Can Hudson Card get it done for Texas football if Ewers is out?

Hudson Card, Texas football Mandatory Credit: Aaron E. Martinez/Austin American-Statesman via USA TODAY NETWORK
Hudson Card, Texas football Mandatory Credit: Aaron E. Martinez/Austin American-Statesman via USA TODAY NETWORK /

While he has definitely performed admirably in the midst of playing through an ankle injury he suffered a few weekends ago, there is still some uncertainty surrounding the potential of the Texas football offense with junior Hudson Card as the starting quarterback. For the last two weeks, Card filled the role of QB1 with redshirt freshman Quinn Ewers dealing with a clavicle sprain he suffered in his non-throwing shoulder against the Alabama Crimson Tide back on Sep. 10.

Card at least played well enough in the last few games to give the Longhorns a shot to win. But the problem is that head coach Steve Sarkisian clearly doesn’t trust Card enough to fully open up the offense with him leading this unit, at least compared to how much he trusts Ewers. And the result of that last weekend against the Texas Tech Red Raiders was very costly.

Texas’ inability to get off the field last weekend against Texas Tech along with the multiple stalled drives on offense caused this team to get worn down and eventually fall victim to the upset in overtime in Lubbock.

But how much can you really blame Card for the struggles that Texas faced last weekend against Texas Tech?

Sure, Card could’ve done more down the stretch to help this offense seal the win. There were some reads that he missed, most notably a wide-open Gunnar Helm and a throw that went to redshirt junior wide receiver Jordan Whittington on the sideline on a key third down way too late.

But I don’t believe that Card was the main party to put at fault for the loss to Texas Tech. There is plenty of blame to go around between the players on each side of the ball and the coaching staff in regard to why the loss to the Red Raiders happened last weekend.

I’ve said it over and over again since last weekend, but solely blaming Card is a lazy take. The problems that this team had on the field in Lubbock are bigger than just him.

The coaching has to be more aggressive in the second halves of games when Texas has the chance to close a team out like Texas Tech on the road. And there has to be more of a killer instinct from key players on both sides of the ball than we saw on Sep. 24.

Yet, this begs the question as to whether anything will actually change when Texas faces the West Virginia Mountaineers on Oct. 1.

Most Texas fans were hoping that Ewers would be able to return to the fold this weekend to take live-game reps at QB for the first time since the Alabama game on Sep. 10. But there’s not any guarantee that he will be QB1 on Oct. 1.

In fact, it sounds like Ewers is still fighting through a lot of pain in his non-throwing shoulder in practice this week.

If Card is QB for the third straight week, what would that mean for the Longhorns this weekend against the Mountaineers?

Hudson Card can lead Texas football to a win over West Virginia with the right offensive gameplan from Steve Sarkisian

First and foremost, it would mean that Sark might be limited as to what he can put together in his offensive gameplan compared to if Ewers was taking the starting reps. It became clear last weekend that Sark doesn’t trust Card to open up the offense as much as he did Ewers.

Especially in the second half, the offense was limited to a lot of simple runs up the middle and predictable plays on passing downs. Texas’ offense got very predictable down the stretch, thus allowing Texas Tech to stack the box to have extra guys either getting pressure on the quarterback or devoted to stopping the run.

That’s a pretty simple adjustment for Sark to make for this weekend if Card is the starter. Get some quicker passing plays where Card can get the ball out of his hands in a couple of seconds and challenge a questionable West Virginia defensive backfield with the capable Texas skill players in space.

Card showed last weekend that he was plenty capable of getting the ball out quickly. On passing plays where he had fewer than 2.5 seconds of time to throw in the pocket, he was very solid completing 10 passes on 12 attempts, good for 102 passing yards, one passing touchdown, and no interceptions. And one of the two incompletions was a dropped ball.

That essentially means he completed more than 90 percent of his passing attempts on quick throws (with less than 2.5 seconds in the pocket) if you adjust for drops. It’s also worth noting that Card had the best passing grade and the best offensive grade in the Big 12 among quarterbacks on passing plays with less than 2.5 seconds of time to throw in the pocket.

And while Card did get a nice boost on his numbers from a few quick throws, including the wheel route thrown to redshirt junior running back Keilan Robinson, this also shows that these are low-risk plays for Sark to call that can open up the field for these skill players.

This is all proof that Card is capable of performing at a proficient level on plays where he must make quick reads and get the ball out fast.

I would be a little bit stupefied if Sark didn’t at least try to draw up some plays for Card to get the ball out faster more often against West Virginia considering the efficiency he put on display in this phase of the game against Texas Tech.

I would be an advocate for Sark to open up the quick passing game early on. Let Card get the ball out on some short and intermediate passes to the likes of Whittington and sophomore tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders early on to get this offense moving the ball methodically down the field and control the clock to a more effective degree than they did against Tech.

And if Sark can mix in some quick reads on passing plays with a few different run plays in the first quarter for star junior running back Bijan Robinson, that would help Texas set the tone on the ground while getting Card in a rhythm early on.

West Virginia will allow some chunk passing plays. The WVU secondary is maybe the most questionable part of the defense.

According to College Football Data, West Virginia ranks in the bottom half of the FBS both in terms of passing down success rate allowed (30.1) and passing play success rate allowed (42.3).

For good measure, Texas ranks 88th in the FBS in passing play success rate allowed (43.1) and 80th in the FBS in passing down success rate allowed (31.1). Meanwhile, Texas Tech ranks 38th in the FBS in passing down success rate allowed (25.8) and 22nd in passing play success rate allowed (34.7).

Texas Tech was markedly better in terms of success rate defending the pass than West Virginia from what we’ve seen from both teams so far this season.

It’s also worth mentioning that Card has vastly improved in terms of his ability to get the ball to his target on pass plays under pressure. Card has more than doubled his offensive grade and almost doubled his offensive grade on passing plays where he’s put under pressure this season compared to last year. He’s also not taking as many sacks and isn’t making risky plays as often under pressure.

These metrics are indicative of how Card is at a lower risk of making mistakes on passing plays where opposing defenses are showing pressure compared to what Texas got out of him in these situations last season.

To sum this all up, there are a few reasons to believe that Card can be effective against West Virginia if he is the starting quarterback this weekend over the injured Ewers. I believe a lot of the issues Texas faced last season were due to the defense’s inability to get off the field on third and fourth downs and the overly-conservative nature of Sark’s play-calling in the second half.

Get Card in a rhythm early on while setting the tone on the ground with Bijan and senior running back Roschon Johnson, and this offense could become much more effective and control the clock better for all four quarters compared to last weekend.

But if Sark and the Longhorns staff aren’t able to make the necessary adjustments (which is what killed them in-game last weekend), this will be another long game for the men in burnt orange. I believe the onus is on Sark just as much as it is on Card to put the pieces together to lead this team to a much-needed win this weekend.

Next. 3 bold predictions for Texas vs. WVU. dark

Texas is carrying a record of 2-2 (0-1 Big 12) into this matchup against West Virginia on Oct. 1 following the tough overtime loss on the road to Texas Tech on Sep. 24. The kickoff time between Texas and West Virginia on Oct. 1 at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin is set for 6:30 p.m. CT.