It’s easy to point to the fact that Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson sat this one out in favor of saving themselves for the NFL draft as the reason for Texas’ disappointing performance in Thursday night’s Alamo Bowl loss to No. 12 Washington. Because yeah, that’s probably the biggest culprit.
Without Robinson, their Doak Walker Award winner, and Johnson, the versatile running back and team leader, the Longhorns’ bread-and-butter running game showed up stale in San Antonio. Quinn Ewers ended his first season as Texas’ starter in strong fashion, and the defense disrupted things just enough to throw Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. off his game, but the defense eventually wore down and the lack of running punch was too much to overcome.
Our takeaways from Texas’ 27-20 loss:
What this loss means
Texas ends its season with an 8-5 record, which sure doesn’t feel as good as 9-4 would have. It’ll likely mean the 20th-ranked Longhorns will end the season outside the Top 25. There are now question marks at running back and linebacker, which have been two of Texas’ top position units all season long. We’ll likely see some heavy portal action, whether it’s current players like Xavier Worthy or Jordan Whittington heading elsewhere for changes of scenery or cases where the Longhorns bring in ready-made starters at recever, running back, linebacker and defensvie back. It means Steve Sarkisian’s first year will be remembered for going 5-7 and his second could well be the bowl loss. And it means the Big 12 is now 1-5 in bowl games with two to go.
Who’ll be Texas’ lead back in 2023?
Chances are very good he’s not even on campus yet. Five-star running back Cedric Baxter Jr. — like Bijan Robinson in 2020, the No. 1 high school running back prospect in the country — signed out of Florida last week, and who knows what tonight’s rushing performance means to how Steve Sarkisian works the transfer portal.
Keilan Robinson, with questions over his durability, got the start and finished with 8 carries for 27 yards. Jonathon Brooks, who was expected to be Texas’ lead back, had 18 yards on six carries. He flashed on a 34-yard touchdown catch off a screen play, but averaged 3.0 yards per run.
Not having Robinson was felt throughout the night. Sarkisian went for a slant pass on fourth-and-1 in the first half rather than what normally would have been a Bijan run behind a solid offensive line. Later, on third-and-1, Keilan Robinson was stuffed for no gain. The Longhorns punted.
Three big plays from tonight’s loss
Fourth-down trickery. What a play call. Washington went for it on fourth-and-1 from its own 34 with 10:30 left in the third quarter. Which made no sense, leading 13-10, and when Michael Penix Jr. lined up under center for the first time all night, and then the Huskies flashed all sorts of players in motion, and then as Penix let the play clock roll down, it looked like an obvious ruse to get a Longhorn to jump offside. But just as you figured that was the call, the Huskies snapped it and Penix surged for a first down. They went on to score a touchdown to go up 20-10.
Wayne Taulapapa’s 42-yard run. It not only put Washington up 10-3, it was the first wow moment of the night from the Huskies’ offense. And really, one of the only ones, as it turned out.
Xavier Worthy’s drop. And Xavier Worthy’s drop. With Texas having just gone down 20-10, the Longhorns really needed an answer in the third quarter. But on back-to-back plays, Quinn Ewers found an open Worthy for 35- to 40-yard shots downfield, and both times, Worthy dropped the catch. Ewers’ placement on both passes were spot-on. And Worthy’s second drop should have gone for a 66-yard score.
Quinn Ewers finished 31-of-47 for 369 yards and one touchdown. Casey Cain (4-106) and Gunnar Helm (1-19) had nice games. Ja’Tavion Sanders had five grabs for 36 yards.