Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

The 2023 Texas Longhorns: the legacy of the best Texas team in 14 years

Kennedy Weatherby
Coach Steve Sarkisian laughs with other members of the coaching staff during a practice on Dec. 30, 2023 for the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Three years ago, football reporters around Austin were already dreading the worst. Texas football head coach Steve Sarkisian’s inaugural year had gone as poorly as possible, with the Horns failing to make a bowl game following embarrassing loss after embarrassing loss. 

The students of UT Austin feared they had found another Charlie Strong or Tom Herman, another failure on the list of post-Mack Brown coaches at the University of Texas.

As 2024 settles in for the spring semester, Sarkisian has brought hope back to Austin after years of mediocrity and pain that have overwhelmed the Texas football community.

When I originally learned I would be covering the Texas Football team for its final season in the Big 12, I was filled with both anxiety and hope. It was a step up, not just for myself as a writer, but for the expectations of the school I loved. Sarkisian was entering his third year at the school and it was now or never for many of the people following closely along. 

On Aug. 16, 2023, ESPN published its “College Football Preseason Power Rankings,” Texas was ranked 10th in the nation, with ESPN deeming the Longhorns talented enough to play for the national championship. 

The AP Poll was equally excited for the Longhorns, ranking them 11th in week 1. What struck pundits and haters alike was that Sarkisian had yet to field a team in the top 15, let alone play for a national championship.

Sarkisian and the Longhorns, as always, had a target on their back.

But quickly, Sarkisian was vindicated. He rose to the occasion as quickly as week two, when the Longhorns strutted into Tuscaloosa and defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide, something only Heisman winner and national champion Joe Burrow had done in the last 53 home games against Alabama. Sarkisian’s win marked the final regular season loss of legendary coach Nick Saban’s career. Very quickly, Texas fans began to ask,

“Why not us?”

Then it all came crashing down.

The hope of a whole city had been taken away after one game-winning drive from Oklahoma senior quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who won the Red River Rivalry game. I told myself that history was bound to repeat, and the 2023 team was no different than those of the past, starting strong and faltering when it mattered most.

But I couldn’t be more wrong.

Even with players like Ewers and redshirt sophomore Jonathon Brooks facing injuries, Sarkisian endured the grueling 12-game schedule and won the next six games. Texas was in The Big 12 Championship for its final season in the conference. 

Ewers was the star of the final Big 12 game for Texas, throwing for a Big 12 Championship record 452 yards on his way to an MVP award, while the Longhorn defense suffocated the Oklahoma State offense. In a final send-out to the “Hateful Eight,” Texas destroyed the Cowboys 49-21. Next stop: College Football Playoffs.

I got the opportunity to travel to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl, an opportunity I never imagined I’d be able to experience. It was the first time I, or most of my peers, had experienced Texas fighting for a championship. The city was packed on New Year’s Eve with burnt orange, and talking to the fans had a different energy than that of the past years. 

Despite the disappointing outcome of the Sugar Bowl game, Sarkisian has built a foundation for years to come. Off the field, the head coach was putting in work in the recruiting process, securing his second straight top-three recruiting class.

Now, Sarkisian is utilizing the transfer portal in the offseason to its fullest potential. Joining a team filled with former transfers, such as Ewers, is the strongest average transfer portal class for 2024 as of Jan. 15, according to 247 Sports. The 2024 roster is already ranked as the second best in the nation according to the same source.

Even with the critique and heavy expectations from the outside media, Sarkisian and the 2023 Longhorns will go down as one of the best Texas teams in recent history, with foundations having been built to contend for a long time in the new-look SEC conference starting in 2024.

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About the Contributor
Evan Vieth, Senior Sports Reporter
Evan is a junior journalism major and the sports editor for the Texan. He is originally from Washington DC and has covered UT sports for 4 semesters and counting. He has covered the Men's Tennis, Soccer, Baseball and Football teams and had the opportunity to write about the 2023 Longhorns in the Sugar Bowl.