The BON staff got together to discusses how the Horns can respond against the Rice Owls on Saturday, what to expect from the quarterback switch from Hudson Card to Casey Thompson, and more.
ESPN FPI still favors Texas in 8 of its final 10 games to finish 9-3. Was the Arkansas loss an early sign that the sky will soon be falling in Austin, or simply an early stumble that won’t derail the rest of the season?
Cody — The sky isn’t falling and the season isn’t over, just as it wasn’t last season for ISU when they lost to Louisiana before going on the make the Big 12 title game. But, the Arkansas loss exposed some pretty glaring weaknesses, so Sark and his staff have to figure out the OL, QB and WR positions or 9-3 — or even 8-4 — could be a stretch.
Seahorn — I think it is a stumble that quickly highlighted the shortcomings of this Texas team that we knew about coming into the year. While it certainly wasn’t a great performance last Saturday, there is certainly still plenty of season left to turn things around.
Curry — It’s hard to say. I think Sarkisian wants to implement his offense and the roster isn’t ready for it yet. He could keep trying to implement and get stuffed running inside zone or play to strengths and maybe eek out some additional wins. Not confident one way or another. Last week was telling.
Gerald — The Arkansas loss was embarrassing, there’s no way around that, but much of the conversation preseason was that Texas would lose at least one of its three non-conference games. Assuming the two conference games are OU and Iowa State, I have a healthy fear of TCU based on history and their talent at the offensive skill positions especially as the team still gets things figured out. I wouldn’t be shocked by 9-3, but 8-4 would also not be surprising.
Cameron — I think it was a much-needed wake-up call for the team. Even the fans. The win over Louisiana looked so effortless and comfortable it may have raised expectations for the team too early and helped cause that awful performance against Arkansas. 9-3 might be asking too much but Sark has two weeks to figure out things before having to face TCU, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State three straight weeks in a row.
The blowout loss to Arkansas seemed like two steps back after a strong start to the season. What do you need to see against Rice to feel some confidence about this team heading into Big 12 play?
Cody — After getting embarrassed last week, Texas needs an all-around dominant performance to get back to its feet. As for feeling confident, it would help if the QB situation doesn’t remain entirely up in the air much longer, though Rice probably doesn’t determine that. Of course, it would be encouraging to see the offensive line look far better than they have, and Texas needs some receivers to emerge as consistent weapons. That, and the defense needs to be the bully, not the ones getting bullied.
Seahorn — Texas needs to make progress towards making a firm decision at quarterback and the offensive line badly needs a confidence builder after getting beat up in the trenches. Kyle Flood needs to take the next couple weeks to find his best five bodies to go to war with heading into the teeth of their schedule. If the coaches don’t figure this out sooner rather than later, things will get ugly quick.
Curry — I hope to see a dominant win similar to the fools gold that was Louisiana, but I’m not putting much stock in this game regardless of outcome.
Gerald — Rice should be a get-right game for Texas. The current Texas program isn’t one that should ever go into a game knowing that they can win based on talent, but this is a game that they likely can. I want to see Texas dominate wire-to-wire and get their heads right heading into the teeth of the conference schedule. Win at the point of attack on both sides of the ball and allow your offense to find its rhythm before Big 12 starts next week.
Cameron — I’d like to see an outstanding defensive performance. Texas can’t allow opponents to average seven yards per carry in Big 12 play. This week, they face a Rice team that struggles to run the ball, averaging only 2.8 YPC. If the Longhorns truly have a good defense, they should be able to hold Rice to under 100 yards on the ground and under 10 points.
On Monday, Sarkisian announced Casey Thompson as the new QB1 over Hudson Card. Do you agree with this early-season change, and what will be different about the Texas offense with Thompson behind center?
Cody — It probably should have happened a little earlier in the Arkansas game when it was clear that Card was just a bit rattled and the offense was stuck in neutral. I think most agree that Card’s upside makes him so intriguing, but his inexperience showed up under pressure. Texas can’t afford to have that happen and have losses pile up while he grows — not with a plenty capable QB beside him in Thompson, who doesn’t have the same upside, but probably has a higher floor and fits better with this current offensive line woes.
Seahorn — I’m not a fan of quick hook simply because it can create doubt in the psyche of a young signal caller you will likely need at some point down the road. I’m not a fan of how the staff has played this situation in particular and they didn’t do the best job to put Card or Thompson in a position to succeed coming into the season.
Curry — I agree that Thompson’s feet give him an advantage behind a bad offensive line. I don’t know if it’s the right move, but after last week it’s hard to argue against any changes.
Gerald — I was honestly shocked that the change didn’t happen earlier in the Arkansas game. The things that make Hudson Card a great quarterback are honestly the things that are why he doesn’t fit the need right now. He wants the ball in his hands and he wants to be a playmaker, but Texas needs a decision-maker right now. Much of the conversation around Thompson is how studious he is and he looked decisive against Arkansas. It may be limiting in the long-term, but a few reads and a quick decision is what’s needed with the current state of the offensive line.
