By JIM VERTUNO, AP sports writer
AUSTIN, TX (AP) – Bijan Robinson spent far too much time last season watching others play football.
The Longhorns running back gets the ball a lot in 2021, early in games and late. This is exactly what new coach Steve Sarkisian Sarkisian promised at the start of the season.
Robinson has been one of college football’s most notable players during the first half of the season, fulfilling expectations of being the nation’s highest-rated running back coming out of high school in 2019.
With 819 total yards and nine touchdowns, he’s leading the Texas offense as the No.21 Longhorns (4-1, 2-0 Big 12) head to Saturday’s clash in Dallas with No.6 Oklahoma. (5-0, 2-0).
Robinson ran for a career-high 216 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries in the Longhorns’ 32-27 win last week at TCU. His fourth quarter against the Horned Frogs: 12 carries, 93 yards, seven first downs. The last two tries of the last test killed a TCU rally and ran out of time.
Texas quarterback Casey Thompson called it “big boys football.” It was certainly a hammer blow.
“It’s fun to break the will of a defense,” said Robinson.
Robinson runs with a style that is as difficult to define as it is to defend. Quick feet in tight spaces allow her to make cuts the instant her eyes find the smallest of spaces. At 6 feet and 215 pounds, he’s compact and powerful enough to lower his shoulder into defenders and push for extra yards.
And once he hits the second level of a defense, he gets rid of tackles with a strong stiff arm and spinning motions.
“It’s just an instinct. You want to put them down, take them off, and hesitate a bit. Then you do it. They have no answer to that, ”Robinson said. “When I’m just running the ball and see a look in their eyes with a bit of uncertainty… I just read their eyes and deliver it.”
Texas fans have waited far too long to see all of this onscreen. Former coach Tom Herman recruited Robinson but mostly kept him on the sidelines last season while the Longhorns’ offense was mostly centered on quarterback Sam Ehlinger.
Robinson carried the ball 10 or more times in just four games last season, but finished with a tear. In the last two games against Kansas State and Colorado, Robinson has covered 335 yards with an incredible 18.7 yards per carry.
Herman was fired shortly after the season. Sarkisian immediately harnessed the talent at hand, comparing Robinson to former Southern California star Reggie Bush.
Sarkisian also told Robinson to prepare his body during the offseason to be prepared for the physical punishment of playing more.
“We challenged him from the start to prepare physically and mentally for these kinds of games,” said Sarkisian, like TCU.
Robinson’s numbers would be bigger if he had played more in the antics against Rice and Texas Tech. And he’s too kind to criticize his slight workload under Herman last season.
“At that time, it was still a slow process for me. They just wanted to be careful how they used me, ”said Robinson.
But those who saw how the season ended had an idea of what could happen in 2021. Robinson was first named the AP preseason All-American despite his previously limited college CV.
And it didn’t take long to cash in when players were allowed to make money through their name, image, and likeness. One of his first deals was with a Texas barbecue restaurant that has locations in Houston and San Antonio.
This is just one of many deals he said he made. Robinson said he makes sure he doesn’t let them become a distraction away from the pitch. And he had to turn down some offers, like one from a beer company, which would not have been allowed under Texas law.
“I don’t drink, so it just wouldn’t have worked,” he said.
The only gash so far this season has been a 69-yard performance in a 40-21 loss to Arkansas, the only time Robinson has been held under 100 this season. The Texas offensive line was so jostled that night that Robinson was constantly on the run in his own backfield.
Oklahoma is ranked 7th nationally in run defense, allowing less than 80 yards per game.
Robinson only carried five times for 17 yards against the Sooners last season. He said he could run 30 more times on Saturday if he had to.
“I’ve had enough,” Robinson said.
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