In the two games since Arkansas punched Texas in the gut, Casey Thompson — who has since taken over the reins from Hudson Card — has led Texas to 128 points on 1,259 yards of total offense, behind an offensive line that has drastically improved since the loss in Fayetteville.
Texas’ offense was so dominant in its wins over Rice and Texas Tech, that 15 of its 17 drives led by Thompson ended in touchdowns. So dominant in fact, that the Longhorns haven’t punted the football once since the loss to Arkansas — which Texas coach Steve Sarkisian believes is a first for any of his teams.
“I haven’t been around where you haven’t punted in two games. So I appreciate the execution and the approach, and the execution on critical downs,” Sarkisian said Monday regarding his team’s ruthless offensive efficiency. “You don’t do what we’re doing without having the third-down execution, and the fourth-down execution. That comes through preparation, confidence and trust.”
If anyone on Sarkisian’s team has displayed confidence stemming from meticulous preparation, it has been Thompson and the five guys in front of him.
On Monday, Texas left guard Denzel Okafor said the o-line took responsibility for the Arkansas loss, and since, has worked tirelessly to improve on communication, finishing blocks, and just becoming downright nasty.
“Everybody hates losing, and we really took an emphasis on what we need to do better as a unit. Because I believe that any game, on any team, the outcome of it revolves around the offensive line. So I took the [Arkansas loss] personal, and I think everybody else on the line did too,” Okafor said.
“[Nastiness] means you can tell, throughout a game, that a guy’s getting frustrated with you — and that’s the goal. You want to put them on the ground, you want to drive them to the sideline, you want to drive him back. That’s the goal.”
In recent weeks, Sarkisian had been harping on the idea that his offensive line needs to be tougher.
“It’s one thing to be assignment-sound, but it’s another to win the play, to dominate the man, and move the man to create holes,” he said. “As big of a step as we’ve made in past few weeks has been finishing blocks, playing a lot more nasty, a lot more physical.”
But an offense doesn’t erupt for 70 points, as Texas did against Tech, without weapons behind the offensive line. In Thompson, Bijan Robinson and Xavier Worthy, Texas certainly packs a deadly punch.
After just being named the starter two weeks ago, Thompson now leads the nation in quarterback rating, following his six-touchdown display against Tech.
Now that he's eligible for the leaderboard, UT QB Casey Thompson leads the nation with a 95.1 QBR (out of 100). pic.twitter.com/6vYGGqLZWF— Nick Moyle (@NRMoyle) September 27, 2021
The Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week, Thompson, found Big 12 Newcomer of the Week, Xavier Worthy, for three touchdowns on Saturday. Including a 62-yard beauty.
Xavier Worthy REFUSED to be tackled 😤 pic.twitter.com/sMg1foMW3h— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 25, 2021
Thompson said that he, Worthy, and the rest of the offense, have built chemistry through watching film together.
“I would say it started with me in the offseason, just going to grab them after workouts or after meetings in the summer, and even in fall camp in August. I think that kind of started with me showing them ‘hey that we need to watch extra film whenever we can.’ Now those guys do a great job when they have extra time, they’ll text me or call me and be like ‘hey I want to come watch film with you,’” Thompson said. “With [Worthy], he’s a true freshman, so for him to reach out to me some days and want to watch film, that’s an amazing attribute that he has.”
The offensive line’s hard work hasn’t just paid dividends for Thompson, Worthy and the passing game, but Bijan Robinson — who put up a quiet 191 all-purpose yards against Tech — is seeing more holes open up for him in the run game.
“I say that the Arkansas game really woke them up. I always say that, because it really did. Ever since then, they always just had a chip on their shoulder and a different mindset going into these games. So I think that they now understand how good that they can be.”
Robinson even said he is trying to leverage his NIL clout with Texas-owned athletic shoe boutique, Centre, as well as barbeque restaurant Pinkerton’s, to give back to the guys blocking for him.
“I’m doing like a couple of different things with [Centre], the shoe company, trying to set something up to give them all kinds of stuff, which is pretty cool,” Robinson said. “I’m going to bring a whole like [barbeque] ordeal to them. I don’t know if they’re gonna eat it all, but just bringing it to them and having a good time with them is the most important thing.”