clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Texas WR Xavier Worthy on Washington: ‘I just feel like they didn’t get the best of me last year’

Three drops in the Alamo Bowl last year marked the low point of a standout career for Worthy. Now he’s got a shot at redemption.

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

A football hitting artificial turf doesn’t make a sound audible to on-field microphones, but the two consecutive passes dropped by Texas Longhorns wide receiver Xavier Worthy in the Alamo Bowl against the Washington Huskies last December were positively thunderous, defining moments in a 27-20 loss that capped a disappointing season for the Fresno product sandwiched around speculation about his future in burnt orange and white in the month leading up to the game and a fan-fueled social media firestorm that followed.

With Texas trailing by 10 points more than halfway through the third quarter, Worthy failed to adjust to a 2nd and 11 pass from quarterback Quinn Ewers on a go route down the sideline, sliding to the turf as the ball went through his hands.

On the next play, Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian schemed up an ideal matchup for Worthy in the slot against a hybrid safety dropping into coverage from a feigned blitz at the line of scrimmage. As Worthy streaked open down the middle of the field, Ewers delivered a perfect strike in stride. But instead of a game-changing touchdown, the ball came off of Worthy’s hip and thigh, clattering to the turf once again.

Texas went on to lose by a touchdown as Worthy finished with seven catches for 84 yards on 14 targets that accounted for nearly half of the incompletions thrown by Ewers.

On Friday, however, Worthy downplayed the significance of facing off against the Huskies again in a shot at redemption featuring the heightened stakes of a College Football Playoff semifinal in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

“I really don’t think it factors into anything for me,” Worthy said on Friday, typically low-key in a public setting.

But make no mistake — Worthy remembers playing through a broken hand in San Antonio and tying his single-game career high with three drops, a full 20 percent of his career total over almost three entire seasons with the Longhorns.

“I just feel like they didn’t get the best of me last year. I feel like I want to give them the best of me,” said Worthy.

The poor performance sparked sent the Texas Twittersphere into reactionary spasms and heightened speculation about Worthy’s future and happiness on the Forty Acres that began late in the 2022 season thanks to the wide receiver’s apparent frustration with his inability to connect with Ewers, especially on deep balls, and as he scrubbed references to the Longhorns from his social media.

“I think the one thing about Xavier is this — he’s a highly competitive young man and from the moment he arrived on our campus, he came to work and he came to work to earn an opportunity to play, came to work to become a starter. He came to work to be the best receiver he could be, whether that was in our conference or in the country,” Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian said in late November of 2022.

“So I think the guy’s got a high sense of competitiveness and drive to be the best and he works that way every day. And so sometimes when you don’t get the actual result of it, that can become a sense of frustration. I would much rather have a receiver that’s frustrated that he didn’t contribute more to a win than a guy who’s content to go on the field and playing and the ball not coming his way, because I think he values his ability to get open. I do, too. I get it.”

Worthy hardly took advantage of an opportunity to quell the speculation in a media availability before the Alamo Bowl, falling back on a typical athlete cliche when asked about his future, saying he was simply focused on the game.

Still, despite the struggles in the Alamo Bowl, Worthy quietly returned to Texas in January for winter conditioning to prepare for a critical junior season.

“What I’ve noticed is I really see this guy enjoying being a Texas Longhorn, enjoying his teammates,” Sarkisian said during preseason camp. “I mean, he is smiling now more than maybe since his freshman year and having fun at practice and working hard.”

Worthy bounced back by setting his career high with 73 catches for 969 yards, 11 behind his total from 2021, and scoring five touchdowns. As a punt returner, Worthy came into his own, scoring on a 74-yard return against BYU and averaging 17.9 yards per return, third nationally.

Worthy’s production came despite dealing with an ankle injury during the second half of the season that caused him to leave multiple games, including the regular-season finale against Texas Tech and the Big 12 Championship win over Oklahoma State.

With nearly a month to recover, is Worthy finally close to 100-percent healthy?

“Actually, yes,” said Worthy. “I’ve been hitting rehab real hard and just trying to get prepared for the game.”

Complemented by noted playoff standout AD Mitchell, Worthy has more help this year at wide receiver, a healthy hand, a recovering ankle, and, even if he doesn’t want to talk about it much publicly, all the motivation in the world to show a better version of himself against Washington this time around.

And Texas will need a better version of Worthy to advance to the national championship game.