Texan Tuesday Football Talk: Kansas loss and key injuries

Nathan Han, Matthew Boncosky, Sports Reporters

Welcome to the thirteenth 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: I have no idea where to start after last week’s loss to Kansas, so I guess we can just go from here before we jump into all the sad Texas football news: Is there anything from this season that makes you hopeful for next year or any upcoming seasons?

Matthew Boncosky: There are two things, and their names are Bijan Robinson and Xavier Worthy. There’s no denying that this season has been a mess, but I think this season has really shown people that the roster will need a ton of work to turn things around. The previous staff did not put enough attention into recruiting a few key positions, namely the offensive and defensive lines and the wide receiver positions, and 2021 Texas and first-year coach Steve Sarkisian have been left to deal with it.

It’s unfortunate that Robinson’s sophomore season will be cut short with his elbow injury, but he’ll be primed for another monster campaign next year. In reference to recruiting, I do think it’s telling that one of the few guys on the roster that is actually here because of Sarkisian will be a freshman All-American at wide receiver. Worthy, a true freshman, is already one of the best wideouts in the conference and has all the potential to blossom into one of Texas’ best all-time receivers going forward.

Speaking of Kansas, you were down on the field for the final two-point conversion that sealed the Jayhawks’ victory. What were the reactions from the Longhorns like both on the field and in the postgame media availability?

NH: The image of Keondre Coburn lying on the field after the two-point conversion that we put as our cover for the Tuesday paper really stuck with me. The defensive tackle said on the final play, the pass went right over his fingertips.

“I literally didn’t think he was going to throw the ball,” Coburn said. “The ball went over my fingertips, and I was like, ‘Dang, I could’ve done something to help.’ It was just stressful because I know we say it a lot and we preach a lot, but we put in so much work. It’s crazy that we put in so much work and we are not getting the outcome that we actually want. It was just one of those frustrating moments like, even when stuff is starting to get back rolling for us, it’s still just something. … I just felt disappointed. I felt embarrassed. I was like, ‘Man, we keep letting Longhorn nation down.’”

That answer really epitomizes what players and coaches have been saying not just after the loss to Kansas but throughout the five-game losing streak.

Every single week with the Texas football team, there’s such a focus on turning things around. Then, when Saturday rolls around, it’s yet another loss. And I think, as level-headed as Sarkisian and redshirt junior quarterback Casey Thompson are at press conferences, that frustration really adds up.

It could get even greater with losses to West Virginia and then Kansas State. So, even if there isn’t much on the line outside of bowl eligibility, are there any players or any specific parts of Texas football that you’re going to watch closely in these last two games for improvement?

MB: I’m mainly looking to see improvement on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski has been maligned for seemingly doing a poor job with his defense that’s giving up 437 yards a game. Sarkisian made the comment on Monday that his assistant coaches haven’t simply forgotten how to coach, and I think he’s right. Kwiatkowski proved that he’s one of the best defensive minds in the country during his tenure at Washington when given time to recruit and develop his own players in his own scheme.

But this is a Texas roster that was not recruited by Sarkisian or Kwiatkowski. The defensive coordinator has had to make due with a patch work roster and players that have had to learn a third defensive scheme in as many years. It’s no surprise that the defense hasn’t lived up to his lofty goal of holding opposing teams to under 20 points a game. West Virginia and Kansas State at home will provide him with two final chances to get some improvement on tape heading into next season.

Interestingly, West Virginia holds the better record against Texas in Austin, and the Longhorns hold the better record in Morgantown This year’s game will take place at Milan Puskar Stadium, and what about the Mountaineers do you think will post the biggest threat to the Longhorns on Saturday?

NH: West Virginia is another team fighting for bowl eligibility. While the Mountaineers have had some impressive showings, including a 38-31 win over Iowa State, last week’s loss to Kansas State exposed several flaws, like untimely penalties, a blocked punt and several turnovers.

The big matchup I’ll be watching on Saturday is whether or not the West Virginia wide receivers, most notably starters Sean Ryan and Isaiah Esdale, can get going against Texas. The Longhorns’ run defense hasn’t proven it’s capable of stopping anybody for four quarters, but if a secondary without senior cornerback Josh Thompson can limit Ryan and Esdale, Texas should be able to reach that 20 point goal.

I’ll take the Longhorns, 38-24, in a bounce back win.

MB: Throughout this entire losing streak, I’ve kept thinking Texas would finally buck the trend and get back in the win column. Now that Texas has lost to Kansas at home, I don’t think going on the road to West Virginia is the antidote. I’m picking West Virginia to win 41-31.