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The Texas football program is likely still in shock after their devastating Week 2 loss to an unranked Arkansas team.
There was not really a single positive to take away from the game. The offensive line looked horrendous, and absolutely needs to be mixed up. The wide receivers were dropping passes all game long, and making life even more difficult on the quarterbacks. The defense as a whole was exposed by Arkansas’ rushing attack, and Cameron Dicker has again proven to be one of the most inconsistent kickers/punters in the nation.
All of the offensive struggles in football regardless of the team, are assigned to one person, the quarterback. The terrible loss has now sparked a debate of who should be the Longhorns quarterback. Hudson Card started in the season opener, and had a marvelous game that saw him account for three total touchdowns and 224 yards through the air. Behind him is Casey Thompson, who many viewed as the favorite due to his heroics in the Alamo Bowl.
Card looked rattled in the Arkansas game, which is understandable as the offensive line could not contain a three-man rush, or any rush for that matter. It was evident during the Louisiana game that the offensive line would be an issue, but the staff trotted the same five guys out there against Arkansas, and they were a travesty.
However, Card was also missing his receivers at times and was unable to make any adjustment. Part of that is due to the lack of in-game adjustments by the coaching staff and the fact that Card was put in less than desirable third and long situations too often.
Something we saw a snippet of in the first game was Card overthrowing receivers down field, and that continued against Arkansas, where he had at least four throws that would have been 50+ yard plays that could be stretched for touchdowns had he hit them.
Card also seemed too committed to not running when pressure came, which is understandable to want your quarterback to let plays develop, but when the offensive line can’t block a parked car, you have to do everything you can to get yards.
The redshirt freshman finished his first road start 8-of-15 for 61 yards averaging 4.1 yards per completion, and a QBR of 15.2. He showed no ability to make an adjustment on his throws, and it would have been nice to see him be decisive to take off and run at times.
To play devil’s advocate for Card, the offensive line will surely be adjusted, and he is just a redshirt freshman making his second career start. Obviously it was an unacceptable showing, but pulling him ahead of the Rice game, a game the Longhorns should win by 30 or more would take away an opportunity for this offense to grow as a unit and him to bounce back from adversity.
People need to remember to be patient, which is obviously a frustrating thing to hear after a decade of being patient. Considering all the moving parts for Texas this offseason, growing pains are expected. To turn on a quarterback one week after a solid performance in the season opener is a bit premature.
On the other hand, Thompson looked better against Arkansas. Dealing with the same putrid offensive line, Thompson showed a capability and an awareness to scramble and pick up yards with his legs. He came into the game late in the third, with the Longhorns down 33-7, and would lead Texas down the field twice for touchdowns that he rushed in himself. Sure, the game was out of reach and Arkansas was likely in preventive defense with backups, but it was refreshing to see how he handled the pressure.
Ultimately this is Steve Sarkisian’s call, and it would not shock me if he made a change, but it also would not shock me if he gave his young quarterback another chance. Sarkisian said this was the toughest quarterback battle he has ever had to decide, and he has shown that in the first two weeks it’s a decision that still weighs on him as he played each of them in the first two games.
Thompson will likely get major consideration this week, as he should, because he just seems to be able to handle the pressure better, and if the offensive line is going to be this bad all season you have to have someone who can and will create. Card can create with his legs, but he always seems far too hesitant to take off. Is this more on Card or Sarkisian? Time will tell.
The decision for Sarkisian comes down to assuming the youngster Card will tap into his elite arm potential that won him the job, or giving Thompson the nod and allowing him to possibly replicate the success he has shown in limited action.
I don’t envy Sarkisian for having to make this tough choice, but Texas is at a crossroads very early on in the season. Regardless of his gut feeling, he needs to choose the quarterback that can win them games right now. And stick to it.