Injuries stunt Texas during 6-game losing streak

Matthew Boncosky, Sports Reporter

At 10:47 a.m., Texas Athletics announced starting linebacker DeMarvion Overshown would not play in Saturday’s game against West Virginia.  In pregame warmups he sported  street clothes and a boot on his foot. Then at 11:01 – less than 15 minutes later and moments before kick-off – Texas Athletics sent out another announcement that the senior would be available.

Despite his upgraded status, Overshown didn’t appear in the game until the second quarter. Regardless, injuries continue to plague the Longhorns, and the situation only worsened in Texas’ 31-23  fall to the Mountaineers at Milan Puskar Stadium.

On Monday, Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian announced star running back Bijan Robinson and starting cornerback Josh Thompson would miss the rest of the season with injuries. In October, starting offensive lineman Denzel Okafor suffered a season-ending lower leg injury against TCU. The offensive line has been a fluid, rotating group of five ever since.

In the first quarter of today’s game, the other starting cornerback and return man, D’Shawn Jamison, briefly went down. He would return, but stumbled  on multiple returns. Then, junior edge rusher Ovie Oghoufo went down in the second quarter. As Texas’ injuries piled up, West Virginia quarterback Jarret Doege looked like a Heisman candidate, shredding the Longhorns with 238 yards and two touchdowns on 20-of-28 passing attempts in the first half.

Texas Athletics director Chris Del Conte addressed the team’s injury situation in his weekly message to fans on Tuesday.

“This isn’t to cast any blame or make excuses; it’s just factual that we have some real depth issues,” Del Conte said. “As injuries mount, it’s even more glaring. … And when it rains, it pours. We had 25 guys miss practice (prior to the Kansas loss) due to a flu bug and virus and missed three others who were out due to COVID-19 protocols.”

The Longhorns did get a boost when it was revealed that wide receiver Jordan Whittington would suit up on Saturday. The sophomore has been out since he suffered a clavicle injury against Oklahoma on Oct. 9 but is still Texas’ second leading receiver behind freshman standout Xavier Worthy.

His return was needed among a wide receiver room that desperately lacked additional depth. Since Whittington went down, Worthy has been the only consistent wideout in burnt orange. Through the first six games of the season, Whittington provided a reliable set of hands that either  quarterback under center, Casey Thompson or Hudson Card, could look to on key third-down conversions.

“It would be great to have Jordan back,” Sarkisian said Monday. “One, he’s an exceptional football player. Two, he’s a great leader on our football team and he’s been one since the day I arrived.”

Whittington’s return did not have the anticipated effect for a Texas passing attack that continued to struggle outside of No. 8. Drops were aplenty, and early in the fourth quarter, Card attempted to connect with Whittington on a 2-point conversion attempt that would have brought the Longhorns within a field goal, but West Virginia linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo broke up the play. Whittington ended the game with zero receptions in his return.

Keilan Robinson was a bright spot out of a running back room that was down to just two healthy contributors with Bijan and fourth-string back Jonathon Brooks already out for the game. The Alabama transfer hit the 100-yard mark for the first time of his career as his speed helped Card lead a comeback attempt in the second half.

But with the Longhorns down eight with just under seven minutes left in the game, the injury bug came for him, too. Keilan came back, but a few plays later him, Card and offensive lineman Junior Angilau were all slow to get up after an incomplete pass on a second-and-six. It seemed as though no Longhorn could catch a break.

Thompson then came back into the game and handed off to Roschon Johnson on third down and failed to convert. On fourth down, Thompson overthrew both Whittington and Worthy and was picked off. With just 2:51 remaining, Texas’ fate appeared all but settled. The losing streak would live on to see a sixth game.

As Texas now sits at 4-7 with injuries piling up, bowl eligibility is essentially out of reach now. The Longhorns’ streak of four straight bowl victories will likely end in Sarkisian’s first year as head coach.

“In the end, come Thanksgiving when we’re playing right here, hopefully that game means something,” Sarkisian said Oct. 18 after losing the second of this now six-game losing streak.

One can imagine he didn’t think it would mean that Texas will end the season with its fifth losing record since 2010.