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Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium/Jamail Field, Austin, Texas Attendance: 91,113
Card debut a winner for No. 21 Texas over La-Lafayette 38-18
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By JIM VERTUNO
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) 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.
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.
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.
Louisiana-Lafayette hosts FCS opponent Nicholls State next Saturday.
Texas plays at former Southwest Conference and future Southeastern Conference rival Arkansas next Saturday.
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25
Updated September 4, 2021