Two games into the first season of the Steve Sarkisian era, the Texas Longhorns have already made a change at quarterback with Sarkisian announcing during his Monday press conference that junior Casey Thompson will start at quarterback against the Rice Owls on Saturday in Austin.
Just as Thompson made appearances in the first two games, redshirt freshman Hudson Card will see playing time against the Owls.
“I think it would be good for Hudson to take a little bit of a deep breath coming off of last week’s game,” Sarkisian said. “It will be a great opportunity for Casey to step in compete with the ones early on in the ballgame. So, feel good about that.”
Sarkisian cited Thompson’s strong play late in games against Louisiana and Arkansas, including 10 points on three drives in the opener and two touchdowns on two drives last Saturday. With Arkansas dropping defenders in an effort to limit big plays when Thompson came into the game with it out of reach for Texas, Sarkisian acknowledged the differences between what each quarterback faced against the Razorbacks.
“The bottom line is it’s not always about how you execute every play, it’s about, are you maneuvering the offense down the field to score points and I think Casey’s put himself in a good position to do that,” Sarkisian said. “Obviously different circumstances as opposed to maybe what Hudson was dealing with early in the game, but that’s okay.”
More importantly, Card struggled with his pocket presence against the Razorbacks after looking calm and confident in his first start, leading to some self-sacking behavior and difficulties maintaining his eye discipline in addition to struggling to make the right decisions about when to scramble for positive yardage.
“He just got antsy in the pocket,” Sarkisian said. “He started moving around when he didn’t need to move around and that created timing issues in the passing game that we can’t afford.”
Adding an explosive element to the passing game is critical when the schedule toughens again in Big 12 play and Card hasn’t been able to hit shot plays down the field, notably missing two open receivers just before he left the game and then failing to protect the ball on a fumble that ultimately led to his departure and Thompson’s entrance.
Card was 8-for-15 passing for 61 yards with one turnover and gained only 13 yards on eight carries.
So pocket presence and downfield accuracy are the key areas for improvement from Card when he appears against Rice and areas that Thompson will have to differentiate himself.
Separation at wide receiver hasn’t been elite, but Sarkisian is less disappointed in that group than the overall results.
“I think we’re playing okay at wideout,” Sarkisian said. “We’re not nearly explosive as we need to be — our pass game has been spotty at best, and for us to really go as an offense that has got to be a factor to the opponent. Right now I don’t know if we’re posing anything to our opponent from a pass-game standpoint that fears them. So we’ve got to clean that up for sure.”
Now it’s Thompson’s turn to prove whether or not he can provide that massive missing element to the Texas offense when a game is actually on the line.