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Plenty of points, and plenty of reasons why Texas’ offense looks like well-oiled machine

One-third of the way through 2021 regular season, Longhorns on scorching offensive pace heading into showdown with Frogs

There are multiple reasons why the Texas offense is suddenly red-hot after scoring 128 points in two games. Frankly, all are equally important.

The play-caller likes the Longhorns’ preparedness. That alone breeds confidence. Thus, it becomes easier to go for the jugular and stick with the offense in tricky fourth-down spots. 

“I think that they need to know I believe in them,” Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said Monday. “I think the staff needs to know I believe in the plan, the calls that we have for those situations.

“And we are an attack-oriented football team,” he added. “I think it does somewhat set the tone for how we want to play the ball game.”

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Sark’s confidence is spreading. Quarterback Casey Thompson, a film room junkie, is so prepared, he’s now accurately predicting when the running backs will cut through holes and go score, like he did against Rice. “He’ll tell you what to expect with certain looks and where he’s planning to go with the ball,” receiver Jordan Whittington said.

The receivers are starting to make plays on the move. And the offensive line is finding a rhythm. It’s starting to come together as Texas marches toward October.

“I think the most impressive stat is the fact that we haven’t had to punt in two games,” Thompson said. That’s a first in Texas football history.

And maybe most important, they’re mad.

“I think Arkansas really got us with a low jab,” offensive lineman Denzel Okafor said. “We still feel that, and we have to remember how that felt.”

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Texas (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) steamrolled Rice and Texas Tech the last two weeks with an offensive blitzkrieg that hasn’t been seen around here in ages. Confidence can snowball, and by all indications, UT is itching to test its own horsepower this week against TCU (2-1, 0-0).

“We knew that whenever we got our opportunities, we were just ready to put the ball down and play football,” Thompson said of the 70-35 win over Texas Tech. “And quite honestly, that's going to be our mindset going into this week as well. 

“On offense, just put the ball down and let’s go.”

Texas quarterback Casey Thompson throws during the Longhorns' 70-35 win over Texas Tech on Saturday. Thompson has led the Longhorns to 18 touchdowns and one field goal on 22 possessions this season.

Everything changed the moment Thompson was inserted into the Arkansas game with 1:50 left in the third quarter of an eventual 40-21 loss.

Thompson has now led the Longhorns to 18 touchdowns and one field goal on 22 possessions this season. He accounted for six touchdowns against Tech and was named the Big 12 offensive player of the week. “But the five incompletions that I had,” Thompson said, “I truly know on every play what I did wrong, and how it can be better.”

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Said Sarkisian: “Confident players are dangerous, because they want more of that success, so they prepare even more. That’s the cycle that I think he’s in.”

Running back Bijan Robinson has accounted for 332 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns the last two games. As a group, Texas is now averaging 267.8 rushing yards per game, the second-highest total in the Big 12.  

Freshman receiver Xavier Worthy had five catches for 100 yards and three touchdowns. He was named the Big 12 newcomer of the week.

Eye-popping scores and big wins were exactly what Texas administrators hoped would happen on Sarkisian’s watch. Granted, Texas wasn’t exactly going up against the ’70s Steelers or the ’85 Bears the last two weeks. But the Horns dominated the teams that stood in their path, which is all Sarkisian can ask for.

Through four games, Texas ranks third nationally in scoring (46.8 points), one spot ahead of Alabama (46.5).

Sarkisian hammers home the importance of good practice habits. His play sheet is full of different play possibilities. But this isn’t a Madden video game. If the team didn’t look good doing it during the week, he’ll shy away from calling that play during the game.

“You've got to you got to be a voice of reason; you can't be stubborn with it,” Sarkisian said. “But I think the players are starting to learn me as well and my style and how I go about it. I think a lot of that comes from trust. They know I'm trusting them with some of the things that we're doing, and in turn, I think they trust me.”

Sarkisian feels more player attentiveness during Friday walk-throughs.

“They’re kind of trusting me now that we’re not walking through plays and practicing plays for my health,” the coach said. “We’re doing it because we like the call, we want to run it, we want them to execute it so that everybody feels good about it.”

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Texas running back Bijan Robinson gets by Texas Tech defensive back Reggie Pearson Jr. to score a touchdown during  the first quarter of the Longhorns' 70-35 Saturday. Robinson has accounted for 332 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns the last two games.

None of this happens if the Texas offensive line doesn’t steady the ship. Okafor said the unit’s cohesion is getting better, and they’re more on the same page with assistant coach Kyle Flood. “We definitely went to work,” Okafor said. 

Texas did not allow a single quarterback hurry against Tech. Sarkisian sees a group using better fundamentals and techniques. “And then when we’re getting there,” Sarkisian said, “I think we're getting there with a much nastier demeanor.”

The 2005 national championship team is the gold standard for offensive success. Vince Young’s crew tallied a record-setting 652 points that season. The second-place total is 551 points scored in 2008. Young’s offense was light years ahead of anything that’s come before or after at Texas.

Still, one-third of the way through the 2021 regular season, Texas is on pace to score about 560 points. That’s nothing to scoff at. If the offensive line keeps improving, this offense has blue-sky potential. 

The only person who has a problem with that may be Cameron Dicker, the punter.

Dicker, the kicker, can trot out for extra points all he wants.

“We’re doing a good job of creating explosive plays and playing with good tempo,” Thompson said. “We haven’t had many mental errors. And coach Sark is obviously putting forward a good game plan every week. So I think it starts from the top down.”

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

Saturday's game

Texas at TCU, 11 a.m., ABC, 104.9