Bohls: Welcome to Austin, Sark, where Texas isn't quite ready for the SEC ... or the Hogs
- Texas showed it's not close to being ready for the SEC after losing big to Arkansas.
- Longhorns have to upgrade its offensive and defensive lines to become truly elite.
- To add to his woes, Steve Sarkisian might even have a budding quarterback controversy.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — If you can’t beat ‘em, and it’s readily apparent that Texas cannot, join ‘em.
The Longhorns have got the joining part down pat. The beating 'em, well, that's another story.
In fact, here’s an idea.
Hold off on that whole when-can-we-join-the-SEC deal, and maybe ask that league to wait to accept them until, say, 2030. Uh, do I hear 2035?
It may take that long before the Longhorns are ready if Texas’ humbling 40-21 loss to underdog Arkansas on Saturday night is any indication.
Because at this rate, who knows when Steve Sarkisian is going to coach ‘em up and recruit ‘em to assemble the talent and acquire the smarts needed to play in that league. He ain’t at Alabama anymore.
Texas just doesn’t have the meat or the muscle up front to handle SEC teams, plain and simple. Did you notice those ubiquitous preseason watch lists? For instance, the Outland Trophy folks listed 80 potential candidates for the award to the best interior lineman in college football, no matter which side of the ball. Eighty.
Not a single Longhorn made the list. Not a one.
And that’s where SEC elite make their living. Up front.
Texas' offensive line got manhandled by a surprise Arkansas three-man line, which confused the Longhorns to no end and led to three sacks of Hudson Card and all kind of harassment.
“They borderline dared us to run the ball,” Sark sighed, “and we couldn’t do it.”
Welcome to Texas, Sark, where dreams go to die. Or have lately since 2005. But he’s got a six-year contract to find out how to fix this.
It’s far too premature and downright ridiculous to attach any long-term reservations about Sark’s ability to transform this program into a winner. That said, Saturday night was flat-out an embarrassing performance.
To get dominated all night long and lose that badly to the dregs of the SEC — sorry, Razorbacks, but the conference standings don’t lie — is nothing short of humiliating and very telling. Especially the way it happened in front of a home audience starved for relevance and winning football as well as SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, who at halftime offered no insight on a date for Texas’ and Oklahoma’s inclusion into the SEC and said the league would follow “an orderly, respectful transition.”
So, too, can Texas wish for a transition back into big-time football at some near future. It sure doesn’t appear to be on the verge anytime soon.
Texas looked woefully underprepared, negligently unaware of the white-hot emotion that Arkansas would bring to this game. Now the Razorbacks do have some serious talent, a raw but athletic and bullish quarterback in KJ Jefferson, an angry, swarming defense, a terrific head coach in Sam Pittman and a raucous fan base that positively detests Texas.
And Texas was just no match for it all.
“This was not a performance we were anticipating,” Sarkisian said, “but I think this one game is not going to define us. It wasn’t so much what they did as much as what we didn’t do.”
And Texas did a lot to contribute to its own demise after an impressive opening win over No. 23 Louisiana. The Longhorns botched a punt, missed a 52-yard field goal, were extremely vulnerable to the run, messed up the quarterbacks rotation by holding back Casey Thompson too long when it was obvious they needed a spark and generally flubbed their big test against an SEC foe.
Remember, this was only the fourth time Arkansas has ever beaten Texas in Fayetteville. Fourth. This, in short, was the Razorbacks’ Super Bowl for a program that first played the Longhorns in 1894 and has now 79 times overall.
Arkansas football’s official website poured on a little extra salt for good measure with the words, “Welcome to the league” on Twitter.
Shall we go straight to the report card?
How many F’s are we allowed?
Those should probably be reserved for a sorely lacking offensive line — hardly a secret in the 512 — and the heretofore highly touted defensive line. The O-line gave up three sacks and 11 tackles for a loss, let a three-man pass rush harass Card all night long and couldn’t carve out much space for Bijan Robinson, getting just 69 yards rushing for the sophomore sensation and no gain longer than 20 yards. He barely had room to breathe, much less run.
“We just missed some assignments,” Robinson said. “They had a little bit of different things we didn’t work on during the week because they came free a lot. It’s a learning lesson.”
Pittman credited defensive coordinator Barry Odom for sticking with a game plan to rush only three and let his fast linebackers and defensive backs react quickly if Texas showed run. It’s a coverage that former Arkansas coach Kenny Hatfield famously utilized to combat Houston’s old run-and-shoot offense to tackle well and minimize gains.
“The entire game they played outstanding,” Pittman said. “The first half they set the tone completely.”
And the ballyhooed Texas D-line was gashed for more than 300 yards rushing and didn’t sack the quarterback once. Just a terrible indictment.
Similarly, Sark will invite criticism for waiting until the game was out of hand to give Thompson a try, not inserting the backup quarterback until only 1:50 remained in the third quarter when Texas trailed by 26 points.
Card was pretty awful, and the redshirt freshman — making just his second start and in an environment only slightly less hostile than the Texas Legislative chambers — performed poorly. He overthrew targets on deep routes, couldn’t find open receivers and looked flustered by a defense that dropped eight into coverage.
The lack of a clear-cut starting quarterback now resurfaces as only one of the many problems facing Texas.
On Thursday, Sark mentioned the “physical brand” of ball that’s played in the SEC and said if a team is not ready to play “that style of football, you’ll get your ass knocked off.”
Consider the Horns' knocked off.
Sark got a rude awakening after his successful debut a week ago. In his second game, his team looked ill-prepared and much less motivated than the home team. He said this week that the over-the-top emotion would last “as long as we let it last.”
Well, the Hogs’ high lasted far into the night as many in the record sellout crowd at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium stormed the field at the conclusion and commenced celebrating the biggest home win in ages.
Ultimately, the sorely disappointing effort will leave Longhorn Nation angry and skeptical about what lies ahead in the short term. Texas, after all, got manhandled by a supposedly inferior team that looked anything but, and will now limp into the Rice game with little confidence and might even have a budding quarterback controversy on its hands.
Welcome to Austin, Sark.