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Texas 38, Louisiana 18: Longhorns look solid all the way around in drama-free opening win

RB Bijan Robinson: ‘I’m just excited to see what we can do just knowing what we did today’

Nobody does drama like Texas. It’s part and parcel with the brand, really. Everything around here is front page news, from the school song to the new Ferris wheel getting stuck.

That’s what made Saturday so different

The new quarterback played well. The star running back looked like, well, the star running back. The defense held the other team in check. There were no turnovers, few penalties and no glaring errors. A blocked extra point, too? A clean recovery of two onside kicks? From Texas?

The new coach even got his first win in a 38-18 decision over No. 23 Louisiana.

For subscribers:Another big day from Bijan Robinson makes Steve Sarkisian's Texas debut a smashing success

Texas tight end Cade Brewer, right, hugs quarterback Hudson Card after the two connected for a touchdown in the first half of Saturday's 38-18 win over Louisiana. Both attended Lake Travis High School. And then kicker Cameron Dicker, another Lake Travis ex, kicked the extra point.

“I loved it, man,” coach Steve Sarkisian said after his UT debut. “There’s nothing like winning, I’ll tell you that much.”

No. 19 Texas didn’t need to secure the bag. The Horns just secured a win, no fuss, no muss, at Royal-Memorial Stadium. The afternoon crowd of approximately 91,113 went home sunburnt and happy.

“Man, it’s a nice feeling,” running back Bijan Robinson said after piling up 176 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns on 24 touches. That means he averaged 7.3 yards every time he touched the ball. “Moving forward with the teams we have to play, I’m just excited to see what we can do just knowing what we did today.”

Moving forward, Sarkisian will give Robinson plenty of chances. But he’s probably also feeling good about the quarterback decision. Redshirt freshman Hudson Card rewarded his coach’s faith by completing 14 of 21 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.

More:Texas Longhorns power past Louisiana behind Card, Robinson 38-18

Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian earned his first Longhorns victory on Saturday, enjoying a solid day from his offense, defense and special teams in the 38-18 win over No. 23 Louisiana. The Longhorns' next game is at Arkansas.

Card was running for his life at times. The offensive line issues will need to be addressed in the coming week. Guard Junior Angilau also suffered a knee injury that’ll need to be evaluated. “I’ll be all right!” he hollered as he waited for an elevator inside the football building.

Card, meanwhile, looked comfortable on the move. An interesting fourth down play in the first quarter was a crossroads moment for both Sarkisian and the quarterback — and a chance to gauge their confidence in each other.

Card started the drive with a nine-yard completion to Robinson. Then the sophomore tailback made an impressive, highlight-type of move on a 17-yard gain where he zipped through the line, switched hands holding the ball and dodged tacklers. Texas finally got to the Louisiana 40, which was no-man’s land, honestly. It was too short to punt and too long for a field goal.

Texas quarterback Hudson Card runs past Louisiana linebacker Kris Moncrief in the first quarter of Saturday's 38-18 Longhorns win at Royal-Memorial Stadium. It was Card's first game as a starter.

Sarkisian rolled the dice and left Card on the field.

“If you’re not nervous, probably something’s wrong with you, right?” Card said. 

Card looked downfield, nobody was open, so he took off to his right. His running ability wasn’t discussed all that much during August. But ask those out in Lake Travis, and they’ll swear by his arm and scrambling ability. The former high school wide receiver battled for the first-down yardage and kept the drive alive.

Louisiana had covered up Robinson on a wheel route. But two plays later, Sarkisian shifted two tight ends to the left side and had Robinson make a small pre-snap adjustment. The tight ends drew the Ragin Cajuns’ defenders away, and Robinson drifted out into the open flat.

Card threw the easiest 18-yard touchdown pass you’ll ever see for his first career college score.

“We have great people around me,” Card said. “Having Bijan next to me, a great receiving corps and a great O-line, it makes me look good. Having them around me makes me feel comfortable.”

Card also did what he’d been coached to do by stepping up in the pocket. He stepped up, pushed his momentum forward and fired two completions to Jordan Whittington in the second quarter, one for 15 yards and another for 13. He finished the drive with a six-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cade Brewer, another Lake Travis product.

Cameron Dicker, the kicker, trotted out to hit the extra point for the Lake Travis trifecta as Texas took a 14-3 lead.

Whittington’s biggest play of the day came just after halftime. He caught a pass in stride and battled his way for 41 yards. For those with longer memories, you’ll recall it was the same energy and passion Lil’Jordan Humphrey showed on a catch against Oklahoma in 2018 where he carried defenders down the field.

Texas wide receiver Jordan Whittington celebrates his fourth quarter touchdown catch from quarterback Casey Thompson in the fourth quarter of the Longhorns' 38-18 win over Louisiana. Whittington enjoyed his best game yet as a Longhorn.

Whittington finished with seven catches for 113 yards and a 14-yard touchdown from backup quarterback Casey Thompson. “It was just the fire that burns inside of me that wants to do whatever I can to help this team win,” Whittington said of his bulldog play. “It was on display right there.”

Whittington even made one pivot that was so vicious, the Louisiana defender suffered an ankle injury and left the game. 

“I saw that when I was sitting down over there! I hope he’s all right,” Whittington said. “We practiced that, and that’s how it’s supposed to go.”

Everything went how the defense practiced, too. Louisiana started the game 0-for-5 on third downs and finished the day 4 for 13. Linebackers DeMarvion Overshown and Luke Brockermeyer were tackling machines. The busy bees accounted for 23 tackles and a sack combined. 

Notre Dame transfer Ovie Oghoufo and LSU transfer Ray Thornton both had sacks in their burnt orange debuts. Texas had four sacks total and Louisiana was held to 77 rushing yards.

Texas defensive back D'Shawn Jamison tackles Louisiana wide receiver Errol Rogers Jr. during the second quarter. Jamison, whose 83-yard punt return touchdown early in the game was called back by a penalty, later was shaken up after making a tackle in the second half.

“It’s still a work in progress,” Oghoufo said. “Coming together, it’s not really that hard, if that makes sense. We kind of know what to expect, and we just need to get on the same page. When we get on the same page, you see what happens.”

Was it perfect? Of course not. But was it a good start? No doubt. Sarkisian said the Horns needed to “start fast, finish strong.” That’s pretty much exactly what happened.

“It is important,” Overshown said. “To get the train rolling, you always want to start off like that, but we all know we’ve got a lot to clean up. We’re on to Arkansas.”

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.