AUSTIN (KXAN) — If the No. 4 Texas Longhorns want to start the season 3-0 for the first time since 2012, they’ll need to get by a veteran Wyoming team that already has a victory over a Big 12 opponent this season.
It’s easy for people to think this is some sort of trap game, meaning the highly-touted Longhorns, coming off their historic win over Alabama, could potentially take the Cowboys lightly and stumble at home. In the first game of the season for the Cowboys on Sept. 2, they welcomed the Texas Tech Red Raiders to Laramie and beat them 35-33 in double overtime after trailing 17-0 early on.
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“This is a classic week where you could have a sore back because everyone’s been patting you on the back going to class, on social media, or wherever else,” Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “I think it’s important for them to understand that when the ball gets kicked off, they don’t spot us 21 points because we played good last week.”
The Cowboys, who finished 8-5 last season with a 30-27 Arizona Bowl win over Ohio, are as hard-nosed and tough as anybody, Sarkisian said.
“When you talk about the grit Wyoming has, the fact that they continued to fight back in that game and got the game into overtime to ultimately win, we’re going to have to play all four quarters,” Sarkisian said. “Wyoming is going stand in there one play at a time.”
Cowboys head coach Craig Bohl, in his 10th year at the helm for the Cowboys, said this is the best Texas team he’s seen in 35 years. Bohl was previously the head coach at FCS North Dakota State from 2003-2013 and won three consecutive FCS national championships to end his tenure with the Bison. With assistant coaching stops all over the country, places like Rice, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Tulsa, he’s seen the Longhorns program ebb and flow and he’s particularly impressed with the weapons Texas has on offense.
“They are as good as advertised,” Bohl said in his weekly press conference. “I think Coach Sarkisian has done a great job meshing with the fabric there, and that program is hitting on all cylinders. (Quinn) Ewers is the real deal. They have great receivers who can stretch the field and when they take shots, they aren’t long foul balls. They hit a lot of home runs. I think they deserve to be in the conversation of the national championship.”
Since the final horn blew in Tuscaloosa and the burnt orange celebrations erupted, everyone involved with the program enjoyed the huge win over the Crimson Tide, and rightfully so. It broke Alabama’s 21-game home winning streak and it was only the seventh time since 2008 the Tide lost at Bryant-Denny Stadium, but the 24-hour rule definitely applied. Texas had their fun, but it was back to work soon thereafter.
The team’s leadership committee called a players-only meeting Tuesday before their regular practice, and Ewers sent Sarkisian a text message to run it by him and make sure it was cool, he said. That brought a smile to the coach’s face.
“When that leadership committee wanted to have a players-only meeting to make sure that they were reiterating the message about getting refocused on what we need to do this week, I thought it was it was a great sign for us,” Sarkisian said.
Injuries heading to Saturday
Freshman running back CJ Baxter went into the game against Alabama with an injury to his ribs he suffered in Week 1’s win over Rice, and it’s still giving him some issues. Sarkisian said he’ll be a game-time decision.
“I’m going to need to monitor him up through pregame,” he said. “I want to make sure that he’s healthy enough, that that he can perform, but also that there’s nothing lingering.”
The Longhorns are using a by-committee approach to the running back position, so if Baxter is unable to go against the Cowboys, there are plenty of guys ready to shoulder the extra carries. Jonathon Brooks, Jaydon Blue, Keilan Robinson and Savion Red are all available to pack the ball for Texas.
Linebacker Morice Blackwell has been out since the beginning of the season with a knee injury, and Sarkisian said he’s made “tremendous strides,” in his recovery process and has been practicing the past couple of days. Sarkisian said he’ll also be a game-time decision.