Card debut a winner for No. 21 Texas over La-Lafayette 38-18

Aaron E. Martinez / American-Statesman
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AUSTIN, Texas — The Steve Sarkisian era is off to a good start at Texas behind a new quarterback and a running back finally getting his chance to carry the load for the Longhorns.

Bijan Robinson scored twice and Hudson Card threw two touchdown passes in his first career start, leading No. 21 Texas to a 38-18 victory over No. 23 Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday in Sarkisian’s Longhorns coaching debut .

“I love it man, there’s nothing like winning,” said Sarkisian, a former head coach at Washington and Southern California who was Alabama’s offensive coordinator last season when the Crimson Tide won the national championship.

Texas hired him to replace Tom Herman, who was fired after four winning seasons and four bowl wins but no Big 12 championships.

Robinson, who has garnered early attention as a potential all-American this season, scored Texas’ first touchdown on a pass from Card in the first quarter, then punched in another on a 7-yard run on the first possession of the third that put Texas ahead 21-6.

Robinson finished with 176 total yards rushing and receiving in the kind of all-around game Sarkisian had promised to use. He touched the ball 24 times Saturday, more than double his game average last season.

“Sark said to prepare for anything. I feel good,” said Robinson, who also met former Texas Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams before the game.

“He (Williams) just said, ‘Go ball out and represent for the guys who have been here before you,”‘ Robinson said.

Card, a second-year freshman who won the starting job over fourth-year player Casey Thompson, was 14-of-21 passing for 224 yards and no interceptions. He also scrambled out of pressure well and had a 3-yard touchdown run in the third quarter after Louisiana had closed to 21-12.

Sarkisian called Card “great” on the day. On the first Texas touchdown drive, Card scrambled to convert a fourth down and then connected with Robinson on third down for the score.

“I mean if you are not nervous, there is probably something wrong with you,” Card said. “That fourth and six just kind of calmed me down.”

Levi Lewis passed for 282 yards and a touchdown for Louisiana.

THE TAKEAWAY

Louisiana: The Ragin’ Cajuns certainly weren’t scared of Texas with 20 starters back from last season’s 10-win team. But all that experience, especially on defense, had to battle the intense afternoon heat that sizzled in the high 90s. When the offense started 0-4 on third down and Texas put together two long drives for touchdowns in the first half, Louisiana looked like it simply got worn down. Texas converted 8 of 15 third downs.

Texas: Card was solid in his debut, made sharp throws on the touchdown passes and made Sarkisian look smart in picking him ahead of Thompson as the No. 1 quarterback. Sarkisian also kept his promise to play both. Thompson came in late in the third quarter and threw a touchdown pass to Jordan Whittington in the fourth that made it 35-12. Thompson had considered transferring after the 2018 season but stuck around for two more years behind Sam Ehlinger, only to lose the starting job when finally given a chance to earn it.

ONSIDE FAILURE

Louisiana coach Billy Napier called for an onside kick after closing the score to 21-12 in the third quarter. It didn’t work, setting up Texas for the short drive to Card’s touchdown run that all but put the game away.

“If we were going to get back in the game, we needed to do something there to change the momentum in the game and create a break for our defense,” Napier said. “We did not execute that very well today.”

“EYES OF TEXAS”

The Texas school song erupted in controversy last season when some players didn’t want to sing it amid criticism over racist elements in its past. But Texas has kept the song and school officials said the band would be required to play it this season.

The band returned to the field for the first time since 2019 and played the song both before and after the game, when most players appeared to join the group standing showing the “Hook’em Horns” hand sign.

UP NEXT

Louisiana-Lafayette hosts FCS opponent Nicholls State next Saturday.

Texas plays at former Southwest Conference and future Southeastern Conference rival Arkansas next Saturday.

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.