AUSTIN, Texas — The availability of Texas Longhorns junior tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders for next week’s grudge match at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas against the Oklahoma Sooners is in question after Sanders suffered a lower leg injury in Saturday’s 40-14 win over the Kansas Jayhawks at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
On a running play near the goal line in the first quarter, Sanders was rolled up on, getting his right leg pinned beneath the pile. Sanders initially refused help getting off the field before entering the medical tent and ultimately leaving the game.
“We’re hopeful we’re gonna get him back by next week,” Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian said after the game. “It’s gonna be, how does he respond?”
Sarkisian added that the initial medical assessment was that Sanders did not suffer any significant damage to his lower leg.
“It’s not anything that we think is truly structural, it’s not a broken bone or a torn ligament or something, but how our bodies respond is how they respond,” Sarkisian said.
After receiving medical attention, Sanders still had his helmet for some time before trying to run on the sideline and coming up hobbling.
“We kind of watched him run on the sidelines and we just didn’t feel like it was going to be in his best interest to put him back out there in the state that he was in,” Sarkisian said.
Whether Sanders is available next week will depend on how the recovery process goes for the 6’4, 243-pounder, who was off to a fast start this season before his injury, recording one catch for 10 yards against the Jayhawks after multiple 100-yard performances.
Entering Saturday’s game, Sanders was tied for first nationally among tight ends with 258 receiving yards, leading the team as well, thanks to five catches for 114 yards in the upset of the Crimson Tide and five catches for 110 yards in the win over the Bears last week. Sanders is currently averaging 21.4 yards per reception.
But whether the Longhorns will have one of their biggest matchup problems in the Cotton Bowl is going to be a major storyline over the coming days.
“I know our medical staff and he will do all the work that they can to get them as healthy as they can and see if he’s gonna be able to play or not next week,” Sarkisian said.