Texas turns to Casey Thompson to lead Longhorns in Big 12 dress rehearsal

Horns Report

AUSTIN (KXAN) — In the wake of Saturday’s blowout loss to Arkansas, Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian isn’t asking much from his Longhorns this weekend against Rice.

“I want to see us play a disciplined, physical brand of football that doesn’t make the unnecessary or unforced errors, but that also maximizes and capitalizes on opportunities when they present themselves to us,” Sarkisian said.

The Longhorns will host (0-2) Rice Saturday at 7 p.m., aiming at a rebound from its no-show in Fayetteville against the Razorbacks. Longhorn Network will televise the game from Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

A loss always puts a magnifying glass on problems that wins would otherwise cover up, and that’s exactly what happened last weekend for UT. From penalties and mistakes on special teams to struggles on the offensive and defensive lines, Arkansas took full advantage of Texas in a way Louisiana-Lafayette wasn’t able to.

“Those types of things that maximize those opportunities are big, but you got to get yourself in position for those opportunities,” Sarkisian said. “That’s where you need to play disciplined football, you need to play a physical brand of football and you have to control the line of scrimmage. If you don’t control the line of scrimmage, You’re going to have a long day. Doesn’t matter who you’re playing.”

Temperature at kickoff for Rice vs. Texas in Austin.

Despite Saturday’s struggles, though, Sarkisian is happy with how his team has responded in practice.

“I would say for this week, especially coming off of the disappointment of last week, I’ve really liked the intent of our team, in practice, I think they have been very intentional with the work that we’re trying to put in. I think they’re focused on improving individually so that we can improve collectively. I’d have been really concerned if it [the loss] didn’t do that to us, if it didn’t make us feel like ‘I need to do more, I needed to dig deeper to make that happen,'” Sarkisian said.

Thompson takes over

On Monday, Sarkisian announced that junior Casey Thompson would make his first start at quarterback for Texas in place of freshman Hudson Card who struggled against the Razorbacks.

“I think Casey’s earned this opportunity to become a starter in this ballgame,” Sarkisian said. “Then we’ll really have to reflect coming out of this game of moving forward what it’s going to look like when we head into Big 12 play.”

Texas quarterback Casey Thompson looks to pass during the final half of the Texas Orange and White Spring Scrimmage in Austin, Texas, Saturday, April 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

In both games this season, Thompson’s come into the game late in the third quarter. He’s a combined 9-for-13 passing with one touchdown, and he’s run for 53 yards and two scores.

“When he’s played, the ball’s moved down the field and we’ve scored points,” Sarkisian said. “I think he realizes this isn’t the week to change up his routine because it’s worked pretty good for him, previously. I think he’s been very consistent, which I appreciate about him. I think he trusts his process in his preparation, which is a great space to be in. I think you can find that space, you know, when you’re, when you’re a fourth-year player that you’ve been through it, you know what it looks like, you know how to get yourself prepared to play.”

Thompson says this will be his first start since November 2017 when he was a senior in high school in Oklahoma City.

Card takes a backseat

With Thompson taking over as the starter, that of course means Hudson Card lost his starting job for now.

“I mean let’s, let’s be real, I’m sure there’s a level of frustration for him,” Sarkisian said.

While Card shined in the opener against Louisiana-Lafayette, against Arkansas, he completed just over 50% of his passes for only 61 yards and he also fumbled the ball and struggled finding his receivers at times.

“He wants to be the starting quarterback too,” Sarkisian said. “Hudson is going to play Saturday night, and I fully anticipate when we play him that he’ll play well.”

Injury update

As one player returns, another exits. According to Sarkisian, tight end Jared Wiley is expected to be a full go against the Owls on Saturday.

Meanwhile, sophomore defensive back and Pflugerville Connally product Jahdae Barron is out for about three weeks with a knee sprain.

Receiver Troy Omeire is still out, with Sarkisian calling him week-to-week.

What to know about Rice

Head coach Mike Bloomgren’s fourth season at Rice is off to a frustrating start. Rice competed until the fourth quarter with Arkansas in the season opener, ultimately losing 38-17 after the game was tied entering the final 15 minutes.

Houston throttled the Owls from the start in the Bayou Bucket Classic last week, winning 44-7.

Luke McCaffrey is the Rice quarterback who’s played in both games. McCaffrey has completed less than 50% of his passes. Khalan Griffin leads the Rice running back group with 121 yards on 32 carries.

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