3 takeaways from Texas vs TCU: Longhorns ride Bijan Robinson to second straight Big 12 win
TCU entered Saturday's game with all the history, but Texas had all the momentum. And one of the best play-callers in the country. And a quarterback who had the offense rolling.
Oh, and Bijan Robinson.
The Horned Frogs had won six of their last seven meetings with the Longhorns, having controlled Texas under former coaches Charlie Strong (3-0) and Tom Herman (3-1), but in his first shot against TCU, Robinson left an indelible mark in Fort Worth: 35 carries for 216 yards and two touchdowns, leading Texas to the 32-27 win.
What a back-and-forth game, as both offenses moved and scored with frequency and the two quarterbacks made plays all day. The differences, though, were three Horned Frogs turnovers and the play of Robinson, who outdueled Zach Evans in their five-star battle of the nation's top two-rated running back prospects in the 2020 recruiting class.
Robinson cruised the whole way, allowing Texas to work the clock, chew up yards and control things in the final two quarters.
Texas football recruiting: Jaydon Blue doubles down during running backs' strong showings
Takeaways from today's game:
Here's to you, Mr. Robinson
Was this Robinson's finest game as a Longhorn? We're saying yes, especially because of how he controlled Saturday.
Still, Texas' motto this season is All Gas, No Brakes, but midway through the fourth quarter it looked like Robinson was running out of gas after 29 touches and 196 yards. So Texas put the brakes on him. But only for a few snaps. He was reinserted at the end of that drive but couldn't push across the goal line on fourth down from the 1.
But he came back strong on Texas' critical final drive, effectively sealing the game with a first-down run on third-and-6 — the second time Steve Sarkisian called his number on third-and-longs in the second half — with 2 minutes left.
Things we should be worried about
Texas has made strides on defense, especially in terms of making key stops and producing big plays. But don't forget that this team is only three games removed from being plastered in Fayetteville and Texas Tech scored 35 points and had more than 500 yards against the defense last week, and if it wasn't for the turnovers, this game easily could have turned out going the other way.
And what happened to Xavier Worthy? One catch, 7 yards. He was targeted five times, and three of those other four incompletions were dropped passes.
Oh, those missed opportunities ...
Yes, TCU's goal-line stand in the fourth quarter was big — Texas, up 32-20, could have settled for a field goal to make it a 15-point game with nine minutes left. But it's hard to fault Sarkisian: he was one yard out, could have ended the game right there and he gave it to his best player.
But beyond that, this game looked like a classic case of Texas wanting to lose. The Longhorns settled for field goals four times despite getting close in the red zone, where they have been so solid this season. Also:
On the opening kickoff, TCU set up its opening touchdown with an 87-yard return that could have been stopped at the start had Tyler Owens not missed a chance at the tackle way back at the start of the return. And that first touchdown came because Luke Brockermeyer failed to wrap up Evans on his 12-yard run.
Jared Wiley's false start on third-and-1 at TCU's 5 was a potential four-point penalty; D'Shawn Jamison's fumble recovery at TCU's 23 went nowhere — another field goal; and Casey Thompson's third-and-goal shot to the back of the end zone went through Marcus Washington's hands. Another field goal.
Next time, those kinds of things could very well lead to a loss.
Up next for Texas football
Could this be a Big 12 championship game preview? The Longhorns head into this year's Red River matchup in Dallas with a full head of steam, coming off blowout wins over Rice and Texas Tech and a solid road win at TCU. And the Sooners have looked mortal — perhaps even vulnerable at times — this season.
Per usual, it will be an 11 a.m. kickoff in order to clear the way for the State Fair crowds in the late afternoon and evening. And it'll be the second straight ABC game.
Other Big 12 matchups: West Virginia at Baylor and TCU at Texas Tech.
Josh Thompson, probably Texas' top cornerback, was ruled out early in the morning. But then TCU lost a key defensive back as well when safety T.J. Carter was ejected for targeting in the first quarter. ... Denzel Okafor left in the first quarter with an injury, which forced Texas to shuffle its offensive line; Derek Kerstetter moved from right tackle to right guard and Andrej Karic was inserted into Kerstetter's right tackle spot. ... TCU receiver Quentin Johnston, a one-time Texas commitment, literally hobbled off the field at the end of the first half. ... This was the first-ever meeting as head coaches between Sarkisian and Gary Patterson.
How the scoring went:
First quarter: TCU 14, Texas 13
TCU: Didn't take long for the Frogs to get on the board. Two missed tackles — the first by Tyler Owens on an 87-yard opening kickoff return, the second by Luke Brockermeyer that allowed Zach Evans to run it in from 12 yards out for the early 7-0 lead.
Texas: Cameron Dicker's 38-yard field goal was his first since the opener and it cut the lead to 7-3. But Jared Wiley's false start penalty on third-and-1 at the 5 spoiled a good opportunity to tie it.
Texas: Bijan Robinson's eighth score of the season was helped by three big assists — a TCU targeting penalty on a punt to keep the drive alive, Thompson's brilliant 41-yard scramble and a nifty fourth-and-1 call on a Roschon Johnson surprise direct snap. The 27-yard touchdown put Texas up 10-7.
Texas: Another Dicker field goal, and from 38 yards out again, too. The 13-7 lead was made possible by D'Shawn Jamison's fumble recovery.
TCU: JD Spielman, who started things off with the big opening kick return, scored on an 11-yard pass from Duggan going across the middle. He beat DeMarvion Overshown on the route.
Second quarter: Halftime — Texas 23, TCU 17
Texas: The Longhorns went back on top 16-14 with Dicker's 26-yard field goal, which was made possible by Overshown's muffed punt recovery at TCU's 9.
TCU: Griffin Kell's 25-yard field goal made it 17-16 Frogs with 7:19 left in the half.
Texas: Robinson's 4-yard run put the Longhorns back up 23-17 with 4:01 to go.
Third quarter: Texas 26, TCU 20
Texas: For the fourth time, Texas settled for a field goal despite getting close. Dicker's 28-yarder made it a two-possession game, though, at 26-17. It was all made possible by Anthony Cook's blitz, forced fumble and recovery on TCU's previous drive.
TCU: Kell's field goal from 36 yards cut the Texas lead to 26-20.
Fourth quarter: Final — xx
Texas: Jordan Whittington — Texas' top receiver in the game — hauled in a 32-yard touchdown pass from Thomspn. Up by 12, Texas went for two, an incomplete fade pass to Joshua Moore. Texas 32, TCU 20.
TCU: Kendre Miller's 2-yard run cut that lead to 32-27 with 4:23 to go, completing a 99-yard drive that started with a goal-line stand.