This is one the burnt orange nation will want back for obvious reasons.
Just one missed play here or there ultimately made a the difference a 20-19 last-second loss and what could have been a building-block statement win over the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide, but as least as far as the scoreboard is concerned, it’s an outcome the Texas Longhorns easily build from — especially in the confidence department.
Here’s a few initial thoughts from Texas’ loss to the Tide.
The Texas defense might be a problem. I can’t remember the last time I’ve said that. Besides Jase McClellan’s explosive 81-yard touchdown and the critical late drive to end the game, the Longhorns defense mostly smothered Alabama, They played complementary football at all three levels — an aggressive pass rush and sticky in coverage, and imposing against the run. But more more, they were legitimately dominant for the majority of the contest, a performance headlined by several three-and-outs and key stops in the trenches. Of course, there’s that one stop they’ll wish they would have had back — the one to end the game in the final seconds — but the film will show an assertive, disciplined defense that played at an elite level. This is one one the defense and that staff will be proud of.
In what limited action we saw, Quinn Ewers looked the part. Two drives, two scores, and the opening field goal drive should have been a quick touchdown strike after Ewers delivered a beautiful deep pass in the back of the end zone to Xavier Worthy, who couldn’t control it. He quickly completed 9-of-12 attempts for 134 yards before being sidelined with what Sark said is a clavicle sprain, but in the early going, he was crisp, confident, decisive, and flashed the pure arm talent he boasts. Of course, Texas fans will now wonder “what if?” (sound familiar?), but in the biggest early moments of his incredibly young career, Ewers was nothing but impressive.
Hudson Card more than held his own. Just weeks after the confidence hit that comes with losing the quarterback battle, and then faced with the pressure of coming in against Alabama of all teams, Card displayed some notable toughness, hobbled but doing just enough to give Texas a chance to win late. The execution obviously needs to be better in a number of ways, but under the circumstances, Card deserves credit for sticking in and moving the ball just enough when needed. And with Quinn Ewers pictured on the sidelines wearing a sling after going down in the first quarter, Card might be needed for some time. He finished with 158 yards on 14-of-22 attempts.
Texas might have its kicker. Netting 4-of-5 attempts including a clutch kick to take a last minute lead certainly isn’t nothing, especially on that stage against Alabama in front of a record crowd. Factor in that Bert Auburn’s only miss looked like it might have been tipped and you’re that close to your kicker headlining a win over Alabama. If this is who he is consistently, Texas might have a damn good kicker on its hands.
Sark will undoubtedly be proud of the way his team played. As noted, the defense mostly overwhelmed the Crimson Tide, giving Texas much more than a puncher’s chance before understandably wearing down late. Special teams adjusted as well, specifically Daniel Trejo pinning some key punts to swing bigs of momentum in Texas favor. The offense, of course, wasn’t the same after the gut punch of losing Ewers as the were building momentum, but under the circumstances — including Card getting hobbled and battling through — provided just enough to give themselves an opportunity in the fourth. Simply put, they played well enough in all three phases and even great enough on special teams and defense to win the game. Sark often says he wants his team to play with fanatical effort, energy and enthusiasm, and they definitely checked that box today. Save for the final score, there’s likely relatively little Sark and his staff will be displeased with from this one.
This story will be updated.