Texas routs Texas Tech 70-35 as offensive line shines to kick off conference play

Nathan Han, Sports Reporter

The Texas offensive line was good. 

And that made all the difference Saturday against Texas Tech. 

After struggling in their first three games, especially in pass protection, the big men up front shined in the 70-35 win over the Red Raiders at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. They let every Longhorn eat.

Junior quarterback Casey Thompson threw for 303 yards and five touchdowns. Sophomore running back Bijan Robinson showed off his elusiveness for 137 yards on 18 carries. And to top it off, freshman wide receiver Xavier Worthy notched three touchdowns and reached the 100 yard receiving mark for the first time in his career.

It was all thanks to the offensive line — left tackle Christian Jones, left guard Denzel Okafor, center Jake Majors, right guard Junior Angilau and right tackle Derek Kerstetter. The five combined to give Thompson all the time in the world to finally connect on the deep throws that eluded the Longhorns in the weeks prior. 

Jones and Okafor, who notably struggled in the 40-21 Week 2 loss to Arkansas, anchored the left side of the line and enabled the outside zone run game, opening up big holes for Robinson and company.

“Christian Jones and Denzel Okafor, at the Arkansas game, … had just some confusion, a little bit of struggles,” Robinson said. “But then just to see how they bounced back and understood what they had to do and to come out, pancake so many people and open so many holes, it’s just a blessing to see that from them.”

When Thompson did drop back, the three and four-man Red Raider pass rush hardly even bothered him in the pocket, let alone lay a hand or take down the quarterback.

“I think our past protection was drastically improved,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “They gave Casey a really good pocket and allowed him to throw the ball.”

Texas sophomore running back Bijan Robinson moves past Texas Tech defenders in the Longhorns’ blowout of the Red Raiders on Saturday. Jack Myer/The Daily Texan

When the dust settled, in the afternoon, Texas scored a prolific 70 points — the most a Longhorn offense has scored since the 2005 Big 12 Championship game in a 70-3 win over Colorado.

Texas improved to 3-1 and started Big 12 conference play in an almost-perfect fashion. Almost.

In a rare ill-advised throw, after middle linebacker Luke Brockermeyer nabbed an interception on a tip drill to start the second half, Thompson threw a lob up into the end zone for wide receiver Jordan Whittington. 

The throw was picked off by Red Raider defensive back Dadrion Taylor-Demerson to end a streak of consecutive touchdown drives for Thompson and the Longhorns.

Then, with Texas Tech backup quarterback Henry Colombi in for the Red Raiders after an injury to starting quarterback Tyler Shough, Texas got burned twice on long touchdown passes, including a 69-yard throw to Loic Fouonji and a 75-yard heave to Kaylon Geiger.

The first thing Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski will harp on in film is the secondary. 

“The unfortunate thing defensively, we lost a little bit of our mental intensity and the ball got over our heads,” Sarkisian said. 

But, the coaching staff will be pleased with the rest of how the Texas team played.

The Longhorns’ biggest question mark heading into Saturday’s game was whether the offensive line could hold up to give Thompson and the uber-talented Texas running back room opportunities to do their thing.

Texas Tech held opposing teams to just 1.7 yards per carry heading into Saturday. The Longhorns averaged a pleasant 6.6 yards per carry against the Red Raiders. 

The offensive line, not lacking in experience but lacking in familiarity with new offensive line coach Kyle Flood’s scheme, showed it could hold up against Big 12 competition. 

“Coming into the season, that’s always the thing: you got to grow together as an offensive line,” Kerstetter said.

The next test will be on the road against TCU as the Longhorns travel to Fort Worth.

“The beauty of all of this is it’s a really good win for us to start conference play,” Sarkisian said. “But we still have work to do.”