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Texas, Kansas coaches hopeful game can be played despite COVID-19 issues

RB Bijan Robinson, KR D'Shawn Jamison win weekly Big 12 awards; QB Sam Ehlinger, DE Joseph Ossai recognized nationally

Texas running back Bijan Robinson was named the Big 12's newcomer of the week Monday.

Texas football players had been nearly perfect this season at avoiding COVID-19. Then came Sunday’s round of tests, and now all activities have been paused.

Three players and two staff members tested positive Sunday. The Longhorns were dismissed in the afternoon and took Monday off while team doctors and trainers started another round of testing. 

This week’s regular-season finale against winless Kansas is now in jeopardy, but coaches for both teams expect the game to be played.

“I’m worried about the pause that we’re on right now,” Texas coach Tom Herman said on the Big 12 coaches' call. “I’m worried about the kids, making sure they’re OK mentally, making sure they’re OK physically. My stress level right now is just getting back on the field and preparing for Kansas.”

The game was originally scheduled for Nov. 21, but Kansas had a flare-up and the game was postponed. On Monday, Kansas coach Les Miles said, “Yes, I think there’s still a good chance. That’s the caveat. It's what we need to happen.”

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby told the American-Statesman’s “On Second Thought” podcast that every Big 12 game is worth $3.5 million in television revenue. So the league and both teams have a financial incentive to play, even though the game means nothing in the league standings.

Texas (6-3, 5-3 Big 12) has been eliminated from Big 12 title contention, though the program has secured a fourth straight winning season. Kansas is 0-9.

If the game can’t be played on Saturday as scheduled, possible dates would be either Dec. 18 or Dec. 19, a UT source said.

Herman is stuck in a tornado of speculation about his job status. He’s trying his best not to let it show. Early signing day is Dec. 16, but there’s been no public show of support from UT athletic director Chris Del Conte.

On Monday’s call, Herman was asked how much he’s changed this year.

“I would hope that 2020 as a year, as a whole, would change most human beings,” he said. “We’ve gone through so much, not just as a team, but as a country, as a world. I think me specifically, in a year like this year, sensitivity reigns supreme. You’ve got to be extremely sensitive and empathic to the things that are going on in the lives of the people that are around you.

“I hope everybody has been changed for the better for having gone through what everybody’s gone through this year.”

Weekly honors: Two Longhorns were honored Monday by the Big 12 for standout performances against Kansas State. 

Freshman running back Bijan Robinson was named the league's newcomer of the week. He ran for 172 yards on nine carries and scored three touchdowns in the 69-31 win. Robinson’s 19.1 yards per carry also broke a school record set in 1951.

Junior D’Shawn Jamison was named the league’s special teams player of the week. He had a 98-yard kickoff return and returned three total for 150 yards. 

National honors: Quarterback Sam Ehlinger has been named a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award and Wuerffel Trophy, presented annually to the nation’s best quarterback. Defensive end Joseph Ossai was named a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, which goes to the nation’s best defensive player. 

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.