Off the heels of the worst offensive game of the season, and with their Big 12 destiny no longer under their own control, the Texas Longhorns desperately needed a bounce back win to re-establish confidence and keep their outside conference championship hopes alive. And on the shoulders (and legs) of star running back Bijan Robinson’s career game, the Longhorns steamrolled the Kansas Jayhawks by a score of 55-14 in Lawrence on saturday.
The victory may not make up for last week’s offensive woes, or the blown victories earlier in the season that may ultimately lock Texas in to a lower-tier bowl game. But the smattering Texas put up on Kansas was a much-needed return to the win column for the boys in burnt orange. For a season that’s been considered as a foundational season of which to build a winning culture upon, seeing Texas turn around from the TCU loss to destroying Kansas is a great sign that this team didn’t hang their heads and mail it in after last week, but instead put together one of their better all-around performances of the year.
Here’s what else I noticed in yesterday’s win:
Bijan Robinson had the best game of his career
In what could be the penultimate game of Bijan’s career at Texas, Robinson put together the greatest statistical performance of his career. Bijan got started early and ran all over the Jayhawk defense, racking up 243 yards on the ground on 25 carries, scoring four times. Those numbers don’t even include what may have been his most impressive run of the day, which was called back by penalty.
Perhaps most impressive about Bijan’s game was that he was so damn consistent yesterday. Of the 243 yards he added on the ground, his longest rush of the day was only 32 yards.
‘’He’s a freak of nature. That’s as simple as I can put it,’’ quarterback Quinn Ewers said about his teammate Robinson. ‘’I’ve never seen a guy like him before at the college level. He can really do it all.’’
And Robinson did it all in just over two quarters of work, getting his last touch on the ball with 8:05 remaining in the third quarter. Though Robinson’s game won’t be etched into any history books, Robinson’s 243 yards in 2.5 quarters of work put him on pace to break Ricky Williams’ Texas single-game record of 350 yards rushing by about 39 yards. In this season of Thanksgiving, be thankful for Bijan.
Bijan went off yesterday pic.twitter.com/SHOrbS35Pr— Texas Football (@TexasFootball) November 20, 2022
The Offensive gameplan was perfect
Last week, following the loss against TCU, head coach Steve Sarkisian explained post-game that he never felt comfortable running the ball against a TCU defense that stacked the box and forced Ewers to throw the ball deep. That pivot to a passing attack last week resulted in a redshirt freshman in Ewers throwing the ball 39 times, while limiting Robinson to just 12 carries and the Longhorns offense to just 17 designed run plays.
This week was a much different story.
Sarkisian is heralded at times for developing and calling a creative, fast moving offense, featuring players in space and explosive plays. But against Kansas, the goal was simple — bully the Jayhawks at the line, run the ball, and don’t stop til it doesn’t work. Regardless of down and distance, ignoring the clock or situation, Texas turned to its deepest and best position, running back, to get the yards and points they needed.
You read above Bijan Robinson’s stat line. But as a whole, the Longhorn rushing attack produced 427 yards and six touchdowns on 57 carries. It didn’t matter who lined up in the backfield for the Longhorns yesterday — the goal was the same, and it was effective. Just watch the push the Texas offensive line gets on Kansas on these runs.
BIJAN ROBINSON IS UNSTOPPABLE!— TFB Texas (@TFB_Texas) November 19, 2022
His 4th TD of the day is ridiculous! pic.twitter.com/tBIpaFr20z
Instead of relying on Ewers to beat the defense, the offense took it straight to the Jayhawks, overmanning them at the point of attack all game long. Instead of scheming points, Sarkisian relied on the talent on this roster and resolve of the Texas team to bully Kansas into submission.
‘’We’ve got a bunch of fighters. We have a great deal of resiliency. These guys have showed an unbelievable amount of perseverance, and I told them that in the locker room,’’ Sarkisian said. ‘’I was proud of them. I was very proud of them for the maturity they showed in this game.’’
The defense continues to impress
Another week, and another chance for me and other fellow Texas writers to acknowledge a fantastic performance from the Texas defense. Facing Kansas in years past would not necessarily warrant a pat-on-the-back when the result was as stout as this. However, this year’s Kansas is not your father’s Kansas.
The Jayhawks entered Saturday’s game welcoming the return of quartergback Jalon Daniels, who was making his first start in six weeks due to a shoulder injury. With Daniels, the Jayhawks had averaged 41.6 points per game, 420 yards per game, and had a record of 5-0. Even without Daniels, this was a high-scoring Jayhawks team that won games by annihilating the scoreboard.
Instead, with the starters in, Kansas was shut out by the Longhorn defense. It wasn’t until backups were inserted into the game that Kansas tacked on their 14 points.
“This offense had been averaging 36 or 37 points a game,’’ Sarkisian said. ‘’To hold them to 14 points, to hold them to just about 100 yards rushing, that’s a heck of a performance against a difficult offense to defend.’’
Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski’s defense has made some major strides on his side of the ball this year. Whether that’s just having a full offseason to coach, the added presence of special assistant to the head coach Gary Patterson, player growth and maturity, or some combination of all three, the defense has put this team in a position to win every single game this year.
A win versus Baylor this Friday would cement this year as a success
First off, this doesn’t exactly pertain to the game yesterday, but to be fair, there was ample time in the 55-14 beatdown to look ahead to the future. Also, you can argue that this year is a success regardless of the outcome of the Baylor game — Texas will finish with at least two more wins than last year, playing arguably a tougher schedule than last year, and made the jump into bowl eligibility while showing improvement on both sides of the ball.
However, a win versus Baylor would do a few key things.
First, Texas will likely be ranked going into Friday’s game, and a win against a formidable Baylor team will lock in their top 25 ranking heading into Bowl season. With a win, the worst bowl game Texas would play in is likely the Alamo Bowl, which means the Longhorns’ final game would be against a ranked opponent from the Pac-12. Win or lose, only an embarrassing loss there would keep the Longhorns out of the final polls and rankings. A small goal given where we are at today, but to say preseason the Longhorns would finish the year as a ranked, top 25 team would have been on the loftier side of expectations.
Second, the dream of a Big 12 Championship is still technically alive. A win versus Baylor puts the Kansas State-Kansas game in a larger spotlight, as a Kansas win would result in Texas getting their ticket punched to Arlington to have their second chance to take down the Horned Frogs. The Horns need some help here, but to still be in the hunt in the final week of the year would be a massive leap from last year’s finish.
Third, if K-State ends up winning, a win on Texas’ end would help Sark go into the bowl season and offseason with a good amount of momentum. Last year’s victory over K-State was a glimpse into what was capable with this team, and helped Sark and co. to lay a foundation of more resiliency and toughness.
Last, it’s Baylor. There shouldn’t be another reason other than beating Baylor is always fun.
For all these reasons, a Texas victory would be a great statement win for the Longhorns to end the regular season.