Sarkisian bests Patterson in first showdown, though missed opportunities loomed large

Matthew Boncosky

In his first game against TCU and Gary Patterson, Steve Sarkisian got the best of the longtime Horned Frogs head coach with a 32-27 victory, but missed opportunities provided a closer affair than Texas’ head coach would’ve hoped for.

“This was not a pretty game by any means,” Sarkisian said. “There’s a bunch for us to work on and get better at … but in the end we fought, we battled, (and) we competed.”

At about the four-minute mark in the first quarter, TCU tried running a reverse play, but TCU wide receiver Derius Davis dropped the ball when it was tossed his way.

Already up 10-7, the Longhorns were gifted with a chance to drive down the field and extend their lead. Instead, all Texas mustered was 3 yards.

After two incompletions and a 3-yard carry from sophomore running back Bijan Robinson, Texas settled for a 38-yard field goal from senior kicker Cameron Dicker. Missed opportunity No. 1.

Davis’ slippery fingers would strike again at the beginning of the second quarter, this time muffing one of Dicker’s punts. The Longhorns pounced on the ball and were set up in prime position to retake the lead after being behind 14-13.

Starting with goal-to-go from the TCU 9-yard-line, Robinson took the ball and managed just 1 yard on first down. Then Thompson couldn’t connect with freshman wide receiver Xavier Worthy, setting up a big third down.

Thompson then tried threading a needle to junior receiver Marcus Washington in the back of the end zone. The pass was nearly intercepted, and Texas was forced to settle for another field goal. Missed opportunity No. 2.

Then, on TCU’s first drive of the second half, senior defensive back Anthony Cook made the play of the day defensively, slamming into TCU quarterback Max Duggan and forcing a fumble. Texas again was gifted a chance to blow the game open, this time nursing a 23-17 lead.

The Longhorns were able to move the ball into the red zone, aided by a highlight catch from sophomore wide receiver Jordan Whittington, but when faced with a 4th-and-short from the TCU 10-yard-line, Sarkisian elected to kick the field goal in a departure from his aggressive play calling in similar situations to date.

Dicker put one through the uprights again, but off three TCU turnovers, the Longhorns had managed just nine points. Missed opportunity No. 3.

Then, with a chance to provide the fatal blow in the fourth quarter with a 32-20 lead in tow, Robinson was stuffed at the goal line on fourth down. The Horned Frogs then proceeded to march 99 yards with ease for a touchdown. TCU was now down just five points. Missed opportunity No. 4.

“I’d much rather win ugly than lose pretty, and this was an ugly one,” Sarkisian said. “We created three turnovers and we got three field goals out of it. That’s not what we’re looking for.”

The numerous field goals instead of touchdowns didn’t stunt the Longhorns’ offense overall though, as the final score implied. Robinson had a career day, running for 217 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries. Thompson, while shaky in the first half, connected with his receivers on a few key plays in the second half to keep the chains rolling, and the Longhorns totaled 414 yards of offense on the afternoon.

All in all, Texas escaped Amon G. Carter Stadium with a win and will head into Red River Week 4-1.

“It was cool to see the guys just stay bought in (and) not panic, even when adversity struck,” Sarkisian said. “We stayed the course and came out of here with a win.”