Earlier this season, the week after Texas’ narrow loss to #1 Alabama, Texas found itself tied 17-17 at the half with UTSA. Uh oh. Were the Horns hungover from their disappointing loss to Alabama? Maybe briefly before they outscored UTSA 24-3 in the second half to win comfortably 41-20. This ushered in The Texas Football Era of Good Feelings. It was a short-lived era as Texas blew a 14-point second half lead and lost in Lubbock to Texas Tech. But then Texas went on a three-game winning streak that included a 49-0 blowout of Oklahoma and a 4th quarter comeback win over Iowa State. Okay then. The loss in Lubbock was just a blip on the radar. Texas rose to #20 in the rankings with a 5-2 record. Texas had the wind to their back and the sky was the limit for their uber-talented team. Steve Sarkisian was well on his way to his first four game winning streak at Texas, then his team blew another 14-point lead against Oklahoma State.
The Oklahoma State loss put Steve Sarkisian’s record at Texas to 10-10 and raised disturbing questions about his leadership. If Sarkisian was such a brilliant offensive mind and play caller why did his team only score three points in the second half of losses to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State? Why didn’t he replace Quinn Ewers in the second half of the Oklahoma State game when he was 8 for 25 passing. Ewers finished the game 19 for 49. Are his play calling duties detracting from his ability to manage and lead the entire team? Crouching on the sideline staring at a laminated play sheet doesn’t look like leadership to me. The win over Kansas State, when Texas only scored three points in the second half and allowed Kansas State to close to with 7 points after trailing by 21, did little to dispel the questions.
Last Saturday Sarkisian and Texas found a new way to lose. They never led TCU and while the defense was playing their best game of the decade, the offense totaled only 199 yards and failed to score a touchdown. Once again Sarkisian declined to replace a struggling Quin Ewers with Hudson Card during the second half. Ewers finished the game 17 for 39 passing. Remember after the Oklahoma State game when I quoted Paul Wadlington. “Losing finds a way.”
Texas still has a chance to post an 8-4 record for the regular season which is what many fans said they would be satisfied with at the start of the season. I don’t get that mindset; more on that in a minute. Texas won’t get to 8-4 without a surge in leadership from the head coach. In my opinion the reason Texas is 6-4 at this point instead of 8-2 or 9-1 is Steve Sarkisian’s failure to lead his team during critical stretches in games they’ve lost. As the offensive coordinator he has not figured out how to score points in the second half. He continues to call deep shot after deep shot to Xavier Worthy without success. I heard a statistic on the radio this week that Texas is 9 for 38 on passes thrown more than 25 yards in the air this season. That’s not a winning formula. Part of leadership is the willingness to change course when the present course isn’t working.
I would start by replacing Quinn Ewers with Hudson Card to start the Kansas game. At the very least it would show that Sarkisian places more value on winning games now than protecting Ewers’ psyche. At best Card is probably the better quarterback right now.
Card has completed 69% of his passes, Ewers is at 55%. Card’s average yards per attempt is 8.6, Ewers’ is 7.1. In 107 pass attempts Card has one interception. In 212 attempts Ewers has six interceptions. I could go on. Suffice it to say by any statistical measure Card has been better than Ewers. And if you take into account only Ewers’ last four games the contrast is even starker. Card also adds a running dimension to the offense. Ewers doesn’t. In the four games that Card has had extensive playing time he has long runs in each of 17, 22, 32, and 20 yards. In this era of college and pro football an offense without a mobile quarterback is at a disadvantage.
Do I think there is a snowballs chance in hell that Card starts against Kansas? No. But if Ewers struggles against Kansas’ 117th ranked pass defense in the country and the game is on the line will Steve Sarkisian do something or just crouch there?
If we were handing out grades at the end of the regular season and Texas finished 8-4 I would give Texas a C. Is Texas paying Steve Sarkisian $5.4 million to go 8-4? I heard someone say that 8-4 would be a three-game improvement over last year’s 5-7 and should be considered a big step forward. So, 5-7 is our baseline? Come on.
Aren’t you tired of hearing about the “process?” If you want to talk process how about Sonny Dykes’ process going from 5-7 to 10-0. Or Josh Heupel’s at Tennessee improving from 7-6 his first year to 9-1 at Tennessee. Here’s another. In his first year at LSU Brian Kelly took over a 6-7 team and won the SEC West. They’re 8-2 overall so far. One more. Lincoln Riley inherited a 4-8 USC team and they’re now 9-1. TCU, Tennessee, LSU, and USC now sit at 4,5,6, and 7 in the playoff standings.
Let’s stop making excuses for Texas.
Song of the Week
I’m afraid I’m one of those who wants “to go home again” so this song makes me wistful. The song works. What a great song.