A nightmare trip to Fayetteville and a substantial slice of humble pie in the form of a 40-21 Week 2 loss to Arkansas was all the motivation Texas coach Steve Sarkisian needed to make a change at the most important position of the game. play.
To spice up his offense, the answer the Longhorns’ first-year coach was looking for actually preceded him at the Forty Acres, having roamed the Texas band as a backup for three seasons.
When red-shirt junior quarterback Casey Thompson replaced freshman Hudson Card in the next game against Rice, it marked the first time Thompson served as a starting quarterback since November 2017, when he was a senior. From high school. However, Thompson has played like a seasoned veteran since taking over the reins of the Texas offense, leading the Longhorns to 53.33 points per game and wins against Rice, Texas Tech and TCU. His season-long quarterback rating of 85.3 is the fifth-best in the nation and leads the Big 12, and since taking relief for injured quarterback Sam Ehlinger at last year’s Alamo Bowl, he has led Texas to score in 30 of 38 series. .
Thompson’s dazzling performance on the field is even more impressive when you examine the adversity he has faced in four seasons in Texas. The 6-foot-1 from Oklahoma City entered the Longhorns program in 2018 with fellow four-star quarterback Cameron Rising, but both players took a back seat in a two-man competition with two current players from the NFL in Ehlinger and Shane Buechele. After the season, both Buechele and Rising moved to greener pastures as Ehlinger took over dominance in the starting role. But Thompson decided to stay in Texas for another two years as Ehlinger’s main backup beforehand. than he hoped would be his first chance to start at ’21.
However, with the firing of Tom Herman and the introduction of Sarkisian last January, each position became open competition, especially as quarterback. Once Sarkisian gave Card the starting job before the team’s first game against Louisiana, Thompson had a choice to make: He could either forfeit his chances to play for Texas and transfer, or he could continue to fight for the title role and run. . the risk of sitting on the bench for the remainder of your eligibility.
“My way of thinking was, ‘If they are not going to name me [the starter] Week 1 and they’re not going to give it to me, I have to go take it myself, ‘”Thompson said on Sept. 14.“ I have to show my teammates that I’m going to keep working hard and be the best that I can be. be every day. “
Thompson’s journey to earn a starting position by waiting several years and biding his time as an attentive endorsement was admirable, but in today’s college football landscape it is considered archaic. Now more than ever, high-profile quarterbacks are transferring between Division I programs due to the introduction of the transfer portal and the new immediate eligibility rule that prevents athletes from having to sit down one year after switching. of school.
Coming out of Newcastle High School (Newcastle, Oklahoma), Thompson was one of the top 30 quarterbacks drafted into the class of 2018. A whopping 17 of those 30 gunmen ended up transferring schools to compete elsewhere for a starting position compared to just seven quarterbacks who made a starting job within their first two years of eligibility and remained in their programs. Only four of those prospects, including Thompson, remained at their original school despite not getting a starting position for three full years.
“I think in Casey’s example, she chose to come to the University of Texas; I wanted to be a Longhorn, ”Sarkisian said Sunday. “Through adversity, being a substitute, not being named a starter, that perseverance, I think he was able to overcome that because this was his decision to want to come here.”
Now, after three years of watching Red River Rivalry from the Cotton Bowl side, Thompson has his first chance to lead the Longhorns against No. 6 Oklahoma this Saturday. Texas fans got used to supporting Ehlinger, a local Austin Westlake boy and well-documented Texas fan from birth, against his hated rivals, but now they’ll have to get used to the fact that Thompson actually hails from Sooner Country.
“I remember, even in high school, when I was recruited, some of my teachers and best friends would say, ‘If you go to that school [Texas], I will never support you, I will never cheer you on, ‘”Thompson said Monday. “Naturally, I imagine there will be people at home, probably from my hometown, even from my own high school, who may not support me. But I don’t really care about people who hate. I’m trying to focus on this team and the people who care about me, love me and support me. “
Thompson knows that legends are born in games of the caliber this weekend. For better or for worse, the legacies of the Texas and Oklahoma quarterbacks can be hyped or criticized based on their performances at Red River Rivalry. Players who have masqueraded as starting quarterbacks for both sides form an elite fraternity, with Vince Young, Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, Baker Mayfield and many more in attendance within the Cotton Bowl.
“It’s a dream come true for me to be a part of that tradition of great quarterbacks who have been able to play and start in this game,” Thompson said. “There have been a lot of great players who have made a name for themselves in this game, and I’m looking to do the same this week.”
In fact, one of those players is Thompson’s own father, Charles, who served as a quarterback for the Sooners in 1987 and 1988. In addition to winning a Big Eight conference title as a red-jersey freshman and Earning All-Big Eight Conference first-team honors as a sophomore, Charles led Oklahoma to two victories over Texas.
In 1987, Charles relieved an injured Jamelle Holieway and finished with 114 yards on just eight carries to give the Sooners a 44-9 victory. A year later, Charles again played a key role in the 28-13 win over the Longhorns.
While Casey deviated from his father’s path when he chose Texas over Oklahoma, he still learns a lot from his father’s experience in important game situations and even studies his old game movie from time to time.
“Growing up, I watched almost every game my dad started on,” Thompson said. “And then sometimes when I get bored in the offseason, I just turn on a full game and watch it from start to finish. I literally write things or record videos and send them to him like, ‘Hey, did you miss this release or you missed this reading.’ “
Statistically, Thompson comes into this weekend after the worst start to his young career against TCU, completing just 12 of 22 passes for 142 yards with a touchdown and a misplaced triple coverage throw that resulted in a pick. However, the statistics don’t show the valuable experience Thompson gained in a hostile environment at Amon G. Carter Stadium and the guts he displayed in recovering with a 32-yard touchdown on a run-pass option in the fourth quarter. . While Thompson’s first two starts were landslide victories, he proved against the Horned Frogs that he has the ability to maintain his composure in tight games.
“I don’t think he was nervous,” Sarkisian said after the victory. “We dropped a few balls today, and all that sort of thing, you don’t hit a couple of balls deep, you have a couple of drops, that can make you nervous. I don’t think Casey was ever nervous; I think it held there. It was a routine game. ”
The long wait is finally over for Thompson, and now he has the opportunity to carve his name into Longhorn lore while simultaneously crushing the spirits of the state he came from. The first challenge was to win the starting job, but now he’s ready for the next one: beat Oklahoma.
“I really don’t think I’m nervous or anxious or tense,” Thompson said Monday. “I am excited to play; I wish we could go play today if we could. “
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.