Offensive skill players shine as Whittington finally breaks out

Matthew Boncosky, Sports Reporter

Much of the noise surrounding the Texas football team’s offseason centered around who would start at quarterback, but in the Longhorns’ season opener Saturday at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, it was the skill players who made most of the noise.

While redshirt freshman Hudson Card certainly looked the part as QB1, totaling 224 yards and two touchdowns, it was sophomores Jordan Whittington and Bijan Robinson who were the real stars of Texas’ 38-18 victory over Louisiana.

“I think Bijan (Robinson) did a great job setting the tone,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “And then obviously Jordan Whittington (on) third down making plays for both Hudson and Casey were really efficient. Both extended drives and both made their plays when they had their opportunities.”

Whittington looked right at home in Sarkisian’s offense in week one. Card often found Whittington on key third down situations, extending drives and building chemistry between himself and the wide receiver.

“(Sarkisian’s offense) is amazing to display,” Whittington said. “(Card’s) definitely a guy that is looking to throw and make a big play so we always practice the scramble drills together and I’m glad that we have that chemistry.”

Texas jumped right out of the gate in the second half with the one-two punch of Whittington and Robinson. In the opening drive, Card found Whittington to move the chains on a third down, only for the wideout to manhandle his way to a 41-yard gain. The six-foot-one receiver made four defenders miss and drug another defender 10 more yards before he was finally corralled.

Robinson then followed up Whittington’s display by finding the endzone for his second rushing touchdown of the afternoon.

Both skill players saw plenty of action on the field in Saturday’s season opener. Robinson garnered 24 touches and Whittington was a fixture all over the field, breaking ankles and picking up yardage.

Whittington found the endzone again at the start of the fourth quarter after junior quarterback Casey Thompson found him on a crossing route. Whittington’s shifty moves allowed him to squeeze by and through a few defenders.

Longhorns wide receiver Jordan Whittington muscles through Louisiana defenders during Texas’ 38-18 victory over the Ragin’ Cajuns on Saturday at Darrell K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium. Blaine Young/ The Daily Texan

Robinson is no doubt the star of this offense, but the performances of the two probably felt even more gratifying for Whittington. It’s been an extremely long road to success for the receiver since his standout high school days. Whittington suffered a sports hernia injury in high school that forced him to redshirt his freshman season. Things looked up for him in 2020, only for a torn lateral meniscus and a sprained hip flexor to derail his plans.

“I’m really happy for him,” Sarkisian said. “I know this has been a long journey for Jordan to get back to this point, and to come out and be healthy and play that first game the way he did is a big moment for him.”

Whittington ended up seeing the field in only five games last year. After all that missed time, he was ready to explode in 2021. He did just that Saturday.

“Being the first opener that I’ve made the full game through, it’s amazing,” Whittington said.

Whittington ended up hauling in seven of his eight targets for 113 yards. His dominant performance led the team in receiving, but you don’t need the statistics to know that.

“There’s just a fire that burns inside of me that wants to do whatever I can to help this team win,” Whittington said. “That was on display right there.”