Cameron — It was the right move for Sark to make. Card may turn out to be a great quarterback someday, but Casey Thompson looks much more confident and comfortable right now. Thompson also fits better with the Texas shaky offensive line and just makes decisions quicker. Card is a steady QB who won’t make too many mistakes but the ceiling is higher for Texas with Thompson at QB.
Steve Sarkisian said Texas will stick with its current offensive line unit, citing that they need more time to play together. Will that resolve the apparent blocking struggles, or will Texas eventually need to make a change up front?
Cody — I think it could because that cohesion is important up front, but this current OL is an experiment that needs to be resolved sooner than later. All things considered, the Arkansas loss doesn’t matter much unless you expected Texas to win the natty. But the Big 12 games matter, and Texas needs to get its line issues resolved before the Horns start dropping conference games because of it.
Seahorn — As a former offensive linemen, I’m typically more lenient than most when it comes to the big fellas in the trenches. A unit certainly needs time to build chemistry, but when you have upperclassmen still struggling mightily like we have seen then it’s time to start tinkering and getting other guys in the lineup despite what the preferences the position coach may have.
Curry — I hope so — luckily Texas won’t face a defensive front as talented as Arkansas for at least two weeks. Build some confidence and get some system experience before TCU.
Gerald — If you’re going to make a change — which wouldn’t be unwarranted — now would be the time. Mixing and shuffling along the offensive line is always worrisome because if there’s any unit that needs cohesion and constancy it’s the offensive line.
Cameron — Give it a few more weeks to see if the O-Line can gel together and start figuring things out. It’s a much tougher scheme under Sark than it was under Herman’s so there will be a learning curve. Hopefully we’ll be able to get a look at Adrej Karic or even Hayden Conner at some point in the Rice game.
Arkansas gashed Texas on the ground to the tune of 333 yards on 7.1 yards per carry. How much of an issue is this struggling run defense that was supposed to be a strength for the Longhorns, not only vs. Rice, but going forward?
Cody — It seemed like Pete K’s game plan for Arkansas was just completely backwards and he played to Arkansas’ strength. Size and talent isn’t an issue in the trenches, and Texas has the kind of linebackers that are willing to stick their nose into the action and make a play, so assuming Pete K and the staff can make adjustments, I think Texas’ run defense will be fine.
Seahorn — Much like on the offensive side of the ball, I think the defensive staff did a poor job of game planning Arkansas and getting their guys setup for success. It was pretty alarming given what we know about Pete Kwiatkowski and his previous defenses, but I am going to give them a chance to prove that what we saw in Fayetteville was simply an anomaly and not a danger sign.
Curry — I think Texas played pretty well on defense against Arkansas that first half. I’m basically giving the defense a pass for the second half when it became clear the offense was impotent.
Gerald — Pete Kwiatkowski has forgotten more about calling a defensive game plan than I will ever know, but his approach against Arkansas seemed ill-advised. It almost seemed like he was daring Arkansas to run, which is exactly what they wanted coming into the game. The Razorbacks’ offensive line probably isn’t the best unit they’re going to face and we came into the year thinking the Texas offensive line was going to be the strength, so I need them to figure it out soon.
Cameron — I didn't think the game plan put into place by Pete Kwiatowski did his players any favors against an Arkansas team that was clearly dedicated to running the ball the whole game. Fortunately for Texas, they get to face two teams in Rice and Texas Tech who are struggling to run the ball. I’m not sure how much we’ll learn about this Longhorn team against Rice, but we should gain a little bit more insight against Tech.
Texas enters as 26-point favorites, but what would allow Rice to stick around and make it a game as they did two weeks ago against Arkansas?
Cody — The OL would have to somehow play worse than they did last Saturday, and Rice would need Casey to force more than a couple turnovers in his first start. I guess it could happen, but I don’t see it.
Seahorn — Turnovers and inconsistency on both sides of the ball. This game should be a confidence builder for the players and coaches alike before heading into the conference schedule, but it is imperative that this team show up to the yard ready to play and not try to sleep walk through it.
Curry — Texas drops more punts and misses more field goals and drops more passes and turns the ball over and can’t get first downs.
Gerald — Texas’ pregame meal ends up sitting at room temperature for too long and a significant number of players end up with the bubble guts.
Cameron — Christian McCaffrey comes down from Carolina and plays in place of his brother Luke.
Prediction: Does Texas bounce back with a big win over Rice?
Cody — Texas, 42-10.
Seahorn — I think they’ll win the game soundly. I think they get back in the win column. Texas 42, Rice 7
Curry — Was it John Mackovic who famously said, “You can’t beat Rice every year.” I got burned last week. Burn me again — Texas by 30.
Gerald — I think so, Texas 42-17.
Cameron — Yes. Texas 48, Rice 13.