Saturday’s matchup between Texas (5–3 Big 12, 6– 3 overall) and Kansas State (4–5, 4–6) may not have mattered in terms of postseason implications, but the Longhorns didn’t seem to care.
Texas jumped out to a blazing start and never looked back, beating the Wildcats 69-31 (yes, you read that right). Freshman running back Bijan Robinson’s three-touchdown day helped the Longhorns rack up more than 600 yards of total offense in Manhattan, Kansas en route to the convincing win.
Here are five takeaways from Saturday’s game:
Run, Bijan, run
Robinson has had several pseudo-breakout games so far this season. Against West Virginia, Robinson put up a promising 113 yards on 12 carries.
The former five-star recruit left nothing in doubt with Saturday’s performance. With junior Keaontay Ingram not available Saturday, Robinson took the starting job in stride and ran away with it, putting up 172 yards and three touchdowns on just nine carries.
“That’s the start. That’s just the start for Bijan,” senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger said with a wry smile. “We’ve been seeing that every single day, so I can’t wait until y’all see that every single game.”
The highlight of Robinson’s career day came in the third quarter. The freshman took an inside zone, broke a couple arm tackles, kept his balance and outpaced the safety for a 75-yard touchdown to start the second half.
Robinson’s backup Roschon Johnson didn’t hold back either — he ran wild for 139 yards and three touchdowns on just 14 carries himself. Robinson hadn’t yet established himself to this point in the season — he had only reached 15 carries one time, last week in the loss to Iowa State. Texas head coach Tom Herman said that even with the talented back, there was a learning curve.
“The speed of the game has finally slowed down for him,” Herman said. “It hadn’t early in the year. … He’d be the first to tell you that he needed that phasing-in process.”
Consider the process complete. Bijan Robinson has arrived.
Deuce with the double
As good as Robinson and the Texas run game was, Kansas State countered with a star of its own.
At all of 5-foot-6, Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn may not look the part of the 6-foot, 223-pound Robinson. But on a day of two great rushing attacks, the Wildcat freshman kept pace with Texas’ five-star back.
“(He’s) quick. Very quick,” junior linebacker Joseph Ossai said. “I’m just glad we finally figured out a way to try to get a hold of the run game, because I don’t think anybody’s done that to us for a long time.”
Vaughn’s shifty running style absolutely carved up the Texas defense, as he ran for 125 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
Texas’ defense has held up against the conference’s top backs for most of the year. But the freshman Vaughn might measure up to all of them.
Kerstetter’s gruesome injury
After tackle Samuel Cosmi opted out of the Longhorns’ final two games of the season, Texas had to reshuffle its offensive line. Part of that change meant center Derek Kerstetter, who has played all across the offensive line in his four years, would move out to right tackle.
Kerstetter’s day (and potentially his season) was ended late in the first half of Saturday’s win over Kansas State when he suffered a gruesome injury to his left leg. The cart was brought out immediately, and after receiving lengthy treatment, the senior was carted off.
Per a University of Texas spokesperson, Kerstetter was taken to a local hospital immediately following the injury.
“At first we were all a little rattled,” Ehlinger said. “We got the ball back and I think that was one of the only drives that we went three-and-out right before half, and so we kind of came in at halftime and everyone was kind of like whoa, like what just happened.”
Herman said that he told the Longhorns at halftime that Kerstetter would be fine, and that he would hate for the team to play poorly for his sake. They went out in the second half, kept their foot on the gas and cruised to the huge victory.
Then, in what Herman called a “tear-jerking” moment, Kerstetter led the team in “Texas fight” in the locker room following the victory.
Herman said that Kerstetter will be able to fly back to Austin with the rest of the team.
Jumping out in front
The Longhorns have notoriously allowed teams to hang into close games several times this season. But Saturday, Tom Herman’s squad pushed the envelope from the start.
The Longhorns jumped out to an early 10-0 lead, then picked off a pass from freshman quarterback Will Howard and scored one play later to take a 17-point lead in the game’s opening minutes. From there, they never looked back — Kansas State never pulled within 14 points.
“We were in total control. We were having fun,” Herman said. “We had released all of the pressures off of ourselves. We had a great week of practice, a fun week of practice.”
With all the noise surrounding the Texas program, it was a question as to where the motivation would come from for the remainder of the season. Even without hopes of a conference championship, was no lack of firepower for the Longhorns Saturday.
Texas’ early lead (and its strong rushing attack) wouldn’t have been possible without a solid day from senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger.
Texas offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich looked to get Ehlinger into a rhythm early, with a series of tunnel screens, slants and other quick passes on the Longhorns’ first few drives. It was almost the antithesis of Texas’ gameplan a week ago, when it looked to beat Iowa State almost exclusively with deep shots. And it worked — Ehlinger’s early rhythm gave Texas a lead from which it would never look back.
“I think that we understood that we needed to move the ball and play fast, get the ball on my hands and do some things to help those guys out the younger guys up front,” Ehlinger said. “I think they did a great job.”
Ehlinger finished the day 20-of-27 for 274 yards and two touchdowns. It was a classic, efficient Ehlinger performance to perfectly balance the career days of Johnson and Robinson out of the backfield.
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