- May 29, 2001
Over the span of 60 minutes on Saturday, the future of the Texas running game evolved into the present.
After four games of being the third guy in the mix, nearly killing himself against TCU on the field and then being mostly an afterthought against Oklahoma, true freshman running back Bijan Robinson walked out on the field against Baylor with the starting line-up, took double digit carries in a game for the first time in his career and was leaned on late in the fourth quarter to close out what quickly turned into a closer than it needed to be kind of affair.
The five-star from Arizona has officially arrived.
Except that he really hasn't. Not yet.
While he's ascended to the top of the depth chart at the mid-season point in a way that will remind everyone of Texas legend Cedric Benson, who famously became the starter as a true freshman in 2001 the week following the Oklahoma game, there's a sense that Robinson hasn't performed anywhere near the levels that Benson did in a side by side comparison.
When Benson took over as the starter against Oklahoma State in week six, he did so after not taking a single carry the previous week against the Sooners and had compiled only 186 yards on 44 carries (4.2 yards per carry). In the first four games of this season, Robinson has totaled 77 yards on 14 carries (5.5 yards per carry) in three performances. The only real difference between the two is Benson's three touchdowns, but it can be argued that slight edge is washed away by Robinson's edge in yards per carry. Regardless, I think we can all agree that neither player had established himself as a force in the sport upon becoming the starter.
In his fourth year at Texas, Brown gambled following an OU loss that the five-star running back might inject some life into the program. In his fourth year at Texas, Herman has done the same with Robinson. Benson responded that day in Stillwater with 131 yards against the Cowboys on 31 carries, thus making the job ALL his, before rolling off a string of five consecutive 100-yard games that nearly led Texas to a Big 12 championship.
Herman desperately needs his five-star in the next five weeks.
Is that remotely fair to put that on a player whose highlight of the season was being mistaken by Gus Johnson for D'Shawn Jamison on the opening kickoff of the TCU game? Should it be concerning that Texas is six games into the season and the only time Robinson has truly looked like a five-star is when Gus Johnson convinced us all for three seconds that was actually him returning a kick in a game in which didn't even play?
The answer is probably a firm no to both questions, if for no other reason than we know what happened with Benson's career after a very similar start. Of course, not every kid ends up like Benson, but not every kid is a five-star and arrives with a resume quite like Robinson. A smidge of benefit of the doubt is warranted given the circumstances of his freak injury against Texas Tech, a poor offensive line in front of him and a coaching staff that may or may not be making up its use of him as it goes. That benefit of the doubt aside, it would be nice to see Robinson give us an occasional flash or two of his talent when he gets into the second-level of the defense or is one-on-one with a defender in space.
It is important to note that this kind of pressure is exactly why Robinson chose Texas. He wanted to play early. He wanted to be perceived as a missing piece to a puzzle that hasn't yet been completed. The expectation that he has for himself is greatness.
For the coach that recruited him, now would be the perfect time for him to start looking like a future NFL player.
From my perspective, Texas can't and won't win in Stillwater on Saturday without the kind of breakout game that Benson had against the Cowboys in his own breakout performance 19 years ago this month.
Herman and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich basically screamed out loud who they wanted to be as an offense on Saturday against Baylor with their commitment to an early running game and the two coaches had their faith repaid with 38 yards on 9 carries, with only three points put up on the scoreboard. Robinson played a big part in what did and didn't happen in that first quarter.
A repeat of that production against the Cowboys will almost certainly be met with a harsher fate than the Bears were capable of delivering.
Ready or not, we've reached the point in the true freshman's career where the fate of the team will start to produce serious weight on his shoulders.
No. 2 - Three Things I'd like to see against Oklahoma State ...
a. Don't wait until the second quarter to get Sam Ehlinger and the passing game going. I don't know if the coaches wanted to treat Baylor like a scrimmage or if they really want to be something that they haven’t proven capable of being, but Ehlinger passing for -1 yards on 2 attempts on Saturday for the first full 15 minutes is begging for a disaster.
b. Shorten the wide receiver rotation. Joshua Moore doesn't need to be coming off the field as much as he does and if that means that someone has to transfer because you have to keep your best players on the field for at least 80 percent of key offensive reps, so be it. Same with Brennan Eagles. Same with Jared Wiley. The fact that Moore and Wiley each had only three targets in the entire game when they were creating plays like the ones below is kind of mind-blowing.
c. Play Alfred Collins more. Turn him loose. Hell, turn him lose as a third-down rusher at end over Jett Bush if that's the only way you can do it, but he needs to play more.
