Texas wins if, Texas loses if: Williams presents problems out of backfield

Wills Layton

Last week, the Longhorns fell to the Oklahoma Sooners in the 115th edition of the Red River Rivalry. There were some bright spots, such as the defense showing up to play with several injuries to key contributors. However, the offense struggled to score on a generally porous defense. The team was constantly deep within its own territory, and struggled to get anything going offensively. This week, Texas will try to get back on track against the Kansas Jayhawks.

Here’s how the game against Kansas could go:

Texas wins if … 

… the defense can stop Pooka Williams Jr. 

Sophomore running back Pooka Williams Jr. did something no Longhorn could do against Oklahoma, rushing for over 120 yards against the Sooners in the week before the Red River Rivalry. Last year, Williams ran for over 100 yards and a touchdown against Texas in a tense game the Longhorns had to win in order to advance to the Big 12 championship game. As a proven force of nature in the rushing game, Williams could be trouble for a Texas defense that was just gashed by the Sooners’ running offense. If the Longhorn defensive line, led by senior Malcolm Roach and freshman standout Keondre Coburn, can shut down Williams and help out the short-handed secondary, it will be much easier to pull off the win.

… the offense gets back on track. 

Heading into last week, most people assumed the game would result in a shootout between two high-octane offenses. However, out of the gate the Longhorns suffered several quick three-and-outs. While the offense recovered a bit in the second half, it was too little too late. The offense is capable of much more, having scored at least 36 points in every other game this season. Led by junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger, freshman running back Roschon Johnson, and senior receivers Devin Duvernay and Collin Johnson, the team should be poised and ready for a resurgence against the Jayhawks.

Texas loses if … 

… the defense regresses. 

While the offense was scrambling to produce any points, the defense was fighting hard to make sure Texas wouldn’t be out of the game. Forcing two turnovers in the red zone allowed the Longhorns to have a chance to make a comeback, and the depth in the secondary proved up to the task against graduate transfer quarterback Jalen Hurts. While Kansas’ offense is not nearly as formidable as the Sooners’ offense, it should not be taken lightly. Senior quarterback Carter Stanley put up three touchdown passes on the Oklahoma defense, and strayed from turnovers. An undisciplined effort on the defensive side of the ball could lead to an early deficit that would be difficult to overcome. If the team suffers from a letdown after last week’s loss, the Longhorns could be looking at another disappointing result.

… Roschon Johnson takes a step back. 

The freshman has been one of the best stories in Longhorn football. He has quickly adjusted after transitioning from quarterback to running back, and has led the team in rushing for the past two games, with over 200 combined yards of rushing offense. He has arguably performed better than sophomore running back Keaontay Ingram, and has provided a spark on offense for weeks. In the game against Oklahoma, his 57-yard run led to the first touchdown of the game that he also scored, and finally got the offense into some kind of rhythm. The offense would suffer if Johnson were to take a step back, which could lead to trouble against Kansas.