Texas linemen unprepared for trench battle in hostile SEC territory

Matthew Boncosky, Sports Reporter

Texas defensive lineman Keondre Coburn and offensive lineman Derek Kerstetter expressed excitement and readiness this week as they prepared to face off against Arkansas.

Only come Saturday night, the Longhorns were woefully unprepared for what awaited them in SEC country.

“It’s a tough loss, I can say that,” Coburn said. “All we can do is go back into the film room and actually see what happened.”

The Razorbacks, hardly the darlings of the SEC, managed to overpower the Longhorns in the trenches for the length of the contest, and it wasn’t particularly close.

The Arkansas offensive line opened up gaping hole after gaping hole in the Texas front seven. Four Razorbacks finished with more than 50 yards rushing and the team combined for four total touchdowns on the ground. Third string running back AJ Green even got in on the fun, scampering home for a 30-yard score in the fourth quarter to put the final nail in the Longhorns’ coffin.

Arkansas’ total rushing yardage outnumbered Texas’ by nearly three to one — 471 total yards for Arkansas versus 256 total yards for Texas is not going to win the Longhorns many games any time soon, let alone against SEC competition.

“We were in a hostile environment tonight,” running back Bijan Robinson said. “We just had to execute on some things that were a little different or might’ve been faster than our normal tempo.”

Arkansas deployed a three-man front defensively for the majority of the game. Texas’ inability to move the ball when the numbers were already in the offense’s favor upfront allowed Razorbacks defensive coordinator Barry Odom to drop eight men in coverage against the pass. Longhorns  head coach Steve Sarkisian’s attempts to adapt were moot.

“We were just a little jittery for whatever reason,” Sarkisian said. “I don’t think it was about the looks, that we weren’t prepared for them. We just didn’t play to our standard and to our capability.”

The Longhorns knew all along that they were going into hostile territory. Saturday’s meeting at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium was the first chance Arkansas has had to face its bitter rival at home since 2004. It was also the Longhorns’ first game in an SEC stadium since the announcement of Texas’ eventual move to the conference.

Arkansas fans chant and flash “horns down” in Texas’ 40-21 loss to the Razorbacks on Saturday night. The rowdy crowd created a hostile environment for the visiting Longhorns. Jack Myer/The Daily Texan

The context surrounding the game created the perfect storm of emotions in Fayetteville, with students camping outside the stadium since early Friday morning to be the first ones inside. As the onslaught ensued, sarcastic “S-E-C” chants echoed throughout the stadium, mocking the Longhorns and reminding them what awaits in the future.

That future entails even bigger bodies down in the trenches than what Texas faced tonight. The likes of Alabama, Auburn and LSU feature much more stout and strong linemen than the Razorbacks boast. That SEC task appears daunting after Saturday night.

As soon as the final whistle blew cementing the 40-21 final score, fans rushed the field in triumph. Soon the green field became a sea of red and white Razorback fans with “horns down” gestures dotting the landscape.

The madness forced the Longhorns to elbow their ways from the northeast corner of the field through the crowd to get back to the visiting team’s locker room. That image might be one that sticks in the back of their minds going forward.

“I feel that it’s a learning lesson,” Robinson said. “We needed this situation, we needed this game just to understand what we have to do going forward.”