The task for Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian and his offense is to keep up with the high-powered attack of Washington, led by transfer quarterback Michael Penix Jr., the nation’s leader in passing yards per game. Getting off the field will be difficult for the Horns against a Huskies team that converts third downs at the highest rate in the country, putting a premium on creating turnovers or accomplishing the difficult task of getting Washington behind the chains.
With running backs Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson opting out, the Texas offense will have to replace the production from one of the best running back duos in school history and hope that redshirt freshman quarterback Quinn Ewers bounces back from a difficult finish to his first regular season as a college starter.
Kickoff is at 8 p.m. Central on ESPN.
A few notes on the depth chart provided by the Alamo Bowl:
- Freshman Maalik Murphy is listed above redshirt freshman Charles Wright on the quarterback depth chart.
- Junior Keilan Robinson is head of redshirt freshman running back Jonathon Brooks.
- With the transfer of redshirt sophomore Andrej Karic, freshman Neto Umeozulu is listed as the backup left tackle.
- In a slight change, freshman Ethan Burke is the third-team Jack end, while freshman J’Monda Tapp is listed as the second co-starter with senior Ovie Oghoufo at Buck end.
- Sophomore Morice Blackwell is the starter at the strong-side linebacker position over Oghoufo with senior DeMarvion Overshown opting out.
- Freshman cornerback Terrance Brooks is listed as the second co-starter behind senior D’Shawn Jamison on the boundary.
- Freshman safety BJ Allen is the third-team safety behind senior Anthony Cook.
- Freshman cornerback Jaylon Guilbeau is not listed on the depth chart after missing the final four regular-season games.
Robinson and Johnson are both in attendance supporting their teammates.
After winning the toss, Texas deferred to the second half, giving Washington the ball to start the game. With the Huskies in 12 personnel, the Longhorns started the game in its base defense and Washington successfully executed a flea flicker for a 35-yard gain to Ja’Lynn Polk, a Texas native and Texas Tech transfer, despite Texas safety Anthony Cook arriving with the football to deliver a shot to Polk.
The Huskies subsequently called a timeout before the second play, with Penix scrambling and overthrowing his intended receiver in the end zone before throwing another incompletion to set up 3rd and 10. On a miscommunication between Penix and his wide receiver, Texas safety Jerrin Thompson came up with the interception, only the eighth of the season thrown by the Washington quarterback.
After a five-yard gain by junior running back Keilan Robinson, Ewers was sacked on second down and then underthrew Worthy for an incompletion on a deep route. Trying to punt, senior Daniel Trejo had it blocked with Washington taking over at the 30-yard line.
Penix threw another incomplete pass to open the second drive for the Huskies and the Longhorns stymied the first rush attempt for Washington to force another third and long. In strong coverage once again, Cook was able to break up the pass, this time at the sticks, to force a 46-yard field goal with just enough leg to put the Huskies ahead, 3-0.
With Robinson bringing the ball out of the end zone, sophomore safety Michael Taaffe was called for holding to force Texas to start the drive at the 10-yard line. On first down, Robinson was stopped near the line of scrimmage, but Washington was called for a facemask penalty. Then sophomore wide receiver Xavier Worthy recorded his first reception wearing No. 1 at Texas for an 18-yard gain, followed by an 11-yard gain by junior wide receiver Jordan Whittington.
Texas quickly found itself in 3rd and 10, but gained nine yards on a screen pass to Robinson and moved the chains with a 27-yard reception by redshirt freshman wide receiver Casey Cain. After an incompletion by Ewers on first down, the Longhorns were called for a false start to set up second and goal from the 15-yard line. Going empty, redshirt freshman running back Jonathon Brooks caught a screen pass for a short gain after losing his footing. On third down, Cain caught the fade, but was pushed out of bounds. Settling for the field goal, sophomore kicker Bert Auburn connected from 30 yards to tie the game.
