Bohls: Steve Sarkisian impressive in Big 12 debut with Longhorns
Welcome to the Big 12, Sark.
Welcome to Sark, Big 12.
Yes, we know it's only one game, but let's not get it confused. The Big 12 had better get up to speed fast on the dynamic, first-year Longhorn coach as much as vice versa. That's because Texas made its introduction to its soon-to-be-old conference Steve Sarkisian-style and did so in a big way in an emphatic 70-35 romp over Texas Tech.
Did we say emphatic? Yes, we did. This was old-school Texas.
Texas vs. Texas Tech:Key plays from the Longhorns' blowout win
The rest of the league can brace itself for a high-octane offense chock full of weapons and diversity as well as an aggressive, attacking defense that tackles well but, yes, is still very much a work in progress.
And if recent early results from the Big 12 are accurate, there's not a great team in the league, which gives everyone hope. Especially Texas.
TCU, coming off a bye, still loses at home to SMU. Seriously? That's Texas' next opponent, and Gary Patterson has to be biting his fingernails. Well, maybe.
"We're going to bring some stuff up there," said Longhorn quarterback Casey Thompson, who is 2-0 in a pair of college starts and has engineered a mind-boggling 21 scores in his last 24 possessions. "Obviously that's a good start, but I want to score on all 24 drives."
Never be satisfied.
Sarkisian is looking like the real deal with terrific play-calling, lots of motion, more formations than a military parade and all kinds of exotics. OK, maybe he did screw up the decision on his starting quarterback, but he rectified it quickly, turning to Thompson the savior after two games. No stubbornness there.
Sark's used three tight ends at a time. He uses bunch receivers, tight ends in motion, gone empty backfield and lines up Jordan Whittington all over the yard. His defensive coordinator once stacked three defensive lineman in a vertical I-formation and got a sack from Alfred Collins on Saturday.
"I don't know what it's called," Sarkisian said. "A tower kind of deal."
Tower of power this time.
He found Xavier Worthy on a delayed, crossing pattern on a wheel route, a wrinkle that freed him in the end zone for an easy score.
"It was a little pick play," Whittington said. "That was new."
There's always going to be new stuff.
Said Thompson, "We've got hundreds of plays."
And the old ones still work, too.
An opponent still can't stop Bijan Robinson on the wheel route. Or Worthy, who scored two other times on a dig route over the middle and an RPO call in the back of the end zone. All three of his scores came on newly called plays.
If this is any indication of things to come, Sarkisian will well be worth every dollar that Texas shelled out to lure him from Alabama. We'll talk about that Longhorn shredded secondary at a later time. Suffice it to say, Texas Tech's got some offensive weapons of its own, even after starting quarterback Tyler Shough left with a shoulder injury early in the second quarter.
Not that it would have made any difference. Texas (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) piled up numbers like it was on a slot machine. Finished with 336 yards rushing (against a defense allowing 57 yards a game on the ground) and 303 passing.
"If I get that every week," Sarkisian said. "I'd be a happy man."
He might. And Texas just might have to outscore people this year even though it got its first defensive score of the year and almost its second special-teams score but for a penalty.
Sark might have gotten an F in Fayetteville, but he's earned a solid A-minus ever since.
For now, Longhorn Nation can take comfort in a second consecutive blowout win, which doesn't happen every day around these parts much any more.
Texas put up a 70-spot for the first time in 16 very long years. Let that sink in for a minute. Not since the Vince Young crowd ran that score up in about three quarters in a Big 12 title game against Colorado in 2005 has a Longhorn offense been that proficient.
Heck, a 35-point laugher over the Red Raiders might be enough to even restore the now 3-1 Longhorns a spot in the Top 25 as they try to put the dismal performance against Arkansas behind them.
"One game doesn’t win you a Big 12 championship," Sarkisian said. "It’s a body of work we have to keep putting together. We’ve got challenges ahead, and we've got work to do."
As Thompson pointed out, "We've done a good job not getting complacent."
Not that the unranked Longhorns have accomplished all that much yet.
This one had all kinds of hijinks.
Even some joker disguised as Santa Claus scampered onto the Campbell-Williams Field and ran as if he was Bijan Robinson. Had to cover about 180 yards in totality before diving into the end zone and getting hauled off by the gendarmes.
Mostly it was the Texas offense that came bearing gifts. From everybody.
Thompson had a near-flawless performance again, showing poise and confidence and good judgment, save for one interception he threw in the end zone on an ill-advised pass.
Robinson continues to show off his magic feet with the power of a Cedric Benson and a smoothness of a Jamaal Charles. He's a special back, maybe even the best in all of college football.
Worthy is a star in the making. You're going to hear his name a lot in the coming years.
Until the second half deteriorated in a tit-for-tat score fest, this was a dominant Texas performance, one on which the Longhorns can continue to build the rest of the year.
This one was over well before it was over. Try a 42-14 halftime lead that easily could have been 49-7, had not Keilan Robinson lined up offsides on a fourth-down punt that he blocked and Morice Blackwell scooped for a touchdown. Alas, a touchdown that ultimately never happened.
But there were a whole heckuva lot of touchdowns that did.
Including the Longhorns' first defensive score of the season, a perfectly read and timed interception by cornerback Josh Thompson that he returned to the end zone.
"We've proved we can play fast and physical," Josh Thompson said. "Are we a complete team? We're very close. It's going to be a fun year."
Combine that play with a flawless first half by Casey Thompson with two touchdown passes and three running scores by Bijan Robinson, Roschon Johnson and Thompson, and Texas had its first rout since, well, last week's 58-0 Rice shutout.
This, my friends, was the type of blowout Texas teams used to deliver. With fair regularity, at least in Mack Brown's first 10 years (save against that team from the north) and also under Darrell Royal on most Saturdays.
No, we are NOT saying Texas is back. Not remotely.
But these Longhorns have rebounded well since the flub in Fayetteville, outscoring Rice and Texas Tech by 128-35. Sark's motto may be all gas and no brakes, but his team applied some brakes. Hudson Card and Charles Wright played from late in the third quarter through the end of the game, but neither threw a pass.
Dare I say Texas has even looked like a Top 25 team these last two weeks. We must consider the competition, of course. Rice is horrible, and Texas Tech is well below average. Texas knocked both teams' starting quarterbacks out of the game and lo and behold has learned how to tackle. These players know how to wrap up and they have the gung-ho to swarm tackle and pursue the ball.
In short, it's all good.
Now the schedule ratchets up a notch or two with a road trip to always dangerous TCU before the blood feud with arch-rival Oklahoma and then a contest with Oklahoma State. No one, including Texas, looks unbeatable.
The Horned Frogs have owned the Longhorns with seven wins in the last nine meetings, but fell to a decent, unbeaten SMU team at home. Baylor was giving Iowa State fits at press time as well. That's just not a good look for the Big 12, especially since it's having to deal with a whole 'nother kind of coach in Sarkisian. This promises to get interesting.