Bohls: Texas football team is learning who it is, and isn't, after these first five games
- This Texas football team has learned it plays hard, gives maximum effort and is a very gritty team.
- Steve Sarkisian has quickly figured out he can trust Bijan Robinson to be the team's focal point.
- "We play with extreme grit," Texas defensive lineman Moro Ojomo said.
We learned all kinds of things on Monday.
We found out that Keondre Coburn hates roller coasters and has never even been to the State Fair, other than a few occasions inside the Cotton Bowl. The nose tackle can still remember his mother “tricked me” into riding one such ride at Disney World, and he uttered his first cuss word: “We went way up, and then way down. I said the F-bomb going down.”
We discovered Casey Thompson had 30 college offers and turned down late ones from Nick Saban and Urban Meyer and Lincoln Riley. Loyal to his word.
Steve Sarkisian informed me he has never had a Fletcher’s corny dog, the staple at the State Fair. So does the new Texas head coach even like corny dogs?
“I do, I do,” he said on his way out of his weekly press conference.
We were told that Bijan Robinson is ready for a heavier workload this time in Dallas.
A year ago, the then-Arizona freshman star-in-waiting got a very small peek at the Texas-Oklahoma blood feud. He got all of five carries for 17 yards in the four-overtime loss to the Sooners.
So, wink, wink, do you expect a little busier day for yourself Saturday than five carries?
“Yeah,” Robinson said, “maybe six.”
Or maybe 56.
Whatever it takes.
“At times we’ve played good complementary football last week,” Sarkisian said. “When one side has struggled, the other side has picked it up. After the opening kickoff (that set up TCU’s early first touchdown), I thought our special teams played lights. The best of the year.”
The Longhorns learned all sorts of things about themselves in the 32-27 escape in Fort Worth against Texas-killer TCU, and No. 23 Texas — they’re even higher (21st) in the Associated Press poll — should be able to apply all of them against unbeaten Oklahoma.
“Teams are starting to settle in to what they are at this point,” down lineman Moro Ojomo said. “We’re trying to set a standard here and uphold it.”
Five games into the season, this 4-1 Texas bunch has rattled off three consecutive victories since the Arkansas beatdown and has proven all manner of things and learned about the true identity it is shaping.
This much seems obvious as the team nears the halfway point of the season with its biggest showdown of its entire schedule.
The Longhorns play hard. They’re far from perfect. But they bring an intensity. “We’re hard players,” Ojomo said. “We play with extreme grit. Coach Sark always calls us a gritty team.”
They respond to adversity. Remember that impressive, 99-yard drive that the Horned Frogs pulled off after stoning Robinson on the doorstep of the end zone? Yeah, well, the Longhorns offense delivered with a clock-killing drive that produced two critical first downs to seal the win.
They’ve learned how to finish games. That was one of Tom Herman’s biggest deficiencies, but the Longhorns may have put that bad habit in the past, if the TCU game was any indication.
They know a workhorse when they see one. Whereas the previous regime slow-played the gifted Robinson from the get-go and severely restricted his playing time, Sarkisian is all in full-throttle with clearly the best running back in college football and a leading Heisman Trophy contender. Robinson can handle whatever Sarkisian asks.
They know they’ll have to be much more efficient in the red zone Saturday than they were versus TCU, a rare anomaly for an offense that had been scoring touchdowns in that area heretofore. Texas had scored on 19 penetrations inside the opponents’ 20, but last Saturday produced just one touchdown and four field goals. “We’ve got to clean that up,” Sarkisian said.
They know they’ve got a true gamer in Thompson, the fourth-year junior who will be off-the-charts ready to reverse OU’s recent domination in this series and will have to worry more about blocking out the outside noise and not trying to do too much. This will be his first action in this arena for the son of a former championship quarterback.
They know their offensive line, now minus the experienced hand that was Denzel Okafor for the season, remains unsettled but improving.
They have figured out their defense swarms to the ball, doesn’t lack for effort and generally tackles well, aside from some really bad lapses against TCU, but still needs a lot of work on both the front and back end.
This defensive front still doesn’t get to the quarterback near often enough, and the secondary has been up and down but will get talented cornerback Josh Thompson back for OU after sitting out the TCU game with a concussion. Last year, Texas delivered just a single sack on Sooners quarterback Spencer Rattler, a number that won’t get it done in the Cotton Bowl.
And they know in spite of tangible progress, they still have a ways to go to be the team they want to be.
And Sark has learned he needs to experience the State Fair’s best delicacy.
“Yeah,” he said, “I’ve heard.”