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Golden: Sarkisian played the right Card with Texas' quarterback decision

Horns play at Arkansas Saturday

  • Card completed 14 of 21 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Card added a rushing touchdown.
  • Sarkisian named Card the starter over Casey Thompson Monday.

Hudson Card is the guy at Texas.

Just ask Louisiana.

The Ragin’ Cajuns got after him Saturday. Tried to rattle the redshirt freshman. Sent exotic blitzes his way.

The new Longhorns quarterback handled it all with the calm of an undertaker working his 10,000th career funeral and spoke after the 38-18 season-opening win in a low, no-nonsense tone after his Horns deep-sixed the Ragin' Cajuns to start the Steve Sarkisian era.

More:A smashing debut: Texas Longhorns power past Louisiana behind Card, Robinson 38-18

In his first career start, redshirt freshman quarterback Hudson Card completed 14 of 21 passes for 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns while adding a nifty short scoring run in Saturday's 38-18 win over No. 23 Louisiana. He had been named the starter earlier in the week.

The only thing missing after the win was Card driving to DKR in a Ghostbusters hearse. Unlike Stantz and Venkman, Card's performance didn’t totally exorcise the demons that have hovered over this program in the unlucky 13 years since Colt McCoy and Mack Brown embarked on that 25-2 binge that included a Big 12 title, two New Year’s Six bowl games and a national runner-up finish. But for one sweltering afternoon in front of 91,000-plus, he gave Longhorn Nation a reason to hope.

“I thought he was great,” Sarkisian said of his new quarteterback. “I thought he was even keel. That’s kind of his personality to begin with. He’s not a big emotional up-and-down kind of kind. He’s got an even keel about him. I don’t feel like the moment was too big for him.”

Sarkisian has taken great pains to include Casey Thompson in questions related to the quarterback position because he wants to make sure the veteran sticks around for the rest of the season, but it’s obvious that Card represents the best chance for the Horns to play in special games over the next two or three years.

He doesn’t rattle easily, and that goes back to playing in a high school pressure cooker at Lake Travis.

More:Bohls, Golden: Just like starting over — at Texas, and Bama, and Clemson, and Ohio State

Texas quarterback Hudson Card runs for a touchdown during the second half of Saturday's 38-18 win over Louisiana. Backup quarterback Casey Thompson played the fourth quarter.

He also doesn’t give long-winded answers to postgame questions. He speaks rather softly but carries a big arm.

How did you sleep last night, I asked.

“I actually slept pretty good.”

Longhorns fans are sleeping soundly one game into the season. He has the look of the program’s next good quarterback, possibly its next great one.

Card played turnover-free ball against a defense that returned mostly everybody from 2020. He completed 14 of 21 passes for 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns while adding a nifty short scoring run on a zone read play — those opportunities will come in abundance with a Heisman candidate in the backfield — before departing midway through the third quarter.

He also kept the season’s first touchdown drive alive with some quick feet on a fourth-down scramble in the first quarter.

Quarterback Hudson Card, center, celebrates a touchdown during Texas' win over No. 23 Louisiana at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Card produced two passing touchdowns and a rushing score in his first career start.

As for Thompson, he professionally colored between the lines and accounted himself very well against a worn-down defense.

A Cajuns defense that forced the fourth-most turnovers in the country last season (23) had none against the Horns and their new quarterback, who didn’t force the issue, smartly checking down to his secondary options and throwing the ball away when he was flushed from the pocket.

We got a glimpse of how good Card can be at the end of the first half when he went 4-for-4 on third downs in a 14-play, 62-yard drive that culminated with a short touchdown pass to tight end Cade Brewer. His step-up in the pocket and 13-yard completion to Jordan Whittington — how good did he look? — on a second-and-13 play exhibited nice pocket presence and accuracy, two traits germane to good quarterbacking.

Card said he spent his Friday night in front of a plate of pasta and some game film. Nerves? That’s for the next guy. Bigger tests will come, but he passed his first with flying colors.

“He’s amazing,” Whittington said. “And that also was his first time in front of a crowd like that. Just seeing how comfortable he was in the pocket and how relaxed he was shows how much better he’s going to get.”

It’s difficult to manufacture poise during preseason scrimmages in an empty stadium, and it’s even more difficult to ascertain what will happen when the black jersey is lifted and it’s open season on your most important player. Card held up in his first real test and Sarkisian walked off the field not only as a winner, but as a head coach who's feeling much better about his decision to go with upside over experience.

The butterflies were there, but who wouldn’t be a little nervous with a job of this magnitude?

“If you’re not nervous, there’s something probably wrong with you,” Card said. “You’re playing in front of 100,000, so obviously a little bit. I was confident throughout practice this past week, and that helped me be prepared.”

Sarkisian will have us believe that he will reevaluate the position for the first road test against Arkansas, but he knows that he's on to something. Card stood up against a quality opponent and delivered.

He’s the guy.

For you history buffs who are wondering how some notable former quarterbacks fared in their first starts:

In 2002, Vince Young, a redshirt freshman, replaced Chance Mock as the starter and competed 11 of 15 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown with an interception in a 40-19 win at Iowa State. He also rushed 10 times for 58 yards.

Colt McCoy, also a redshirt freshman, completed 12 of 19 passes for 178 yards and three touchdowns and added a rushing score in a 56-7 win over North Texas.

In 2017, freshman Sam Ehlinger completed 15 of 27 attempts for 222 yards with a touchdown while adding 48 rushing yards in a 56-0 win over San Jose State.

Expectations are always large in these parts, and Card will have to carry the weight of the program on his shoulders moving forward.

But Sark made the right call with Card.

Now let’s watch him grow.