Full steam ahead: No. 21 Texas takes down No. 23 Louisiana comfortably in season opener, 38-18

Nathan Han, Sports Reporter

Saturday wasn’t exactly picture perfect for Texas.

But it was pretty damn close for the No. 21 Longhorns, who defeated No. 23 Louisiana soundly 38-18 in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium for the first win of the Steve Sarkisian era.

“I loved it,” Sarkisian said. “There’s nothing like winning — I’ll tell you that much.”

In his first game as Texas head football coach, Sarkisian’s offense scored touchdowns on grueling drive after drive despite a struggling offensive line.

On one 11-play drive, sophomore running back Bijan Robinson took matters into his own hands, first breaking out for a 17-yard run before catching an 18-yard touchdown. On another 14-play touchdown drive, redshirt freshman quarterback Hudson Card navigated pressure in the pocket and scrambled to find sophomore wide receiver Jordan Whittington three times for first down conversions on third downs.

“The story of the game was our ability to get off the field on defense on third down and then to extend drives on third down that ultimately led to scoring drives,” Sarkisian said.

The 6-foot-2-inch quarterback earned the starting job after a lengthy off-season battle with junior Casey Thompson. In front of a full stadium crowd, he found a groove after his first two drives under center, flashing an ability to scramble away from the constant pressure and extend drives with his legs.

Toward the end of the third quarter, both Robinson and Card’s afternoons mostly ended. The running back and dark horse Heisman candidate finished with two touchdowns, 103 rushing yards on 20 carries and 73 receiving yards on four catches when an awkward tackle left him down on the ground in the third.

But Texas fans were able to catch their breaths as Robinson got up on his own power and an athletic trainer didn’t look at him on the sideline afterward.

Card ended his afternoon with 224 yards on 14-21 passing, two touchdowns and no turnovers before Thompson came in for relief at the end of the third quarter when the Longhorns led 28-12. Sarkisian had previously said both quarterbacks would see time on Saturday.

Texas redshirt freshman quarterback Hudson Card runs past Louisiana defenders to score a touchdown during the Longhorns’ 38-18 win over the Ragin’ Cajuns on Saturday afternoon at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Blaine Young/ The Daily Texan.

“It wasn’t a gut feeling,” Sarkisian said. “It was just kind of what was going to be the right timing to do it. But getting Casey in there, let him play a quarter and a half of football. That’s big for us. Neither guy has a lot of experience, so to get that opportunity is going to be big for us moving forward as a team.”

Louisiana never really threatened Texas’ lead all afternoon, as a sound Longhorn defense frustrated Ragin’ Cajuns quarterback Levi Lewis.

After Louisiana got on the board first with a field goal for a 3-0 lead, the Texas defense didn’t allow another score until the end of the half.

By then, the Longhorns had built a 14-6 lead that would hold steady for the second half. Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski relied on a rotation of Texas defenders to keep fresh bodies on the field in the 100-degree weather.

Junior defensive tackle Keondre Coburn, junior middle linebacker Luke Brockermeyer and senior safety B.J. Foster were three of the few mainstays on the defense, anchoring the middle of a Longhorns defense that benefited from the Texas time of possession dominance.

Senior cornerback Darion Dunn forced the only turnover of the game with a fumble toward the end of the fourth quarter.

Texas will travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to play the Razorbacks next Saturday before returning home to Austin the following weekend to play Rice. Arkansas defeated Rice 38-17 Saturday.

And if this Saturday’s game is

any indication, Sarkisian and the Longhorns are on the right track of the “All Gas, No Brakes” era to beat both teams and escape their out-of-conference schedule unscathed.

Lake Travis Love:

In his second touchdown pass of the night, Card connected with senior tight end Cade Brewer in the end zone on a dart between two defenders. But it wasn’t just the pass and contested catch that was special: The high school connection between the two and kicker Cameron Dicker made a special moment.

All three players went to Austin Lake Travis High School, which has produced a bevy of Texas and NFL talent.

Dicker went on to score the extra point attempt and make it a trifecta of Cavaliers combining for the seven points.