No. 3 - A live look at the Texas pass rush ...
The Longhorns have played five games. The team has six combined sacks. The leaderboard ...
Alred Collins: 1 1/2
Moro Ojomo: 1
Joseph Ossai: 1
T'Vondre Sweat: 1
Marcus Tillman: 1
Jacoby Jones: 0.5
No. 4 - The biggest problem with this defense ...
It just lacks difference-makers.
That became so apparent on Saturday when Joseph Ossai was forced to leave the game with some sort of arm/shoulder injury and the team suddenly didn't seem to have anyone that could make an impact play.
When you look at the team through the half-way point in the season ...
* No player has more than 1 1/2 sacks.
* No player has more than 1 interception.
* The team has forced four fumbles all season.
* It has scored zero points all season.
* Only Ossai averages more than 1 tackle for loss per game.
Defense in the Big 12 isn't about limiting the opponent's yardage as much as its about having the ability to change a game numerous times over the course of 60 minutes with athletic playmaking.
Texas just hasn't had enough playmaking under Chris Ash this season and there's no way Texas is going to come remotely close to battling for a spot in the Big 12 championship game if it doesn't find some soon.
No. 5 - About Sam Cosmi ...
The starting Texas left tackle is going to have an interesting decision to make in January.
On one hand, I have no doubt that if he declares early for the NFL draft, he'll be taken in the first three rounds because the need along the offensive line at tackle across the board is so high that that not even a deep class of players at his position would change the fact that teams are always looking for guys that can play left tackle.
On the other hand, if Cosmi hadn't already had his name associated with NFL talk, the idea of him and the NFL wouldn't even cross my mind based on his level of play this season. Cosmi just hasn't impressed me a ton this season.
It will likely leave Cosmi with a decision at the end of the year where it comes down to how much he values maximizing his draft potential vs. getting out of Austin in the name of earning money for playing the sport. I'll never begrudge a guy that wants to earn a paycheck if at all possible while playing a violent sport, but it doesn't feel like Cosmi is surging in his third season. In fact, there were a couple of times against Baylor when it flat out looked like he shouldn't be going anywhere.
No. 6 - Real talk about Oklahoma State ...
I have no idea what to make of the Cowboys through their first four games of the season, but from what I've seen, I'm not impressed.
Yes, the Cowboys beat Iowa State at home upon the return of Spencer Sanders to the line-up, but what exactly is that supposed to mean? Of course, the Texas Longhorns have a way of turning average offenses into record-setters, so we're all expecting Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace to absolutely go off, but this isn't a team that Texas can't beat if it shows up and disses out a B+ performance.
In a world where Texas actually has an A-game, it could (in theory) beat this Oklahoma State team by multiple touchdowns, but nothing we've seen from Herman in his first 3+ seasons suggests that this is a game that Texas will win.
No. 7 – BUY or SELL …
(Buy) It was just a single game and did nothing to change the overall storyline of the season.The Baylor game really changes very little in terms of the fire under CTH's seat.
(Sell) It's not bigger than any of the games he's played against OU, a team he is now 1-4 against.Saturday's game against OSU is the most important game in Herman's coaching career. An improbable win puts the team in position to win out and play for the B12 Championship. A loss puts Herman in a position to finish 6-4 or 5-5 and lose his job,
(Sell) I could see a 7-3 record giving the decision-makers some reason for pause. Hell, three losses might get someone into the Big 12 title game. Seven of the 10 teams already have at least two losses and I don't have confidence in any of the teams with less than two at this point.The only way CTH makes to next year is winning out this year
(Sell) Johnson is averaging 4.3 yards per carry this season, isn't as good as a receiver and is inconsistent as a pass blocker. No one in that backfield has played well enough to not lose their jobs at this stage of the season.Bijan Robinson should be the featured back with Roschon Johnson being #2 in short yardages goal line and blocking situations, Keaontay is just not getting it done.
