I have to imagine the Longhorn faithful woke up today feeling a lot better than they did this time last week. After the overtime loss in Lubbock there was a bad taste in a lot of mouths, and with the big game in Dallas looming on the horizon it was important for the Longhorns to rebound and regain footing against the Mountaineers this weekend.
Yesterday’s result in Austin was just what this team needed, as they controlled the game from start to finish against West Virginia and were never truly threatened by a team that posed some similar strengths that the Red Raiders did in the previous week.
A lot of the things that bit this team in Lubbock were improved upon and that’s a good indicator as they prepare to take on Oklahoma this week.
With that said, here are some of the things that stood out to me in yesterdays win over the Mountaineers.
Better job defending the Air Raid this week
After conceding a big day to Texas Tech’s Donovan Smith last week, Pete Kwitkowski’s defense turned in a much better performance against Neal Brown’s Air Raid attack. The Longhorns held JT Daniels to 253 passing yards, but it took 29 completions on almost 50 pass attempts to reach that figure.
The Mountaineers also struggled to run the football at any point in the game and that was only implied when CJ Donaldson was knocked out of the ball game (prayers up for the young man). The Mountaineers mustered 61 yards on 30 attempts which averages out to 2 yards per carry. The Longhorns have played very well against the run this year and they turned in a fine performance once again in that phase of the game.
Last week the defense struggled to get off the field on money downs ion the Lubbock. This week they held West Virginia to 9/18 on third downs and while the Mountaineers were 3/5 on 4th down conversions, the game was well in hand by that point and it didn’t impact the outcome in anyway.
heat-seeking missile @AGENT0__ pic.twitter.com/3nPcQ8xJJs— Texas Football (@TexasFootball) October 2, 2022
The lack of turnovers continued into this week’s performance, but Texas defenders did have some opportunities to turn over Daniels, but were unable to finish the play. On top of that they were able to pressure on the quarterback throughout the contest and were able to notce three sacks of Daniels, including 1.5 sacks by Barryn Sorrell.
Overall, a nice bounce back effort by the defense and a good confidence builder for moving forward.
Sark called a better game this week
Last week I discussed some of the play calling decisions from Steve Sarkisian and wondered if they would go back to the drawing board on some situational stuff. Specifically I wondered if the RoCat package would go by the wayside given it was tipping your intentions and compounding an issue given the struggles of the interior offensive line to date.
Well this week there was no sign of the RoCat package. Even with there been several short yardage opportunities for the staff to potentially run that grouping out there they opted to go in another direction and ended up feeding Bijan Robinson out of different looks and making the West Virginia defense think a little harder on what their intentions were. We even saw a jumbo package look that featured nose tackles Byron Murphy and Keondre Coburn that was met with great success.
I asked for the return of the jumbo package with Byron Murphy & Keondre Coburn on this week’s episode of Talking Texas with @MikeRoach247 and the Horns use it in short yardage for a Bijan Robinson touchdown.— Hudson Standish (@247Hudson) October 2, 2022
21-0 Texas early in the second quarter #HookEm | @Horns247 pic.twitter.com/67nI9ghcjp
The Mountaineer offense was kept off balance all night long and it resulted in a very successful and efficient evening for the Longhorn offense. Having Xavier Worthy certainly opened things up even more from a play calling standpoint, as he brutalized the Mountaineers to the tune of 119 yards receiving and and two touchdowns, while also chipping in with a 33 yard passing touchdown to Ja’Tavion Sanders. Speaking of Sanders, he chipped in with 78 yards receiving and two touchdowns of his own and is having himself a nice coming out party as a sophomore.
Safe to say that this was a get right game for the offense as a whole, both on the field and on the headsets. It couldn’t come at a better time and it shows that Sarkisian is not stubborn in his ways when it comes to adapting his approach each week.
Hudson Card played his best game as a Longhorn
Number one just keeps on getting better each week. After turning in back to back solid performances against UTSA and Texas Tech, Card stepped it up a notch last night against the Mountaineers.
Xavier The Endzone— Texas Football (@TexasFootball) October 2, 2022
: @FS1 | @XavierWorthy pic.twitter.com/csE6Huh8Hp
Card turned in a dandy of a performance, as he notched his first 300 passing yard performance on the year and he did it on an efficient 21 of 27 passing attempts. Card showed toughness and poise like in the touchdown pass above to Worthy, as he stood in the pocket and delivered a strike knowing he was going to take a hit. Later on in the game he would climb the pocket with pressure bearing down and would deliver another good ball down the field to Worthy.
Hudson Card finds Xavier Worthy deep and the Horns are back in the Red-zone! #HookEm | @Horns247 pic.twitter.com/ch1Fcver5H— Hudson Standish (@247Hudson) October 2, 2022
As promising of a stat line Card produced, he still left some points on the field and can still be even better than what we saw last night. As I’ve said in the previous weeks, this team can win games with Card at the helm and last night was another indicator that he is only getting better each week. Card has turned into asset for the program and has certainly changed the tune of many who were ready to bail on him after a rough 2021 season.
Quinn Ewers may be back in the saddle for Saturday’s matchup in Dallas, but if he can’t go Texas fans should have confidence that the offense can get it done with Card on the center moving forward.
The interior offensive line was better this week
It has been no secret that the interior offensive line has struggled in the first part of the season. They have struggled to consistently generate a push on interior run plays, which has turned into Bijan and Roschon having to BYOB (be your own blocker) at times.
This week though, the interior threesome turned in a solid performance and it came against a defensive line that has given Texas issues in recent years. Cole Hutson turned in his best game of the year according to PFF, as he graded out the best as a pass blocker among all Longhorn offensive linemen and was only second to Andrej Karic as a run blocker. The trio of Hutson, Jake Majors, and Hayden Conner earned the three highest grades in pass blocking, which is an improvement from the previous week. Majors and Conner didn’t grade out as well as Hutson did in the run game (53.7 & 57.0 respectively), but when it came time to lean on the Mountaineer front in the fourth quarter they got the job done.
This unit is going to continue to improve over the season as they continue to get reps together and cohesion gets stronger. Seeing an uptick in performance is an encouraging sign as the prep to take on the archrival this week.
The ball bounced Texas’ way for once
How many times in recent years have we seen plays like the Hudson Card touchdown pass to Xavier Worthy end up resulting in a negative play for the Longhorns? For me it feels like the lucky bounces have always gone to the opposition more times than none for Texas over the past decade, but last night things took a turn for the positive for the Longhorns.
Big. Play. Zay. pic.twitter.com/hd4RzQQSif— Texas Football (@TexasFootball) October 2, 2022
Firstly, that is a ball that Card will probably be told to not throw again, as it should have been for sure knocked down, but it could have also been picked off with two defenders down there. Card had a good amount of green grass in front if he had chose to pull the ball down and run, but he bet on himself and Worthy and put one up into the end zone. Fortunately, football is a game of inches and that tip drill in the end zone resulted in six points for Texas rather than being a turnover or incomplete pass.
Great concentration by Worthy to come down with that ball there and that play right there certainly took the air out of a West Virginia team, who felt like they couldn’t do anything right at that very moment.
We have officially made it to HATE WEEK, folks. Fire away in the comments and lets get our minds right for the Cotton Bowl come Saturday.