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Texas report card: A blowout win results in the best grades since UTEP

Texas running back Bijan Robinson (5) celebrates a touchdown with teammate Jake Majors (65) during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020.

What wasn't expected: Texas' blowout win over Kansas State, a 69-31 win that came at the tail end of a week dominated by Tom Herman coaching rumors, opt-outs from two key starters, and the general cloud over the program after having been eliminated from Big 12 championship hopes.

What should be expected: A good report card coming out of the Longhorns' complete performance in Manhattan.

The grades for the Longhorns:

Quarterbacks: B

Texas didn’t require Sam Ehlinger to be the best player on the field, which was a nice change of pace for the Longhorns. He was an efficient 20 of 27 through the air for 274 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He didn’t throw an interception. Ehlinger wasn’t active in the running game.  

Go figure: Ehlinger has completed 70% of his passes in 13 career games; the Horns are 13-0 in those

Season average: B

Running backs: A+

Bijan Robinson introduced himself to the college football world. The freshman lived up to his five-star hype with 172 yards and three touchdowns on just nine carries. That’s an average of 19.1 yards. The Arizona product started his fourth straight game and also caught three passes for 51 yards. As a team, Texas averaged 10.1 yards per carry, gaining 344 yards on 33 attempts. Roschon Johnson added 139 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 14 carries in an effort that will be overshadowed by Robinson.

Go figure: Robinson's day was the best game for a UT freshman since Chris Warren III's 276-yard night against Texas Tech in 2015 and the best rushing performance since D'Onta Foreman's 250-yard day at Kansas in 2016

Season average: C+

Wide receivers: B

Ehlinger spread his targets around in a game that placed the offensive emphasis on running the football. With a banged up offensive line, the Longhorns settled for quick passes. That eliminated some of the big-play potential from Brennan Eagles and Joshua Moore. The slot receivers emerged as the benefactors. Jake Smith led the team with four catches for 55 yards and Jordan Whittington, who scored a 15-yard touchdown on his only run of the game, caught three passes for 35 yards. 

Go figure: Eagles, Texas' leading receiver this year, went over the 1,000-yard mark for his career

Season average: C+

Tight ends: B+

The tight ends accounted for both of Ehlinger’s passing touchdowns. Malcolm Epps’ lone catch of the day was a 32-yard score. Cade Brewer scored a 15-yard touchdown on his only reception, too. Jared Wiley caught one pass for 7 yards. The tight ends should also get credit with helping block in the running game and in max-protection situations.  

Go figure: Horns tight ends this season have 27 catches for 329 yards and 5 TDs

Season average: C

Offensive line: B

Offensive line coach Herb Hand and his makeshift unit deserve a good share of credit for the offensive performance. The Longhorns entered the game without starting left tackle Samuel Cosmi, who opted out of the rest of the season to focus on the NFL draft. And senior right tackle Derek Kerstetter was injured in the first half. That forced Texas to rely on true freshmen at center (Jake Majors) and left tackle (Andrej Karic). Despite those obstacles, the Horns averaged 10.1 yards a carry and Ehlinger was sacked only once. Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich called a game that took pressure off of the group, too. 

Go figure: Kerstetter, who suffered a dislocated ankle, was making his 37th career start

Season average: C

Defensive line: C-

It was an underwhelming defensive performance overall for the Longorns, and that starts with an uninspired game by a usually dependable front line — the group produced just one sack, the Wildcats averaged six yards per carry, freshman running back Deuce Vaughn gained 125 yards and scored two touchdowns and quarterback Will Howard rushed for 79 yards on 17 carries. Alfred Collins was the only defensive lineman to record more than three tackles, and a few of those came as a reserve in the fourth quarter. Joseph Ossai, who has been the best defensive player for most of the season, recorded the team’s only sack. Two of his three tackles were behind the line of scrimmage. No other lineman recorded more than one tackle.

Go figure: Ossai's impact this season — No. 2 on the team in tackles, leading in sacks and tackles for loss, and tied for the lead in quarterback hurries and forced fumbles 

Season average: B-

Linebackers: C+

It was an up-and-down day for the linebackers. Middle linebacker Juwan Mitchell was ejected for targeting early in the second half after recording three tackles early in the game. Freshman Jaylon Ford replaced him, and the Frisco product did an admirable job. He was second on the team with seven tackles. DeMarvion Overshown had four tackles. David Gbenda recorded three tackles and an interception. 

Go figure: Gbenda's interception was the first of his career

Season average: B-

Defensive backs: C

The Kansas State passing attack was anemic with Howard, a freshman who averaged below 100 yards in his previous three starts, at the helm. He finished 16 of 27 for 174 yards and a pair of touchdowns but also two interceptions. Wide receiver Malik Knowles did most of the damage, with six catches for 95 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Horns safety Chris Brown finished the game with a team-high 12 tackles. True freshman Jerrin Thompson earned the start with Caden Sterns opting out of the rest of the season and B.J. Foster out with a sore hamstring. The Lufkin native finished with three tackles and an interception. Cornerback D’Shawn Jamison had four tackles and nearly returned a kickoff for a touchdown. 

Go figure: Brown has seven pass breakups this season, tied for the team lead

Season average: C