Against the Baylor Bears, it felt like the No. 23 Texas Longhorns would let another one slip through their fingers, sending the seniors out on a disappointing note rather than celebratory.
Then, with the game on the line, Texas turned to its most consistent playmakers and capped their careers off with a win. While it was senior Roschon Johnson who put the exclamation point on the scoreboard late in the game, it was Steve Sarkisian’s reliance on his biggest play maker to put the game away.
Bijan Robinson – 29 carries, 179 yards (6.2 ypc), 2 TD
With a five-point lead in the fourth quarter, Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers was stripped on a sack attempt, which turned into six points for the Bears. From that point on, Texas put the ball in the running backs’ hands and secured the victory. Texas ran 24 plays following the fumble, all of which were runs, with 14 going to Bijan Robinson in what many assume is his last game at Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium.
Those 14 carries accounted for 99 of his 176 rushing yards, a touchdown, and six of Texas’s 21 first downs, capping the best single-game performance against Dave Aranda’s defense this year.
His performance against the Bears brings his single-season total to 1,580, giving him the conference rushing title by more than 200 yards against the closest competition, Oklahoma’s Eric Gray. Not only does he lead the conference in yards, but he also set the pace for total touchdowns and yards per game in his presumed swan song.
If it was indeed the end of his illustrious career in burnt orange, Bijan Robinson has etched his name among the greatest of all time, in spite of a relatively short career by comparison. His 1,580 yards puts him not only at the No. 7 season of all time, with a potential bowl game left to play, it also makes him just one of three players with two of the top-15 rushing seasons of all time, joining Cedric Benson and Ricky Williams for that honor. He moves up to No. 4 all-time, with seven fewer games than any other player in the top five, while his nine 100-yard rushing games in 2022 put him at No. 5 for a season and No. 4 for a career at Texas.
Add to that his places at No. 5 on the single-season and No. 8 on the career rushing totals list, you cannot tell the story of running backs at the University of Texas without Bijan Robinson.
Texas defense: 101 net rushing yards (2.6 yards per carry)
While Bijan and the rushing offense will get much of the praise for this game, the Texas defense once again answered the call and turned a team one-dimensional — shifting the game in favor of the Longhorns.
Just a week after holding Kansas to 104 rushing yards, Texas held the Baylor Bears — a team that is presumably more talented — to just 101 rushing their worst performance of the year. Over the last two games, Texas not only held its opponents to just 2.97 yards per carry, but did not give up a rushing touchdown in the last two outings of 2022.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the game was the close for the defense, holding the Bears to -9 rushing yards in the final frame, bringing the second-half total to 39 yards and 2.57 yards per carry. Overall, Texas stuffed six of Baylor’s 39 rushing attempts and held the Bears to 34 total yards on 14 first-down rushes, a 2.4 yards per carry to open drives.
Jaylan Ford: 13 tackles, 2 TFL, INT
A big part of the defense’s performance against Baylor is the continued excellence of linebacker Jaylan Ford, who put an exclamation point on his campaign for Big 12 Defensive Player of the year.
After Texas retook the lead 31-27, the Bears were trying to drive the game and retake the lead in the fourth quarter, when Ford jumped Blake Shapen’s pass intended for Josh Cameron and ended the threat. That marked his fourth interception of the year, not only tying him for second in the conference, it ties him with Longhorn legend Derrick Johnson for the most by a linebacker in a single season. If he does return for another year, he needs just one more interception to move into the top 5 by a linebacker in a career.
He finishes the season tied for No. 2 in the conference in both tackles and interceptions, in the top 10 in tackles for loss, and leading the Big 12 in forced fumbles. If Ford does win Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, he will be the first Texas player to win the award since Malik Jefferson in 2017.