(Buy) Oklahoma State hasn't broken 30 in three of its four games this season.We hold OK St to under 40?
(Sell) You can just ask me to ban you until you get back. People do it all the time.I need to blast for a week ban in order to stay off OB during vacation?
(Sell) I'll take the field, but I'll admit I'm nervous about my choice.Joseph Ossai is the highest drafted player on this roster.
(Sell) You might be exactly right, but you know what ... Hudson Card might be the real deal, especially with really good coaching.Expectations for the 2021 season for the Longhorns should be 2 wins less than whatever the total is 2020 due to the loss of key personnel and a potentially putrid offensive line in 2021?
(Buy) You misspelled 700.Between now and next Sunday there will be 200+ threads started with either Eyes or Urban in the title?
No. 8 - Scattershooting on the world of sports ...
... I don't have any words for the Cowboys. All hope is lost. We're an awful football team. Let the Garrett Gilbert Era begin!
... I don't have any words for the Texans. All hope is lost. They're an awful football team.
... I considered putting together a national top 10, but I had a hard time deciding who should be fourth, let alone whether anyone deserved to be 5th, 6th, 7th, etc.
... The Indiana/Penn State game was bananas and, yes, I thought the ball barely grazed the goal line on the two-point conversion. I'm not sure I've ever seen a call that was closer.
... Should we read anything into Michigan's performance? Part of me wants to believe, the other part me realizes that it's Michigan.
... Five-star talent matters.
... Speaking of five-star wide receivers from Texas, something tells me that the next time we see Jaylen Waddle on a football field, it'll be in the NFL after he broke his ankle this weekend against Tennessee. Get healthy, young man.
... I'm guessing the Rice band was pretty quiet after this ...
... Game four of the World Series was an all-time classic. No Hyperbole.
... Walker Buehler is some kind of player. Every single time he throws a ball, it feels like it’s worth the price of admission.
... Khabib Nurmagomedov told his momma back in Russia that Saturday was his last fight and considering how hard-core this dude is about almost everything in his life, I tend to think we've seen the last of him in the UFC. The word before his father (also his trainer) passed was that he wouldn't go beyond 30-0. Unless momma gives him the green light, we might have seen the last of Nurmagomedov, who only fought about once per year, anyways.
... There was no chance the UFC was sucking me in for a pay-per-view at 2 p.m. on a busy Saturday in the college football season. No chance.
... Leo Messi has now gone six straight Clasicos without a goal or an assist. He's also gone six straight games without a goal in open play. Even goats grow old.
... A weekend's worth of Premier League thoughts in a single paragraph: I miss Virgil. I'm still not over his injury. How in the world did Harry McGuire not get called for a penalty after having a dude in a headlock? I loathe Premier League officials. Man City fans are starting to talk like fans that believe they'd be better off without Pep. There's no way Sergio Aguero is going to get a new deal if he can't stay healthy, so who would they target to replace him? Aston Villa coming back to earth was obviously going to happen, but with only one top six team on the schedule for the next six weeks, don't expect them to fall too far in the standings. The only thing that made the United/Chelsea 0-0 drab affair unsatisfying is that I committed the time to watch it. I enjoyed the hell out of Everton losing. The teams that played in Europe in the midweek were all d-r-a-g-g-i-n-g.
No. 9 - The List: Top 10 Jerry Jeff Walker songs ...
Ok, buckaroos, this week's list is such an obvious one that I can't believe I hadn't already done it before.
Without Jerry Jeff Walker, Texas music as we know it simply wouldn't exist. We lost an icon this weekend. Here's hoping there was a honky tonk in the sky with all of his old friends waiting for him.
Rest in peace.
10. Up Against The Wall, Redneck Mother
9. I Feel Like Hank Williams Tonight
8. Pissin' in the Wind
7. Gypsy Songman
6. Sangria Wine
5. Desperados Waiting For The Train
4. Little Bird
3. London Homesick Blues
2. L.A. Freeway
1. Mr. Bojangles
No.10 - And finally...
It's nice to out The Eyes of Texas saga behind us as it relates to the football team. It only took until the last week of October, but better late than never.