SAN ANTONIO (KXAN) — From a personnel perspective, it won’t be the same Texas Longhorns football team that takes the field Thursday against the Washington Huskies in the Alamo Bowl that did during the 2022 regular season.
However, for the team that’s aiming for the program’s 32nd bowl game win, the effort and preparation have remained the same.
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“We’re really pleased with the bowl prep to this point,” said Kyle Flood, Longhorns offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. “I think the fact that you have an extended time to install the gameplan and then go back over it is going to serve some of the younger players really well as we go forward.”
A lot of the benefits from bowl practices is what Flood described — the chance for younger players to develop quicker with extra reps so they’re that much more prepared for next season — but in Texas’ case with some players opting out or transferring, those younger players are going to get significant playing time.
That couldn’t be more obvious for the Longhorns’ backfield after All-American Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson both declared for the NFL Draft and won’t be available to play in the bowl game. That’s 2,134 rushing yards from one of the country’s best running tandems now gone, but Flood said the depth of the position will now be showcased even more for Texas.
“The depth in that room that we’ve talked about all year, now it’s got to show up for us, and to this point, the only evidence in practice is that they’re going to play at a high level,” Flood said. “I think that’s one of the more talented rooms in our building is that running back room. Keilan Robinson, Jonathon Brooks, Jaydon Blue. I’m excited to watch them in this bowl game. They’ve had a really, really good bowl prep, and they’re all talented runners.”
When called on this year, Brooks has delivered. Against Kansas in a 55-14 win, Brooks needed just 11 carries to top the 100-yard mark. He ran for 108 yards and two touchdowns in the blowout win for the Longhorns on the road. He rumbled for a 70-yard fourth-quarter touchdown against the Jayhawks to gain the bulk of his yardage following a three-yard touchdown.
Between the three of them — Keilan Robinson, Brooks and Blue — there are only 56 carries this season, but the team has confidence they’ll all be able to shoulder the load on the ground against the Huskies.
Washington defensive coordinators William Inge and Chuck Morrell aren’t about to relax with the Longhorns dipping into their reserves for running backs. They still expect Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian to run the ball like they would have if they were at full strength.
“I think we don’t see their identity trying to change,” Morrell said. “I mean, you get to a point where you’re at, game 10, 11, 12, 13 on the season, and I don’t think you’re just going to magically change who you are. I think our plan is pretty straightforward. We’ve got to be able to do a great job in the box and stop the run and force them into the drop-back game.”
Washington’s defense has been relatively good against the run this season. They are No. 35 in the country in rushing defense, allowing 127 yards per game. While at full strength, Texas was the No. 27 rushing team in the country, averaging nearly 200 yards per game on the ground. Clearly, a lot of that was dependent on Bijan and Roschon, but the Longhorns’ offensive line is also responsible for those yards.
Flood said the chemistry of the big guys up front has galvanized them and made them into a formidable unit.
“Confidence is earned by that player by doing things right over and over and over again. That’s where I think this group having a chance to be together and create some continuity has really helped,” he said.
“With consistency, with when it comes to calling plays, we’re always on the same page,” Texas sophomore center Jake Majors said. “It kind of shows you how we were able to go out there and run the ball during conference play.”
The game is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. and will be aired on ESPN.