Texan Tuesday Football Talk: QB switch, what needs improvement, and more

Nathan Han, Matthew Boncosky, Sports Reporters

Welcome to the fourth edition of the Texan Tuesday Football Talk, where Daily Texan football beat reporters Matthew Boncosky and Nathan Han discuss, of course, Texas football.

Nathan Han: You and our photographer, Jack Myer, both travelled to Fayetteville, Arkansas, for last week’s 40-21 beatdown of Texas. But for the Texas fans who watched the game from their couches at home, what was the environment like in Razorback Stadium and how do you think it affected the Longhorns, especially redshirt freshman quarterback Hudson Card?

Matthew Boncosky: The environment was unlike anything I had ever seen before. People were camped outside the stadium since early Friday morning, the student section was filled to the brim 45 minutes before the game, and the fans as a whole really made those three and a half hours a living hell for Texas.

That definitely affected the Longhorns. Junior defensive lineman Moro Ojomo stressed on Monday how poor the communication was among the defense in that environment, and there’s no doubt it also affected the play of Card and the offense. After all, the offense is who the crowd screams at when they’re on the field.

Head coach Steve Sarkisian said Card was a little antsy in the pocket on Saturday. Part of that was a lack of protection early on, but Card also missed some key throws down the field as well. You could tell that junior quarterback Casey Thompson was not rattled by the scene as much when he got in the game.

Speaking of Thompson, the big news out of Sarkisian’s weekly press conference on Monday was his decision to start him over Card against Rice this week. Do you think this was the right time to make the switch and do you think he can win the job for the rest of the season?

NH: The quarterback spot never seemed fully settled with the way Sarkisian rotated Thompson in at the end of both games – and it likely won’t be until after the Texas Tech game.

But Card never showed enough in his two games as the starter to fully take over the role, and particularly his inability to connect on deep passes means Thompson gets his shot at the starting role. I think it was the right time to make the switch just because Thompson has been so effective in the limited game time he’s seen.

If he can translate his second half performances from Colorado, Louisiana and Arkansas to a full game, Thompson is the right pick at quarterback. How do you think the weapons he’s throwing to have played so far this year?

MB: The weapons on the Texas offense need to step it up a little bit, in my opinion. Running back Bijan Robinson and wide receiver Jordan Whittington had standout performances in week one, but neither had much of an impact in week two.

Whittington only reeled in five of his 10 targets on Saturday for just 32 yards, and Robinson obviously struggled to find much running room as well, though part of that is on the offensive line.

The Longhorns’ receiving corps dropped a few key balls in the first half that went a long way in stunting the productivity of the offense. While Card had his fair share of struggles, the skill guys around him certainly didn’t help the situation. Better concentration from Thompson’s pass catchers should be enough to get them rolling again.

As I wrote about in my story from Saturday’s game, both the offensive and defensive lines were overpowered by Arkansas’ linemen. Which line do you think needs the most work, and is there an easy fix?

NH: The offensive line has just not been good enough in these first two games. The left side of the line, particularly junior tackle Christian Jones and senior guard Denzel Okafor, struggled especially against the Razorbacks.

With 12 and 16 starts, respectively, the two showed in the past they can play at a higher level. So whether the solution is more time with offensive line coach Kyle Flood’s new scheme or just regaining confidence against lesser defensive linemen, improvement from Jones, Okafor and the rest of the offensive line is key for Texas moving forward.

What are you expecting from Texas in this Saturday’s game against Rice, and how much of a challenge can the Owls pose for the Longhorns?

MB: While Rice gave Arkansas a bit of a scare in their week one matchup, I don’t think the Owls will present much of a challenge to the Longhorns. Last week’s loss opened some eyes among the Longhorns, in my opinion, so I think they will come ready to blow the doors off the visiting Owls. Texas bounces back and wins by three or four scores.

NH: I’m with you there: Saturday is going to be a bounce back blowout for Texas in a 38-9 win. I think Thompson will have another impressive game and the defense will rebound in a big way.