The first season under new Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian is over and while the season itself can definitely be classified as a disappointment, the Longhorns at least managed to go out on a win against the Kansas State Wildcats.
It took a team performance and an offensive reinvention from Steve Sarkisian, but Texas managed to put enough together to avoid ending their season losing their seventh-straight game. Running the WildHorn formation for the majority of the game allowed the Texas offense to control the pace of the game and mitigate any issues stemming from Casey Thompson’s injuries.
It also led to a career day for junior running back Roschon Johnson, who set the tone for the team on Friday.
Roschon Johnson: 31 carries, 179 yards, TD
From early on in his tenure at Texas, Sarkisian praised Johnson as a leader on the team and in a must-win game Sarkisian leaned on Johnson’s ability and toughness to get a win. For his efforts, the former quarterback set a career high in carries and yards while serving as the primary trigger man in the offense. He carried the ball on 31 of the 68 offensive plays and even managed to complete one pass for two yards. He also managed to eclipse Bijan Robinson’s 2020 outing against the Wildcats for the top performance from a Longhorn against Kansas State. Johnson accounted for five of nine explosive plays on the day, amassing 90 of his 171 yards on rushes longer than 10 yards.
This marks the second time this year that a running back had more than 30 touches after Bijan Robinson finished with 35 against the TCU Horned Frogs. Based on Tom Herman’s penchant to share the load among backs, Texas hasn’t seen multiple 30-carry games since 2016 when D’Onta Foreman carried the ball 30 or more times in six of 12 games.
Third Downs: Offense - 8/16 (50 percent), defense - 1/9 (11.11 percent)
Third downs have been a nightmare for the Longhorns as of late, but Texas managed to put themselves in position to win by improving on the money down both offensively and defensively. For just the second time in the last seven games, Texas converted on more than 40 percent of their offensive third downs, thanks in large part to Johnson. Texas carried for an average of 5.5 yards per rush on third downs, converting on six of their eight attempts of three yards or shorter. Most of their success, however, came early in the game, with Texas converting their first five third downs, closing the game on a 3-of-11 run.
Defensively, this was the Longhorns’ best performance since 2016 when they held the TCU Horned Frogs to a 1-of-11 performance in the loss that ended the Charlie Strong era. Texas allowed less than one yard per third-down attempt with an average distance to go of 5.3 yards. Kansas State went the entire second half without a conversion, with their only successful third-down conversion coming on a six-yard pass in the second quarter.
Deuce Vaughn: 24 attempts, 143 yards, TD
In spite of the win for Texas, Kansas State was able to find success on the ground, especially star running back Deuce Vaughn who used his performance to jump to third in the conference in total yardage. His performance means that Texas allowed a 100-yard rusher in all but one conference game — the opener against the Texas Tech Red Raiders — and nine of 12 games overall.
With Vaughn’s performance, Texas now has turned in one of the worst rushing performances in school history, allowing 2,419 yards and 26 touchdowns through 12 games. That makes the 2021 performance the sixth-highest yardage total, the second-highest yards per carry average, and the fourth-most rushing touchdowns in school history.