Simplicity secured No. 21 Texas’ 41-20 victory over UTSA

Hunter Dworaczyk, Senior Sports Reporter

Sometimes football can be as simple as getting your best players involved.

For No. 21 Texas, the best players on offense reside at the running back position. Head coach Steve Sarkisian turned to his playmakers against UTSA, resulting in a 41-20 victory on Saturday at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

The Longhorns’ rushing attack gained 298 total yards on the ground, nearly doubling the output from the passing game.

Sarkisian’s heavy reliance on the tailbacks stemmed from the state of his quarterback room this week. While sophomore Hudson Card ultimately started at quarterback, he was by no means capable of being the strength of the offensive attack against the Roadrunners.

Entering the game as a 12.5-point underdog, UTSA managed to limit the number of possessions Texas had in the first half. On the Roadrunners’ first possession of the game, redshirt senior quarterback Frank Harris led his team to a 20-play drive that wiped over eight minutes off of the clock and ended in a field goal.

After driving down the field to take a 10-7 lead later in the second quarter, UTSA head coach Jeff Traylor called for an onside kick to try to steal a possession. Texas’ special teams unit was caught in complete surprise and the Roadrunners easily fell on the ball.

A double-pass gadget play later and the Longhorns found themselves with the largest deficit they’ve faced all season at 17-7.

“It was way too early in the game to start to panic,” Sarkisian said.

The Longhorns’ offensive strategy early on helped UTSA establish its early lead. Sarkisian dialed up several deep shots for Card to attempt, but he struggled connecting with his receivers down the field. Card’s unsuccessful long balls largely stalled the Texas offense.

While deep routes feature heavily in Sarkisian’s playbook, especially with redshirt freshman Quinn Ewers’ talented arm, an adjustment needed to be made for Saturday’s game with Ewers sidelined.

“I’d love to call every perfect play in the first quarter, and things are clicking and going,” Sarkisian said. “Sometimes it doesn’t always go your way, but you got to keep fighting.”

In stepped junior running back Bijan Robinson and senior running back Roschon Johnson.

Immediately after UTSA took a 10-point lead, Sarkisian dialed up a drive that saw Texas opt to run seven times during the 11-play touchdown drive. Texas kept it simple.

“We came into the game and I didn’t make any secrets about it with the offense that we have to be the more physical team tonight,” Sarkisian said. “We needed to run the ball.”

After the Longhorns forced the Roadrunners to punt on the first drive of the second half, Robinson bursted for a 78-yard touchdown run to give Texas a lead that it held throughout the remainder of the contest.

“I told (Robinson), just run through them,” Sarkisian said. “Enough of the dancing in the hole and spinning and all the stuff. Just start running through and you’re going to hit a big one here.”

Sarkisian did not forget the passing game entirely once behind, though. Instead of calling shots hoping for chunk plays, the head coach got the wide receivers involved by incorporating simple throws for his bruised quarterback. Texas’ wideouts, such as sophomore Xavier Worthy and junior Jordan Whittington, used their superior athleticism to carve up UTSA’s defense with yards after the catch.

All in all, the rushing attack still featured heavily. The Longhorns outgained the Roadrunners on the ground by 131 yards and outscored UTSA 24-3 in the second half, allowing Texas to run away with the win.

“We talk a lot about making adjustments in this game, and I think tonight was a classic example,” Sarkisian said. “We weren’t playing great, in my opinion, in any phase of the game there early on. We settled down and made some good adjustments at halftime, and went out and played a really good second half.”