Washington started with poor field position following a kickoff coverage tackle by Taaffe and got behind the chains following a run and an incomplete pass. But the Huskies converted when Rome Odunze got a pass near the sideline in front of coverage to move the chains. Then Washington started working the middle of the field with tight end Jack Westover to pick up a first down and looked unprepared to run the football until Wayne Taluapapa found a crease and broke several tackles on the way to a 42-yard touchdown run and a 10-3 lead when Texas junior linebacker Jaylan Ford lost his gap integrity.
A flip out to sophomore tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders and a run by Brooks set up 3rd and 4 with Ewers connecting with Worthy on a comeback route thanks to a large cushion afforded by the Washington cornerback. Slicing into the backfield, a Huskies linebacker produced a tackle for loss before Ewers hit Worthy on a slant for nine yards and Ewers scrambled for a first down.
Texas entered the second quarter needing to block the Washington front more effectively after the running backs gained only 10 yards on five carries in the opening 15 minutes. Sanders opened the second quarter with a catch over the middle, but freshman wide receiver Savion Red couldn’t convert the short-yardage situation on a screen pass and Ewers couldn’t connect with Worthy on a glance route run-pass option to hand the ball over on downs.
Two completions led to a 3rd and 4 for Washington and an empty set for Penix, but a false start by the Huskies made the down and distance less manageable. A delay of game set Washington back even farther before Penix scrambled to keep the play alive and delivered an accurate pass downfield broken up by Cooks thanks to an obvious pass interference penalty that went uncalled. Whittington nearly extended the drive by making contact with the punter, but it was ruled running into the kicker instead of roughing the kicker and the Huskies opted for another attempt.
Back with Robinson at running back, two runs produced nine yards, but a third couldn’t secure the first down, forcing the Longhorns to punt — no real surprise that the player listed at 5’9, 185 pounds wasn’t able to pick up a first down in short yardage in between the tackles.
Washington immediately looked more capable running inside with three consecutive runs producing 19 yards. Facing 3rd and 8, Penix was forced to check down, Texas populated the ball for a tackle, and the Longhorns got the ball back following a false start on all 11 Huskies, starting at the 20-yard line after a touchback.
A check down to Sanders went for 17 yards on second down before two short completions produced 3rd and 3, but Whittington wasn’t able to come up with the conversion, forcing a punt that bounced into the end zone.
Washington converted a third down on its third straight throw to open the drive before two more set up 3rd and 6 near midfield. On a counter run, the Huskies moved the chains when Ford missed a key tackle, Penix missed a subsequent deep shot in the end zone, and Washington called a timeout prior to the second-down play. Under pressure, Penix scrambled for four yards and then hit Odunze over the middle for 18 yards. With the clock ticking under a minute, the Huskies called their final timeout with 22 seconds left with the ball in the Longhorns red zone. Texas followed with another timeout facing 2nd and 6 and needing to avoid giving up a touchdown before halftime. On a middle screen to the tight end that picked up the first down at the 6-yard line, Texas junior cornerback Ryan Watts went down on the field with an injury before leaving for the locker room. After spiking the ball and throwing incomplete out of the end zone, Washington only had seven seconds remaining on third down, but Penix couldn’t find Odunze in the end zone on a slant route. The Huskies settled for a 24-yard field goal to head into halftime up 13-3.
Texas held Penix to 4.6 yards per attempt and intercepted him once, but Washington was able to convert 5-of-10 third downs while the Longhorns only netted 18 yards in the first half on 10 carries with Robinson receiving five and gaining only 14 yards. The Huskies ran 10 more plays in the opening 30 minutes and averaging 5.7 yards per play to 4.8 yards per play by the Longhorns.
Several key plays stood out — using Robinson between the tackles on 3rd and 1, Sanders not falling forward for a first down prior to the 4th-and-1 incompletion (and the poor decision to pull it), and Whittington’s dropped pass on third down.
Starting from the 25-yard line, Ewers hit Whittington on an out route for 13 yards, Robinson hit for seven yards between the tackles, and Worthy dropped a comeback route when he took his eyes off the ball, but bounced back when Ewers bought time in the pocket to find him over the middle for a 21-yard gain on 3rd and 3. When Robinson stutter stepped instead of hitting the hole, right guard DJ Campbell was called for a hold to put Texas behind the chains. Sanders gained those eight yards back and Brooks was able to get up the sideline on a swing pass for a huge 34-yard touchdown.
