Texas Football: 4 takeaways from a regular season of progress

Bijan Robinson, Texas football Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Bijan Robinson, Texas football Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports /
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Quinn Ewers, Texas football Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Quinn Ewers, Texas football Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports /

Quinn Ewers experiences an abundance of freshman ups and downs

Now we’re onto the first takeaway on this list that isn’t so positive for the Longhorns coming out of the regular season.

The play of redshirt freshman quarterback Quinn Ewers down the stretch in Big 12 play definitely left a lot to be desired. Especially with how good Ewers looked early this season, as he did in the first quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Sep. 10 and in the dominant Red River Rivalry win over the Oklahoma Sooners on Oct. 8, it felt like he was going in the wrong direction completely in the second half.

It definitely felt like a little bit of a Jekyll and Hyde effect for Ewers between the first and second halves of the season.

What sticks out the most to me is the discrepancy in completion percentage and passer efficiency rating in the back half of the regular season compared to the first half-dozen games. It is a stark contrast to have more than a 15-point decline in completion percentage and to see the passer rating dip so heavily.

It’s clear that Big 12 defenses were able to figure out how to rattle Ewers in the pocket while making him beat them over the top with sophomore wide receiver Xavier Worthy. When opposing defenses took away the counter and zone run games with Bijan, and forced Ewers to beat them with timing throws, we started to see things come off the rails a good bit.

Ewers didn’t look to be on the same page as his wideouts for much of the second half of the season. And that wasn’t any more apparent than in the lacking connection between Ewers and Worthy on the deep ball in the second half of the season.

The issues that Ewers faced in terms of the connection and communication with his wideouts were also evident in the significant decline in his completion percentage as the season progressed.

I do want to say that a lot of the issues that Ewers had in the passing game in the last few weeks aren’t just on him. The wideouts were dropping a lot of catchable balls that made it that much more challenging for Ewers to get in a good rhythm.

However, Sark did something to rectify a lot of the issues for Ewers in the last couple of weeks. Sark really simplified the game plan for Ewers and placed the onus on Bijan to carry the load most of the way for Texas.

Sark let Ewers get in a good rhythm by letting him attempt some easier short and intermediate throws on quicker passes that let all these talented skill players get out in space. And that game plan paid dividends for Texas in the last couple of games, as Ewers didn’t throw a single interception and completed well over 60 percent of his passing attempts.

It was clear during the regular season that Texas was in the best spot to succeed offensively when Ewers was more of a game manager. When Ewers had fewer than 35 passing attempts in games this season, Texas was 6-1, with the loss coming to the Crimson Tide.

But in games that Ewers had more than 35 passing attempts, Texas was 0-2 with the losses coming to TCU and the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Heading into the offseason, we will obviously need to see some necessary strides made by Ewers. He’ll need to have a calmer and more consistent presence in the pocket with better fundamentals and footwork when he’s put under pressure.

I would also like to see the receivers helping him out more next season by dropping fewer balls and making at least a few more big plays on contested balls. There’s just too much talent in this wide receiver room for these guys to be dropping as many balls as they did in Big 12 play this fall.