The first Orange-White game under new Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian featured first-team and second-team defenses that looked ahead of both offenses in a 20-12 win for the White team led by the second-team offense and the first-team defense.
Neither quarterback was able to create much separation as junior quarterback Casey Thompson threw two interceptions, including a Hail Mary to end the game as Sarkisian kept starters in until the end, and freshman quarterback Hudson Card took two bad sacks near the red zone on his final drive.
Card threw the only touchdown pass in the game during the third quarter on a rub route. Junior wide receiver Marcus Washington was supposed to win across the face of freshman cornerback Jamier Johnson, but Card was still able to make a big-time throw that flashed his arm strength when Washington broke behind Johnson, who turned his head late instead of trying to play through Washington’s hands.
Overall, Card looked more comfortable in the second half, but Sarkisian mentioned both quarterbacks needed to take fewer sacks following the first scrimmage and that was clearly still the case for Card.
The play from both quarterbacks generally confirmed most priors — Card has better arm talent, but his lack of experience clearly made a difference in a scrimmage as Thompson looked more consistently settled and in command for longer stretches. Thompson just doesn’t have the same natural jump out of his hand that Card does on his throws, making up for that deficiency with good touch and solid accuracy.
The big mistake from Thompson came in a two-minute drill late in the first half. After Thompson stared down Whittington and then threw the ball late to the opposite hash mark, senior cornerback D’Shawn Jamison was able to break on the throw and come up with the interception, returning it 92 yards for a touchdown.
Thompson finished 23-of-42 passing for 242 yards and two interceptions. Card went 15-of-25 passing for 168 yards and the touchdown, but took five sacks.
“I thought they managed it fine,” Sarkisian said of the quarterback play. “I thought both guys were maybe a little bit jittery at times in the pocket and lost our eyes, but that’s, you know, that’s understandable in a spring game. I thought there were some other really good throws that were made and we had a couple of drops in there, but again, I think just overall the efficiency was not bad.”
Sarkisian reiterated that want he wants most from his quarterbacks is consistency and there’s still growth necessary in that regard for both of them.
So, how does Sarkisian feel about the offense only scoring two touchdowns in a scrimmage that featured a reduced playbook with Sarkisian observing and not calling plays?
Both defensive lines also deserve credit for consistently creating pressure on the quarterbacks, especially junior Moro Ojomo, who had three sacks playing from a more natural position at defensive tackle after spending last season at defensive end.
“I expect a lot this year,” junior defensive tackle Keondre Coburn said of Ojomo. “Moving him from d-end to inside I think really helped him a lot because he doesn’t have a lot of things to worry about like outside, just go in front of the guard and make quick moves to get back there really fast.”
Coburn said that throughout spring practice, Ojomo has been winning one-on-one matchups. During Saturday’s scrimmage, that improvement clearly translated.
Junior Jack Jett Bush also added three sacks after failing to record a sack last season in eight games.
Thompson got the Orange team off to a strong start, leading a 70-yard touchdown drive to open the game. Through the air, Thompson was efficient, escaping pressure and completing a pass, hitting Whittington, and then putting a shot play on the hands of junior wide receiver Joshua Moore in the end zone. Only a late-arriving hit from safety Brenden Schooler knocked the ball loose.
Sophomore running back Bijan Robinson shined as well, scoring on a six-yard touchdown run to finish the drive. Robinson was particularly dangerous bouncing the ball outside and made Schooler miss twice in the open field before somehow maintaining his balance on his touchdown despite losing his footing on a sharp cut.
Just Bijan doing Bijan things.— Texas Football (@TexasFootball) April 24, 2021
Robinson ended the scrimmage with 10 carries for 54 yards, leaving the game late in the fourth quarter when he thought he tweaked his ankle before walking it off with no issues.
“Clearly a very talented player,” Sarkisian said of Robinson. I think one thing that sometimes it’s hard to tell when you’re just watching tape is the suddenness of his cuts — I think he makes tremendous cuts especially in tight quarters. But like all of us, we’ve all got room to grow, we can all improve and Bijan’s no different.”
After Robinson’s touchdown run, the first-team defense bounced back and was able to keep the first-team offense from scoring another touchdown as both defensive units played well in and around the red zone, forcing senior kicker Cameron Dicker to attempt field goals of 24, 28, 39, 51, and 58 yards. Dicker missed from 51 yards late in the game, but connected from 58 yards with leg to spare in what would have been the longest field goal of his career.
Dicker is also an option at punter with junior Ryan Bujcevski still recovering from his knee injury and freshman Isaac Pearson still adjusting to playing football for the first time in his carer. The Lake Travis product averaged 46.8 yards on six punts, with two of them landing inside the 20-yard line. Person also looked solid during the scrimmage, though, averaging 49.5 yards on four punts.
Now Sarkisian will hold individual spring exit interviews with the players and then start summer conditioning on June 1.
“We’ve come a long way here for three and a half months, but we’ve got plenty of work to do this year, starting in June and then in the fall camp,” Sarkisian said.