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Texas has lots of weapons, but Bijan Robinson’s initial spark energizes Horns vs. Red Raiders

Texas fans have every right to wonder why quarterback Hudson Card started the season opener. And why exactly did coach Steve Sarkisian wait so long to insert Casey Thompson against Arkansas?

Regardless, this is Thompson’s offense now. 

But is this Bijan Robinson’s team? 

“When I’m breaking tackles and making people miss downfield,” Robinson said, “I can just feel the energy of the team grow.”

Texas just obliterated Texas Tech 70-35 on Saturday at Royal-Memorial Stadium. Robinson provided the initial jolt for his teammates and 98,349 fans, and Thompson channeled all that energy into six touchdowns for UT’s biggest win over Tech in 16 years.

Texas running back Bijan Robinson looks for more yards during the Longhorns' 70-35 win over Texas Tech on Saturday at Royal-Memorial Stadium. He finished the day with 137 rushing yards on 18 carries along with 54 receiving yards on two catches.

“We have a saying,” Thompson said. “Stay behind No. 5 and let him carry us. He’s doing a good job of that.”

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There’s not enough toner to print off enough stat sheets. Thompson completed 18 of 23 passes for 303 yards and five touchdowns. He ran for another score on a one-yard quarterback sneak. Xavier Worthy had five catches for 100 yards and three touchdowns (23, 3, 62 yards). Jordan Whittington had five catches for 93 yards and a five-yard score.

Texas (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) had 639 total yards in the league opener while Tech (3-1, 0-1) looked just overmatched at times. It was the first time Texas had scored at least 70 points since the Big 12 championship game against Colorado in 2005.

What does this mean? Well, it won’t mean much if Texas can’t start stacking wins, starting next weekend at TCU, which lost by eight to SMU on Saturday. 

“I ask our guys quite frequently, raise your hand if you’ve won a Big 12 championship,” Sarkisian said. “And I got one guy in the room who can raise his hand, and it’s Blake Gideon. He’s our DB coach.

“We’ve got unfinished business,” the coach added. “We’ve got work to do. We’ve got no time to relax and be like, ‘OK, we’re good now.’ We’ve got games ahead that are big games, and we’ve got to continue to strive to get better and that’s why practice is so critical to our success.”

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Still, it was impossible not to come away thinking the Longhorns have a possible Heisman Trophy contender in Robinson. It’s going to take a string of victories, plus more highlight-reel spins and breakaway runs by the sophomore from Arizona. But anything’s possible in a year where the Big 12 race is wide open.

“I’m not too concerned with trying to get guys touches so he can get awards,” Sarkisian said. “We’re focused on the team.”

This summer, Sarkisian complimented Robinson for his one-cut ability, comparing him to former USC great Reggie Bush. Robinson idolized Bush growing up and wears jersey No. 5 because of it. 

Texas' No. 5s — defensive back D'Shawn Jamison, left, and running back Bijan Robinson — discuss their differences for the camera after the Longhorns' 70-35 win over Texas Tech on Saturday at Royal-Memorial Stadium.

Robinson is every bit as electric in open space as the 2005 Heisman winner. Look what happened on the game’s first possession. Sarkisian rolled the dice on fourth-and-3 from the Tech 38-yard line. Thompson found Robinson on a short wheel route, and he simply took off. Exploded, really.

Robinson scored from 38 yards out in lightning-quick fashion as Texas was off and running. He would finish the day with 137 rushing yards on 18 carries along with 54 receiving yards on two catches.

“He’s electric, he makes everyone excited whenever he’s getting a carry, he’s so much fun to be able to block for,” Texas tackle Derek Kerstetter said. 

The offense caught fire. Texas went up 14-0 on the next possession when Roschon Johnson scored from three yards out. Johnson had a workman-like day: 13 carries for 64 yards and two touchdowns.

The Red Raiders looked like they were reeling when Keilan Robinson blew past the protection and blocked his second punt of the season. Freshman Morice Blackwell Jr. thought he had a scoop-and-score touchdown. But Robinson was called offside for lining up in the neutral zone.

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That Matrix-level bullet dodge gave Tech some hope. Coach Matt Wells went for it on fourth-and-2 from the Texas 43. Quarterback Tyler Shough found Mason Tharp for a seven-yard gain. Shough would finish off the drive himself with a six-yard dive into the end zone but may have suffered a shoulder injury in the process.

Thompson responded by engineering a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped by his one-yard quarterback sneak. Then, UT cornerback Josh Thompson made a perfect read, jumped the route and took an interception 27 yards the other way for another Texas score.

Texas went up 35-7 on Casey Thompson’s picture-perfect 23-yard touchdown pass to Worthy.

And when you’re hot, you are hot. Casey Thompson overthrew Joshua Moore but somehow the ball landed right in Jordan Whittington’s breadbasket for a 25-yard gain, setting up another score just before halftime.

“Yeah, it was a little high for Josh,” Whittington said. “When I saw the ball was high and he tipped it, I stopped and it came right to me.”

Five Texas possessions ended with five touchdowns as the Horns led 42-14 at halftime. Sarkisian’s offense had 354 total yards at the break. When all the receipts were tallied, the Horns had 336 rushing yards and 303 passing yards. That’s about as balanced as any play-caller could expect. 

“If I could get that every week, I’d be a happy man,” Sarkisian said.

Even in a blowout win, the coaches still have plenty of film they can chew on. Tech’s backup quarterback Henry Colombi threw three touchdown passes. But linebacker Luke Brockermeyer had a tip-drill interception, and Alfred Collins had an impressive sack from a crazy formation with three defensive linemen rushing from a straight line. Tech still managed 520 total yards.

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But Texas was so far ahead it didn’t matter. Sarkisian got backup quarterback Card into the game, but he did not throw a pass. Lots of backups subbed in during the fourth quarter.

The Arkansas loss is a distant memory now. Texas is on a two-game winning streak and looking for more. Robinson is happy to lead the charge.

“When we start fast, start early and if I have the opportunity to do that for my team and get us going,” Robinson said, “then I feel we’ll have a pretty good day on the field.”

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.