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No. 20 Texas vs. No. 12 Washington: Five observations and Sunday chat

The Longhorns come up short in final matchup of 2022 against the Huskies.

Valero Alamo Bowl - Washington v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

We have officially reached the end of the line on the 2022 Texas Longhorns football season. It didn’t feel nearly long enough.

I had about a month to come to grips with this being the final write up reviewing Longhorn football this year and I still haven’t quite gotten there. Still, though, the show must go and we must move forward. This season played out about where I thought it would, which means Texas showed improvement in year two under Steve Sarkisian. The chances were there to blow the lid of things, but they couldn’t quite get over the hump. Solid, but not spectacular overall, I guess you could say.

The bowl game went about as I anticipated it would, too. Not to say I didn’t think Texas had a chance to win the game, but I openly felt that Washington was a tough draw for the Longhorns given they were likely to be down some starters due to opt outs and the Huskies possessing one of the best offenses in the country. That meant the room for error would be minimal and that Texas would have to take advantage of every opportunity put in front of them.

With the game playing out how it did, missed opportunities were certainly a theme for the Longhorns in San Antonio. The Longhorns battled to the bitter end, but ultimately they were outplayed in all three phases. There were some positives to be gleamed, but also some negatives to keep an eye on as we move forward into the offseason.

One last time in 2022, lets get to these observations from the Alamo Bowl.

Jonathan Brooks deserved more touches

This was easily the biggest head scratcher as far as game planning and coaching decisions went for me. It was more or less known for awhile that both Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson were going to opt out of the bowl game therefore leaving it up to Jonathan Brooks, Keilan Robinson, and Jaydon Blue to pick up the slack.

We didn’t get to see any of Blue in the game and we didn’t get to see as much of Brooks or Robinson as I anticipated. Between the two backs there were only 14 carries and 45 yards rushing. That ain’t going to cut it when you are trying to take so much pressure on your young quarterback who has struggled this year.

What makes it even more puzzling was the snap allocation during the game. Going into the game, I was anticipating Brooks getting RB1-like touches with Robinson complimenting given what we have seen usage wise this year, but Robinson was the one who who received the bigger share.

Brooks scored twice on his eight offensive touches despite Robinson getting more looks on the ground and in the air. I was surprised Sarkisian opted to not give Brooks extended touches given he will likely be asked to carry a heavy load come the 2023 season. No offense to Robinson, as I think he definitely has a role within the offense, but I was disappointed that after a month of prep Brooks wasn’t featured more.

Every time we got to see Brooks in extended action this year he found his way into the end zone and the bowl game was no different. Just wish we had seen him schemed into the game more to see what he could do. The run game overall reminded me of how the TCU game went and that ain’t good.

Defense struggled on money downs

Just like the Texas run game reminded me of the TCU game, the defense’s struggles on money downs reminded me of the Texas Tech game. The Texas defense did a solid job of limiting a very good UW passing attack through the air despite 52 attempts from Michael Penix Jr., but they found themselves stuck on the field for double-digit drives on several occasions due to the fact that they couldn’t put an end to them.

The biggest issue that played into this was the lack of negative plays inflicted by the Texas defense. ESPN’s stat tracker had Texas’ defense with zero TFLs and zero sacks on the night. Texas hung their hat all year on being active up front and getting offenses behind the sticks and they were not able to accomplish that at all.

Washington ended the game 11-of-20 on third downs and also went 2-of-3 on fourth-down conversions. All of those conversions led to long stretches on the field for the defense and that always takes a toll.

Quinn Ewers ended the year on a high note

This was one of the biggest data points of the game for me. We don’t need to get into how important Quinn Ewers’ development is for the Longhorn program going into 2023. The back half of the season was a rollercoaster performance wise for Ewers, so I was really curious to see how prepared he looked in this one.

Things started a little slow for Ewers and the Texas offense on the front half of the game and one throw in particular he missed on was a fourth-down pass to Worthy on a glance route that was well behind him. Things picked up in the second half for Ewers, as he was able to get the ball out of hands on short and intermediate passes and get his feet underneath him.

The biggest thing I took note of was that Ewers took care of the football and didn’t have a bunch of throws where he put the ball in jeopardy. Unfortunately, he had several instances where his wide receivers dropped passes that should have been caught. Otherwise his stat line would have had an additional 80-plus yards on it and another touchdown.

All and all, Ewers finished 31-of-47 passing on the night for 369 yards and a touchdown, but the yardage was inflated a little bit by the last-second heave to Casey Cain. Even when you take that out of the equation he had an encouraging night where he had to shoulder the load with the run game essentially being a no show.

Ewers played winning football and this was a solid performance to send him off into the offseason on. Let’s see if he can carry this momentum into spring practice and make a leap in his development.

Texas lost in the trenches on both sides of the ball

I already touched on the fact the defensive line got pushed around, but things didn’t go much better for the Longhorn offensive line either. The Texas ground game never got going and while they were down their two best backs it doesn’t change the fact that Washington was handling them pretty good on the interior and not giving up much ground.

Washington snuffed out the Texas run game from the start (18 carries on 51 yards) and on the flip side, Wayne Taulapapa went for 108 yards on 14 carries against the Texas defense with his lone touchdown coming on a 42 yard scamper. With Penix Jr. and the Husky passing game sputtering at times, Taulapapa’s performance was huge for giving them some balance and keeping Texas guessing defensively.

Games are won in lost in the trenches and Washington won on both sides of the ball in San Antonio.

Texas kept Michael Penix Jr. in check for most of the night

As usual I try to end things on a high note so I will touch on something I was discussing right after the game on Twitter.

Washington’s passing attack entered the matchup as one the best in the country, led by an experienced quarterback in Penix Jr. who will likely have a career playing in the NFL after one more season in Seattle. Despite Texas not getting to Penix in the forms of sacks, they were able to get him off his launch points at time and they definitely had him out of sync for stretches of the game.

One thing we quickly found out and Penix Jr. and the Washington offense is that they aren’t shy about taking their shots down the field — the Texas secondary actually did an admirable job containing the downfield passing game against a good quarterback and a good wide receiver group.

Penix Jr. ended up going 32-of-54 passing for 287 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. A lot of the yards came on dinks and dunks over the course of long drives where Texas just couldn’t get off the field when the opportunity presented itself. Texas was much better at not conceding explosive plays through the air and being more disciplined on the back end this year.

It may not feel like it because of the result of the game, but Texas fared much better defensively against the Washington offense than most teams did this year.

Thank you for following along this year! I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and has a happy New Year!

Onward to 2023!