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Bohls: Thompson, Worthy a Texas passing tandem worthy of high praise and expectations

  • Quarterback Casey Thompson made his first college start, and wide receiver Xavier Worthy is a frosh.
  • These two Longhorns could well become a huge passing tandem in the future.
  • Worthy and roommate Bijan Robinson both write down their weekly goals for each game.

Texas ran wild all over Rice as we figured it would as a 26-point favorite.

Bijan Robinson naturally did Bijan Robinson things.

Roschon Johnson and Keilan Robinson both did their Bijan Robinson impersonations to a T.

The game was decided early. Imagine our shock.

The Longhorns (2-1) got a shutout, which absolutely no one expected.

But the big revelation and one of the most significant outcomes from Texas’ 58-0 rout on Saturday night might well be the passing tandem of quarterback Casey Thompson and wide receiver Xavier Worthy as the next great Longhorns connection.

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More:Texas 58, Rice 0: After tasting ‘humble pie,’ Horns simply dominate overmatched Owls

Thompson was near perfect, hitting 15 of his 18 throws for 164 yards and two scores. One of those touchdowns went to Worthy, who hauled in seven catches for 88 yards.

OK it’s early. Thompson’s started exactly one college game in four years, and Worthy is a freshman who’s been on campus since, well, late May. So we hesitate to get too far ahead of ourselves.

Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy is undersized at 160 pounds, but is fast and much more physical than he appears. The freshman from California led the Longhorns with seven catches for 88 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's 58-0 win over Rice.

Nah, what the heck? Where’s the fun in that?

We’re not projecting stardom instantly or anything that outlandish. Maybe November, right?

After all, Thompson’s in a rush to get things moving after sitting behind Sam Ehlinger for three years. Who can blame him?

More:How the Texas Longhorns graded out in their 58-0 win over Rice

He was almost giddy after his first extended playing time ever, directing an offense that totaled a whopping 620 yards.

“We rolled right down the field,” the junior quarterback said. “Our running backs are the heart and core of our team. I think we could have run or thrown for tons of yards. Hundreds of yards. I think we could have scored on every drive if I hadn’t thrown that interception when my arm got hit.”

And Worthy’s such a raw talent out of California and decided on Texas out of his respect for Steve Sarkisian’s system polished with the Crimson Tide.

“I loved the way he used DeVonta Smith at Alabama,” Worthy said. “He used him just like he’ll use me.”

So Worthy's trying to duplicate the Heisman career Smith pulled out with the Crimson Tide?

“Yeah,” he said with his wry smile, “that’s the plan.”

Worthy is all about plans. Big ones.

Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy breaks a tackle for more yards past Rice defensive back Gabe Taylor during the first half of Saturday's win over the Owls. Worthy, a freshman, later caught his first college touchdown.

In fact, he said his personal goal for his first season as a Longhorn was to have 1,000 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns.

“That’s a pretty good freshman year,” Worthy said.

Yes, that would be a decent season, especially since only eight players in a Longhorns uniform have ever put up a 1,000-yard season and only Jordan Shipley and Roy Williams did it twice apiece. They just happen to be the best receivers in school history.

Why not set lofty goals.

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Worthy bunks with Bijan Robinson and said he two have begun a weekly tradition of writing on a little piece of paper their goals for the upcoming game. They fold it, write "God bless" on the top and save it to review after the game.

“I wrote down 10 catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns,” Worthy said. “Seven for 88 isn’t too bad.”

And what did Bijan put on paper?

“I think Bijan wrote down 200,” he said.

And Robinson likely would have reached that number had he not been pulled early in the third quarter after a 127-yard day with Texas up 51-0. His last carry came one play before Keilan Robinson had a lightning-fast, 65-yard sprint to the end zone. Jonathon Brooks, another freshman, took one in from 17 yards to complete the scoring in the final minute of the third period and had a couple of 360 twirls on one run.

Quite simply, Texas got cross-country scoring runs from Bijan Robinson, Johnson, Keilan Robinson and pretty much any other Robinson, had another one gotten into the action. Yeah, Rice (0-3) isn’t real good.

Needless to say, Texas is up to its ears in quality backs. Sarkisian just has to figure out the quarterback and receiver positions, and Saturday’s game marks a lot of progress.

Thompson, in his first college start, performed admirably. One turnover when he was decked by a fierce pass rush, but otherwise no blemish. He threw a couple of touchdowns, including a wheel-route throw to tight end Jared Wiley, often a part of a three-tight end package, and the 13-yard, back-shoulder throw to Worthy.

"Everybody talks about his speed and quickness," Thompson said of Worthy, "but he's got really good ability to get in and out of cuts and break down a defender. And he can stop on a dime."

Sarkisian labeled his team’s offensive performance “relatively efficient” with only four incompletions and a rash of big-time runs against an overmatched defense that ranked 105th nationally before this game.

Worthy is the slightly spindly but totally explosive wideout who was going to be a Michigan Wolverine but had a change of heart and came to Austin after not playing football in 2020 when California postponed the fall season. He’s got star quality written all over him, which is important because presumptive star Joshua Moore really hasn’t shown up this season for whatever reason.

Worthy may just become an electrifying performer. He glides for one thing. He’s also well-versed in body control. He’s so much more physical than his 6-1, 160-pound frame would suggest, a part of his game that he revealed on his one punt return. And he’s got the hands of a sculptor.

“Xavier was great,” Sarkisian said. “It was a point of emphasis to get him the ball in space and see what he can do. He has a physicality about him. He’ll drop his shoulder and finish the run when a lot of guys might step out of bounds.”

Instead, these two might well step into the limelight. It doesn’t take much imagination to see Thompson teaming up with Worthy often this season. Worthy was in his buddy’s ear all week, saying he needed a touchdown Saturday.

“We just have a bond,” Worthy said. “He’s going to be a big key to our team. Casey’s a risk-taker. And he’s very level-headed.”

This could be a critical development because even Sarkisian earlier in the week said his passing game has been pretty much “irrelevant,” and the stats bear him out. Entering this third game of the season, Texas ranked a woeful 91st nationally in passing.

These two Longhorns could well become the next Colt McCoy-Jordan Shipley duo even if these two are not roommates. We’d settle for a McCoy-Quan Cosby kind of pairing.

Maybe we’ll be talking about these two newbies as we did Roy Williams when he was hauling in acrobatic catches from Chris Simms and Major Applewhite. Ehlinger made it a habit to find Devin Duvernay deep or Lil’ Jordan Humphrey on short routes. Vince Young spread the love around and the passes among tight end David Thomas and wideouts like Limas Sweed.

For you old-schoolers, think Robert Brewer and blur of a receiver Herkie Walls.

And if you want to go way back, James Street to Cotton Speyrer are as pleasant a memory as there is, with apologies to Randy Peschel.

Hey, Longhorn Nation can dream, right? Besides, the running backs can’t get all the glory.

“I told Casey all week,” Worthy said, “if you don’t get me a touchdown this week, you trippin.”

And what did Thompson say?

“I got ya.”