flared on a 34-yard touchdown catch on a screen play, but averaged 3.0 yards per run.
Robinson’s absence was felt throughout the night. Sarkeesian went for a slant pass on fourth-and-1 in the first half, rather than what would normally have been a Bizen run behind a solid offensive line. Later, on 3rd and 1, Keelan Robinson stuffed in for no gain. The Longhorns pounced.
Three big plays from tonight’s defeat
Fourth-down trickery. What a play call. Washington went for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 34 with 10:30 left in the third quarter. Which didn’t make any sense, leading 13-10, and when Michael Penix Jr. lined up under center for the first time all night, and then the Huskies showed off all kinds of players in motion, and then Penix ran the play clock. It seemed like an obvious ploy to get the Longhorns to jump onside. But just as you thought it was the call, the Huskies broke it up and the Penix scored a first down. They went on to score a touchdown to go up 20–10.
Wayne Taulapapa’s 42-yard run. Not only did it put Washington up 10–3, it was the first wow moment of the night from the Huskies’ offense. And in fact, only one, as it turned out.
Xavier Worth’s Drop. and the decline of Xavier Worth. With Texas down 20–10, the Longhorns really needed an answer in the third quarter. But on back-to-back plays, Quinn Evers found an open Worthy for a 35- to 40-yard shot downfield, and both times, Worthy dropped the catch. Ivers’ placement was spot-on on both passes. And Worth’s second drop should have gone for a 66-yard score.
Quinn Evers finished 31-of-47 for 369 yards and a touchdown. Casey Cain (4-106) and Gunnar Helm (1-19) played well. Ja’Tavion Sanders had five grabs for 36 yards.