Two runs set up 3rd and 3 for Washington with Texas nickel back Jahdae Barron blowing up the screen pass with the Huskies pass catcher ruled down on review. After a late shift and long wait, Penix was able to pick up the first down on a quarterback sneak. A swing pass to the tight end brought in motion picked up a chunk gain down the sideline before an incomplete pass and a short completion set Washington up for 3rd and 6 completed over the middle. The Huskies kept grinding with positive plays and ended the drive with a six-yard completion from Penix to Taj Davis for a 20-10 lead following the 13-play, 75-yard drive that took 5:47.
A throw to Robinson out of the backfield netted 15 yards and another throw to Robinson was set to gain positive yardage, too, but the play was whistled dead for a false start. Robinson gained four yards between the tackles on first down before leaving in favor of Brooks. Ewers took a deep shot to Worthy and the throw was accurate enough for Worthy to catch it, but he appeared to misjudge it and the ball fell incomplete off his hands. Following a timeout, Worthy was running wide open down the middle on 3rd and 11, Ewers made a perfect throw, and Worthy simply dropped it in a would-be touchdown.
With a deflated crowd, the Texas defense continued to give up steady yardage to Washington, leading to a 3rd and 6 near midfield. A tackle by senior cornerback D’Shawn Jamison stopped Odunze short of the marker to set up 4th and 2 with the Longhorns calling timeout. On a play-action pass, Penix hit his tight end for the first down. Trying to take advantage of a potentially deflated Longhorns defense, the Huskies tried to lateral looking for a big play, but Texas defended it well to earn an incompletion. A first-down conversion on 3rd and 2 extended the drive and sent the game into the fourth quarter.
Washington quickly moved deep into the Texas red zone with the first two plays of the fourth quarter, both passes, before Penix pulled it on a zone read and was tackled for no gain at the 8-yard line. On second down, Jalen McMillan picked a throw off his shoestrings on a slant route for a touchdown and a commanding 27-10 lead.
Ewers completed his first three passes on the ensuing drive before missing Cain a little bit long while under pressure, but was able to move the chains by finding Whittington on second and third down. A throw over the middle to sophomore tight end Gunnar Helm went for 19 yards into the Huskies red zone and two runs from Brooks resulted in a touchdown.
Washington responded with a typical drive before Penix nearly made a big mistake — throwing to the sideline against Texas freshman cornerback Terrance Brooks, who had the interception knocked from his hands by the intended receiver.
This was such a good rep from true freshman corner Terrance Brooks even though he couldn’t haul in the INT— Hudson Standish (@247Hudson) December 30, 2022
Former Little Elm / Plano JP2 standout has been tested all night against one of the nation’s best offenses #HookEm | @Horns247 pic.twitter.com/uQBLJz2Ylk
Then, with two wide receivers in the area, McMillan came up with a huge third-down conversion. In 3rd and 11 after a false start, Brooks had strong coverage to force an incompletion prior to a Washington timeout. Going for it from the 37-yard line, Penix had his pass broken up by Cook.
Two short completions by Ewers put Texas in 3rd and 2, converted on a throw to Robinson out of the backfield. On the next play, Cain went up outside his frame to secure a catch and run for 23 yards. After a scramble by Ewers moved the chains again, the Longhorns were inside the red zone. A screen to Robinson went for five yards on second down, setting up 3rd and 5 with the clock ticking under two minutes. But Ewers wasn’t able to find Cain, setting up a 25-yard field goal by Auburn.
Attempting an onside kick, Auburn wasn’t able to hit it to produce any strange bounces and the Huskies were able to recover it easily, leaving the Longhorns with only two timeouts remaining. Texas was able to limit Washington’s carries to three yards, setting up 3rd and 7 with 1:31 left on the clock. The Horns got the stop, forcing a punt with 42 seconds remaining. When the ball died at the 15-yard line, 31 seconds were left.
After an incomplete pass, Ewers went down in the pocket to effectively end the game, which came after another incompletion and a catch by Cain that merely padded the final line for Ewers.