AUSTIN (KXAN) — Depth has been a key to the Texas Longhorns’ success this season, and now they’ll have to show it at the running back position Saturday night in hostile territory against Iowa State.
Sophomore running back Jonathon Brooks tore his ACL in last week’s 29-26 win over TCU and is out for the season, and that means the rushing load will shift more to freshman standout CJ Baxter along with sophomores Jaydon Blue and Savion Red and senior Keilan Robinson. It’s tough to replace the kind of yardage Brooks has produced this season, 1,139 rushing yards and 286 receiving yards, but head coach Steve Sarkisian said the runners are ready for the opportunity.
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“No one likes seeing their brother go down, so there was a sense of hurt for him knowing what he had put in and the way he played this season, but these guys work really hard and have been training since January, too,” Sarkisian said. “CJ really started the year for us so his level of comfort and being healthy is big for us. Keilan has been exposed to a lot of football and Jaydon has been chomping at the bit for his opportunities. Savion has been in the critical moments for us. We’re fortunate we have guys with experience and have play-making abilities.”
A solid ground game will be paramount to win in Ames. The Cyclones have the third-best rushing defense in the Big 12 Conference, allowing teams to run for an average of 124.7 yards per game, utilizing the 3-3-5 stack defense they’ve thrived in for the past decade. Sarkisian said this will be the third week in a row Texas will see it, but the Cyclones operate it more proficiently than others.
“When they went to it, people were like ‘What is this?'” Sarkisian said. “Each team has their own twist to it and the style they do it. Iowa State plays it in its purest form. All of the players have grown up in it and we have to be detailed and deliberate in what we’re trying to do.”
On offense, the Cyclones try to possess the ball as long as possible which is the best way they can neutralize the Longhorns’ explosive offense. Iowa State scores 25.7 points per game this season, so they want to get in an old-fashioned fist-fight with teams.
Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell said the Longhorns, “are clicking on all cylinders in every phase of the game.”
“What a great challenge for this young team to step into an arena against a team like (Texas),” Campbell said. “We’ll have to have a great team game plan to win the football game.”
The game kicks off at 7 p.m. CT and is on FOX.
Six Longhorns invited to Senior Bowl
The Reese’s Senior Bowl is a chance for outgoing college seniors to showcase their skills, in both workouts and the game, to impress NFL scouts and potentially improve their draft stock. That, of course, means the players could be drafted higher and command more money.
Six Longhorns were invited to take part in the week in Mobile, Alabama, including three defensive linemen. Byron Murphy, T’Vondrae Sweat and Alfred Collins were invited, along with linebacker Jaylan Ford, defensive back Jahdae Barron and offensive lineman Christian Jones.
It’s up to the players whether they accept the invite and participate, but it can be a springboard to a potential NFL career. More than 40% of the players selected in the 2023 NFL Draft played in the Senior Bowl and members from all 32 NFL teams attend the workouts.
The game is scheduled for Feb. 3, 2024 at Hancock Whitney Stadium, home of the University of South Alabama.
Ewers, Sweat named award semifinalists
Sophomore quarterback Quinn Ewers was named a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award, given to the nation’s most outstanding quarterback. Vince Young (2005) and Colt McCoy (2009) are the pair of Longhorns who have won the award.
Ewers was named the weekly Davey O’Brien award winner after he led Texas to a 34-24 win over Alabama in Tuscaloosa during Week 2. He’s one of 20 quarterbacks to be on the semifinalists list.
Sweat is on the semifinalist list for the Outland Trophy, given to the nation’s most outstanding interior lineman. A Longhorn hasn’t won the award since Brad Shearer did it in 1977. Scott Appleton (1963) and Tommy Nobis (1965) are the other Longhorns who have won the trophy.